Anorexia tends to be studied within health disciplines, such as medicine, psychoanalysis or psychology. When the condition is discussed in relation to society more broadly, focus is commonly restricted to considerations about the demise of the traditional family meal or the all-pervading obsession with thinness and media representations of ‘size zero’ models. But what can sociology tell us about anorexia and how a person becomes anorexic? This book draws on empirical research – both interviews and observation – conducted in and outside medical settings with anorexic girls, medical staff, teachers and other teenagers of the same age. As such, it offers the first fully sociological treatment of the condition, taking the reader closer to the actual experiences of people living with anorexia. It retraces the behaviours, practices and processes that create what is patterned as an anorexic ‘career’ and reveals the cultural and social characteristics of the people who engage on this path taking them from a simple diet to hospitalization or recovery. Richly illustrated with qualitative research, Becoming Anorexic: A Sociological Approach demonstrates that anorexia can be viewed as a very particular work of self-transformation, which requires specific – and social – ‘dispositions’. As such, it will appeal to scholars of sociology and anthropology with an interest in health and illness, the body, social class and gender.
Table of Contents
Part I. Beginning with a Diagnosis
1. A Detour via the Nineteenth Century. Historical Issues at Stake.
2. A Hospital-Based Approach: Methodological Issues
Part II. The Anorexic Career
3. ‘Turning People into Activities’
4. ‘Beginning’: Taking Themselves in Hand
5. ‘Carrying On’ (I): Maintaining the Commitment
6. ‘Carrying on’ (II): Maintaining the Commitment despite Alerts and Monitoring
7. ‘Being Taken in Hand’: Giving Themselves Over to the Institution
Part III. The Social Space of the Anorexic Career
8. The Social Space of Self-Transformation
9. The Social Space of the Hospital
Muriel Darmon is a CNRS Senior Research Fellow at the CESSP (EHESS, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), France.
'In this eye-opening book, Muriel Darmon shows that becoming anorexic is a social process. Rather than dismissing anorexics as pathological, Darmon seriously considers the experiences and perspectives of population of French anorexics and former anorexics to shed light on broader processes of self-transformation, social class, institutionalization, and embodiment. Highly recommended!' - Abigail C. Saguy, Professor of Sociology, UCLA, USA