Embodying Otherwise: Theorizing Embodiment in Eating Disorder Scholarship

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 22 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Andrea LAMARRE, University of Guelph, Canada
The body is an “absent presence” in eating disorder scholarship. While significant time is spent tracing the contours of the body through body image research, a deep analysis of the lived body as precondition for experiencing the world is less common in both mainstream and feminist works on eating disorders. The visceral experience of self-starvation, self-induced vomiting, exercise to the point of collapse, and other behaviours coded as “extreme” but holding deep and unrelenting pull for some are undertheorized. In the wake of twin currents of biomedicalization and post-structuralism in eating disorder research, theory hesitates around the edges of embodiment. In this paper, I seek to find the body in eating disorder scholarship, uncovering these missing bodies and exploring how they have been theorized about, around, and (on occasion) with. Theorizing embodiment as intersectional, intercorporeal, and dynamic, I draw on a growing body of literature focusing on sensorial perception and blend this with an unlikely ally: philosophical and sociological accounts of embodiment drawing on Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, Weiss, Grosz, and Braidotti. I argue that the body is often figured as undifferentiated, stereotypically white, female, and young, limiting our imagination about what an eating disorder is, who might suffer from an eating disorder, and, importantly, who might recover. Taking an embodiment-oriented approach allows us to move beyond diagnostic discourses, which entrench Cartesian dualisms, and purely discursive accounts that render bodies passive sponges for cultural imagery. Instead, we might consider how culture and diagnostic practices alike are produced by and mediated through bodies. We might open up new possibilities for diverse embodiments and scaffold lasting recovery.