chapter  7
17 Pages

ANOREXIA AND THE DISCURSIVE PRODUCTION OF THE SELF

In the preceding two chapters I have drawn on a series of interviews with women diagnosed or self-diagnosed as ‘anorexic’ in order to explore some of the discourses and discursive resources deployed in the constructions of ‘anorexia’, ‘femininity’ and ‘the body’. I have aimed to demonstrate that both within and across the women’s accounts there is a variety of entangled discourses which produce these discursive objects in multiple, often conflicting ways. That is, the meanings of these objects differ between discourses and, whilst some constructions are mutually consolidating, others are conflictual. The thin/ anorexic body may, for example, be construed as heterosexually attractive, as a signifier of a patriarchally defined romantic femininity. And this signification is consolidated by other constructions of the thin body as small, childlike and ill. However, this same body may also be construed as androgynous or boyishly thin. It may signify a resistance to or rejection of ‘traditional femininity’, and it may be produced as a controlled body, signifying a powerful and disembodied subjectivity. The thin body thus sustains a multiplicity of meanings and may signify a variety of (often conflicting) subjectivities. The discursive and physical management of the thin/anorexic body and the discursive struggle over its meanings can thus be understood as a management of identity. The production and maintenance of the thin/anorexic body through dieting, self-starvation and/or purging can be viewed as facilitating interpellation in certain subject positions and as resistance to others.