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Feeding Anorexiaby Helen Gremillion
Synopses & Reviews
Feeding Anorexia challenges prevailing assumptions regarding the notorious difficulty of curing anorexia nervosa. Through a vivid chronicle of treatments at a state-of-the-art hospital program, Helen Gremillion reveals how the therapies participate unwittingly in culturally dominant ideals of gender, individualism, physical fitness, and family life that have contributed to the dramatic increase in the incidence of anorexia in the United States since the 1970s. She describes how strategies including the meticulous measurement of patients' progress in terms of body weight and calories consumed ultimately feed the problem, not only reinforcing ideas about the regulation of women's bodies, but also fostering in many girls and women greater expertise in the formidable constellation of skills anorexia requires. At the same time, Gremillion shows how contradictions and struggles in treatment can help open up spaces for change.
Feeding Anorexia is based on fourteen months of ethnographic research in a small inpatient unit located in a major teaching and research hospital in the western United States. Gremillion attended group, family, and individual therapy sessions and medical staff meetings; ate meals with patients; and took part in outings and recreational activities. She also conducted over one hundred interviews-with patients, parents, staff, and clinicians. Among the issues she explores are the relationship between calorie-counting and the management of consumer desire; why the "typical" anorexic patient is middle-class and white; the extent to which power differentials among clinicians, staff, and patients model "anorexic families"; and the potential of narrative therapy to constructively reframe some of the problematic assumptions underlying more mainstream treatments.
"Feeding Anorexia" challenges prevailing assumptions regarding the difficulty of curing anorexia nervosa. Through a vivid chronicle of treatments at a state-of-the-art hospital programme, Helen Gremillion reveals how the therapies participate unwittingly in culturally dominant ideals of gender.
"Many have sensed that anorexia makes visible in some way pathologies that are particular to liberal consumer society, but few have grasped its nature and significance as acutely as Helen Gremillion. Her account is as compelling as it is compassionate."--Jean Comaroff, University of Chicago
A groundbreaking study of anorexia treatment that shows how the treatment often makes the diesease worse.
About the Author
“Helen Gremillion has presented an intellectual tour de force in this book. She has taken one of the most contentious and resistant expressions of women's and girls' subjectivity, anorexia, and provided us with a dynamic social and political framework by which to understand its perplexing operations.”—Elizabeth Grosz, author of Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism
“Many have sensed that anorexia makes visible in some way pathologies that are particular to liberal consumer society, but few have grasped its nature and significance as acutely as Helen Gremillion. Her account is as compelling as it is compassionate.”—Jean Comaroff, University of Chicago
“This is a wonderful, beautifully written, intelligent account of anorexia nervosa—and I say that as someone in feminist theory, women’s studies, and medical discourse analysis who had hoped she would go to her grave without ever having to read another word about anorexia nervosa. This really is a fresh interpretation, and the ethnographic material is stunning, dramatic, and described with precision, sophistication, and telling novelistic detail.”—Paula A. Treichler, author of How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS
"Time after time in my conversations with hospital patients I was bewildered when they informed me 'I became more anorexic for the doctors!' and when their mothers told me 'They said I shouldn't love my daughter so much!' Feeding Anorexia helps us all to comprehend such unintended consequences of mainstream treatments. It should lead to the reconsideration of anorexia itself and its treatment by professionals such as myself."—David Epston, coauthor of Biting the Hand That Starves You: Inspiring Resistance to Anorexia/Bulimia and Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends
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