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Title: An imperfect body reflects an imperfect person : ethnographic study of eating disorders in Malta and Italy
Authors: Orsini, Gisella
Keywords: Eating disorders -- Malta
Eating disorders -- Italy
Body image
Issue Date: 2015
Abstract: Since the 1980s the phenomenon of eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder) has become a matter of increased public attention in Western societies, with a consequent proliferation of scientific studies accompanying widespread social concern. Considering (i) The low success rates of psychological and medical treatments (ii) The ambiguity as regards the aetiology of the phenomenon as well as (iii) The prevalence of eating disorders among young women in Western societies, the biomedical approach has proven to be fairly limited in its understanding and treatment of eating disorders. Eating disorders are produced as a medical category through a medical discourse that pathologises specific behaviours towards food and the body. As a consequence, the biomedical approach does not reflect the perception of people with eating disorders of their “habits”. This fact highlights the need to adopt a “multidisciplinary approach” to the phenomenon, in particular focusing on the socio-cultural factors involved in the definition, perception and onset of eating disorders. The importance of socio-cultural factors becomes apparent when considering the Italian and Maltese cases. Although preliminary studies have found a similarity in the rates of people diagnosed with eating disorders in Malta and Italy, the “patients’” perception of the “disease” varies in the two contexts; similarly, public perception and treatments are different in the two cases considered. The thesis, based on ethnographic research in Malta and Italy, and supported by online fieldwork, aims to shed light on the personal experiences of people with eating disorders in the two contexts, considering in particular the cultural link between mind, body and culture in eating disorders. In contrast with the biomedical perception of the phenomenon and in opposition with the prevalent feminist theories on the subject, I will consider eating disorders as self-transformative processes in which people with eating disorders actively engage themselves in a project of moral self-transformation that is culturally defined. Their moral transformations reflect, in fact, the social expectations towards women.
Description: PH.D.
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArt - 2015
Dissertations - FacArtAS - 2015

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