Food, bodies, and the “stuff” of (not) eating in anorexia

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The diverse materialities that form part of lived experiences of mental ill-health and its treatment have been largely overlooked in research. Arguing that such a focus is key to enhancing understandings of eating disorders, this paper engages with food-centered practices in anorexia nervosa. Against the background of work that has recognized the desire to maintain their illness among some individuals, the paper suggests that holding onto anorexia is a dynamic process enacted through eating as well as by avoiding food. Individuals’ negotiations of ingesting and digesting elucidate the blurred intersections between eating and not eating, edible and inedible. They reveal that what is experienced as eating may not look like eating and vice versa. As contingent forms of eating thereby emerge and dissolve through anorexia-focused practices, vectors of ingestion and assimilation come to be remapped and eating delineated as an act that may take place across corporeal surfaces and among multiple bodies. While such an engagement with materialities offers key insights into anorexia, it also contributes to a wider theorizing of the act of eating within food studies literature; the paper asks what eating is, as well as what forms it takes. This problematizes taken-for-granted relationships among eating, bodies, and food. Their dislocations demonstrate eating to produce and reconfigure, as well as displace or break down, materialities.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Early online date15 Aug 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Aug 2016


  • anorexia nervosa
  • self-starvation
  • materiality
  • eating
  • desire
  • corporeality
  • Ethnography
  • Eating Disorders
  • Taste
  • anthropology
  • Food studies


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