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Anorexia and Abjection: A Review Essay

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date06/2012
JournalBody and Society
Journal number2
Volume18
Number of pages17
Pages139-155
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article draws on a review of Megan Warin’s 2010 book, Abject Relations: Everyday Worlds of Anorexia, to discuss the ways in which a feminist ethnographic approach might disrupt dominant cultural narratives of eating disorders and embodiment. My argument draws on feminist work on figuration and ‘body image’ to discuss how the anorexic body becomes a figure of abjection, both in media images and in popular feminist discourse. I examine how cultural narratives and images are pathologically capable of both engendering disgust in the non-anorexic spectator and, second (and more threateningly), moving vulnerable, female spectators to imitation – a power to affect and infect onlookers which is central to contemporary debates about what is popularly called ‘body image’. By drawing on Warin’s work, the article examines how a critical feminist ethnography might move debates on eating disorders beyond the reproduction of tropes of abjection, disgust and discipline which have led to an impasse in the field, and ask whether, by paying attention to the lived experience of anorexia, it might be possible for the anorexic subject to speak.