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December 2021

Womaen under erasure: Anorexic bodies in postmodern context

Journal/Book: J Community Appl Social Psych. 1999; 9: Baffins Lane Chichester, W Sussex PO19 1UD, England. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 137-153.

Abstract: This paper explores how 'anorexia nervosa' can be understood not so much as individual psychopathology than as a plural collectivity of embodied subjectivities, experiences and body-management practices, embedded in and constituted by the contemporary discourses and discursive practices of late twentieth-century 'postmodern' culture and in the gender power-relations that cut across this socio-historically specific discursive context. Specifically, the paper uses extracts from a series of interviews conducted with 23 women diagnosed and self-diagnosed as 'anorexic'. It deploys a feminist post-structuralist form of discourse analysis to analyse the interview transcripts so as to elucidate a recurrent discursive construction of women's 'anorexic' bodies as disappearing bodies that signify a (feminine) 'anorexic' identity constructed as an identity-put-under-erasure. This construction of 'anorexic' embodied subjectivity is located within a gendered 'postmodern' cultural context in which, it has been argued, the body qua body has been displaced by the body-as-image and in which identity has been deconstructed. The paper thus seeks to move beyond a concept of 'anorexia nervosa' as individual pathology, towards a re-conceptualization of 'anorexia' as discursively constituted within the complex contexts of late capitalist 'postmodern' culture.

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

Keyword(s): anorexia nervosa; gender; subjectivity; embodiment; feminism; post-structuralism; postmodernism; discourse; DISCOURSE ANALYSIS; NERVOSA; WOMEN; BODY


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