‘Narrative Matters: Wasting away and fed up – dietary battles in history’
Paper from the CAMH journal
Histories of anorexia nervosa (AN), mostly written since the 1970s, have a standard narrative. The story is of largely Eurocentric self-starvation in adolescent girls in response to sociocultural pressures on women who are trapped in disempowering patriarchal systems. These could be religious, for example, the fasting nuns of the later mediaeval and early modern periods. Their piety-motivated food refusal was part of a wider pattern of self-denial and body mortification on a pathway to beatification (Brumberg, 1988/2000). For the Catholic Church, these women were disconcertingly undermining of masculine, clerical authority and were soon accused of making a spectacle of themselves.
Authors: Jane Whittaker
First published: 28 October 2023
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