The Disappearing Body: Politics and Restoration

Authors: Erin Clancy*, Department of Geography
Topics: Women
Keywords: anorexia, affect, embodiment, feminist
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Roosevelt 5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Why do geographers loathe the anorectic? Despite the contributions of critical and feminist geographies on differentiated forms of embodiment and mental health, there remains a notable resistance to taking up anorexia. Even when geographers mention the topic in these literatures, the dominating narratives go unchallenged. However, there is much to be gained for feminist geographers by reevaluating this subject. Using data from interviews and participant observation conducted in Chicago, I consider the spatial and affective components of the anorexia. This enables the anorectic to be situated as a historical, political, and social subject, although these broad structural forces play out on the interpersonal, material level. That is, the anorectic comes to feel extreme discomfort in everyday spaces of encounter, from the private and intimate (e.g., at home with loved ones) to public spheres. Consequently, the anorectic copes via food restriction, obscuration of the body (and its passions), and isolation. These mechanisms work to simultaneously secure and annihilate the body, which serves as the means to escape the violent visibility that renders any encounter one of threatening vulnerability. Attending to the multiscalar functions of this affective bodily schema, I argue that we can politicize the anorectic without valorizing her self-destructive practices and recognize, without erasing agency, how differently produced traumas can kill subjectivities via the eating disorder. From this point of tension, what opens up is the potential for a generative politic of negative relations between bodies and space and the possibility for anorectic to develop restorative affective relations.

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