4 Feb 2009 12:15pm - 2:00pm CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane


Abnormal behaviour, medical science, and the law

This term examines the way in which abnormal and ‘anti-social’ behaviour has been conceptualised using a biological model of causation. From an historical perspective, we will examine early constructions of abnormal and deviant behaviour and then explore their relation to current research in genetics and biology.  Our aim is to investigate the legal and political implications of psychiatric, neurological and genetic research and treatment, and to examine how such developments have affected the provision of social welfare.  

Joint Speaker Session: Anorexia

Anna Lavis (Anthropology Dept., Goldsmiths)

“That’s the Anorexia Talking”   
Examining the Transformations and Implications of a Therapeutic Phrase 

The expression “the anorexia talking” is used by professionals involved in eating disorders treatment to describe what they consider to be an intransigent pro-anorexic focus, usually on food and weight, amongst patients. Its use is intended to encourage an anorexic to dislocate what are suggested to be his/her ‘real’ wishes from the anorexia talking; it is therefore founded on a perceived distinction between a patient’s “authentic self” (Tan 2005: 92) and the illness. However, the phrase is used widely in a variety of settings by anorexics as well as by clinicians and in these varied uses “the anorexia talking” takes on and acts out a multiplicity of, often contradictory, meanings. Drawing on participant observation and interview data in both an inpatient eating disorders unit and on pro-anorexia websites, this talk will unpack the contradictions, receptions and manifestations of the phrase; it will explore the implications of “that’s the anorexia talking” for both the personhood and the treatment of the anorexics to whom it is addressed.


Part of the Health and Welfare Research Group

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