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Orders of eating and eating disorders: food, bodies and anorexia nervosa in the German Democratic Republic, 1949-1990

Kerr-Boyle, N; (2012) Orders of eating and eating disorders: food, bodies and anorexia nervosa in the German Democratic Republic, 1949-1990. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis is an historical study of anorexia nervosa in the German Democratic Republic. Its central premise is that any understanding of the existence of anorexia nervosa must be predicated upon an investigation of the material conditions, cultural discourses and social practices surrounding eating and the body, and the ways in which these conditions, discourses and practices constructed (gendered) subjectivities and behaviours. The thesis draws on archival material, questionnaires and oral history interviews addressing the topics of food, health and bodies, as well as personal experiences of self-starvation. The thesis tests and contests current socio-cultural approaches to anorexia nervosa which locate it within a specifically capitalist context of abundance, linking it not only to the economic imperatives of capitalist industries but also to societal gender structures. The GDR presents a very different socio-cultural context. Not only did it have a “shortage economy” with an absence of capitalist industries, but the economic position of women was different from that of their western counterparts, with over 90% of them in paid employment by the end of the 1980s. This study also provides new ways of understanding the GDR by teasing out the complex interactions between Nazi and pre-Nazi cultural legacies, new socialist ideas and values, and western cultural influences in the production of East German discourses and practices relating to eating and the body. By exploring the production of these discourses and practices, and the interactions between government propaganda, popular culture and the medical and scientific professions, the thesis provides an analysis of the inter-connectedness of body, self and society in the GDR, 1949-1990.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Orders of eating and eating disorders: food, bodies and anorexia nervosa in the German Democratic Republic, 1949-1990
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright restricted material has been removed from the e-thesis
Keywords: Anorexia, Eating disorders, East Germany, German Democratic Republic
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1380413
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