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November 2022

Body poly-texts: Discourses of the anorexic body

Author(s): Ussher, J. M.

Journal/Book: J Community Appl Social Psych. 1996; 6: Baffins Lane, Chichester, W Sussex, England PO19 1UD. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 267-280.

Abstract: It is now increasingly acknowledged that anorexia nervosa is a 'culture-bound syndrome' which must be understood within the context of an increasing idealization of female thinness and a high prevalence of dieting and body dissatisfaction, particularly amongst women and girls. Whilst this socioculturally-oriented perspective is important, it is also simplistic to conceptualize anorexia simply as a 'slimmer's disease'. The ways in which contemporary Western culture is imbricated in anorexia are both complex and multiple. This paper uses a discourse-analytic approach, informed by feminist Foucauldian theory, to examine some of the multiple and often conflicting meanings and discursive constructions of the (female) anorexic body. The paper is based on a series of interviews conducted with 23 women (21 diagnosed as anorexic and 2 self-diagnosed). The analysis focuses on the explication of two discourses: a romantic discourse and a discourse of Cartesian dualism evidenced in the interviews. By contrasting the very different ways in which these two discourses constitute the anorexic body, this paper aims to provide thereby a socioculturally contextualized and gender-oriented account of the multiple discursive constructions of 'anorexia nervosa' and 'anorexic' bodies. Implications for psychotherapeutic interventions are discussed.

Note: Article H Malson, Univ E London, Dept Psychol, Romford Rd, London E15 4LZ, England

Keyword(s): anorexia nervosa; discourse; gender; subjectivity; romantic discourse; Cartesian; dualism; EATING DISORDERS; NERVOSA; WOMEN; CULTURE; WEIGHT; PSYCHOPATHOLOGY; PERSPECTIVE; ADOLESCENT; THIN

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