Anorexia nervosa : discourses of gender, subjectivity and the body
This thesis investigates how anorexia nervosa is constructed and deployed as a discursive social and psychological category, drawing critically on feminist psychoanalytic and Foucauldian theories of gender, subjectivity and discourse. The introduction provides a brief discussion of diagnostic criteria and the epidemiology of anorexia. It outlines the thesis as a whole, providing a brief explanation of the approach adopted in the thesis. Chapter 2 critically reviews recent research into anorexia nervosa. Chapter 3 sets out the theoretical framework of the thesis, discussing Foucauldian and psychoanalytic theory, particularly, feminist Lacanian theory. Chapter 4 provides a brief critique of empiricist methods in the social sciences and argues the need for a feminist post-structuralist approach to research. In the two empirical studies of this thesis I have adopted a discourse analytic methodology. Hence, Chapter 5 discusses the different forms of discourse analysis within psychology before setting out the specific form of discourse analysis and the methodology for the first study. Study One (chapters 6 and 7) examines the emergence of 'anorexia nervosa' as an object of medical discourse. It first provides an historical overview of Georgian and Victorian medicine and then presents a discourse-oriented history of the emergence of anorexia nervosa as a clinical disease entity. The study demonstrates firstly, an historical variability in discursive constructions of women's self-starvation and of anorexia nervosa and secondly, that these constructions interface with particular socio-historically specific constructions of femininity. The second study (chapters 8 to 12) is based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with women diagnosed as anorexic. Discourse analysis was used to analyze the interview transcripts to explore how anorexia, femininity, subjectivity and the body are discursively constituted. The analyses are discussed in relation to the theoretical framework of the thesis as well as previous psychological research into anorexia. The conclusion discusses the analyses of both studies, drawing out the implications of the research in terms of understanding anorexia nervosa, femininity, subjectivity and the body.