• Spirit-Centred Personhood: re-reading anorexia nervosa through a feminist practical theological frame

      Graham, Elaine; Babb, Julie B. (University of Chester, 2021-06)
      Anorexia nervosa is a ‘frequently lethal illness’ (Watson et al, 2019). Watson et al make this assertion as they and other researchers seek to understanding the role that genes play in the illness and its lethality. Recent biological research such as this has vastly extended knowledge about anorexia, as has recent psychological and sociological research into the illness. However, researchers in these areas acknowledge that understanding of anorexia remains insufficient notwithstanding the new knowledge that they are generating through their painstaking work (Nunn et al, 2011). I argue across this thesis that biological, psychological and sociological models of anorexia are unable to generate more sufficient understanding because they are limited by the binary opposition that structures discourse in the West. I claim that this limitation results from the way in which Aristotle’s metaphysical figuration of the subject of discourse as a universal male continues to frame subjectivity in the West: a framing of subjectivity that I argue the experience of female anorexia brings into view when engaged in an interdisciplinary dialogue with feminist practical theology. In order to respond to the limitation that inheres in biological, psychological and sociological models of anorexia, and to generate more sufficient understanding of the illness, I develop a model of spirit-centred personhood through which to embody subjectivity and women with anorexia. I establish a reflexive narrative methodology to underpin the dialogic nature and dialectic movement of the theoretical framework of this model. I argue that these combine through the relational subjectivity that is embodied by the intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions of the traits of my model. My model of spirit-centred personhood thus enables me to respond to the research problem in two important ways. First, it enables me to generate knowledge from an embodied and sexuate location as it frames my engagement with the philosophy of Luce Irigaray, my key conversation partner. Second, it enables me to employ that knowledge to embody subjectivity in theory and women with anorexia in practice. In enabling me to respond in these two ways, my model assists me to achieve the overarching aim of this research project: namely, to enable women with anorexia to recover and sustain recovery across time.