Leonie Mol

Thesis title:

Shaping bulimia: an ethnographic analysis


Leonie’s study seeks to investigate the shaping and conceptualisation of the contemporary bulimic subject. It aims to answer the question: Who and what do we designate in the depiction, treatment, and portrayal of bulimia nervosa? Who is the bulimic, and how is her behaviour conceptualised, framed, and explained? The importance of these questions lies in the changing ways in which patient responsibility is taking shape today; new forms of treatment such as “shared decision-making” presuppose a responsible, “active” patient. Meanwhile, novel theoretical models are being developed in the field of bulimia specifically. New therapies, aetiologies and clinical explanations have a tremendous influence on the role the patient is expected to play, but also the experience of the illness.To analyse these questions, Leonie proposes an analysis of two leading UK research centres that are both involved in the design and development of novel treatment models. Both these research units have developed contrasting models with regard to what it means to be bulimic, and what treatment is required. Analysing these models is vital, not only because it will provide us with insight into how bulimia is conceptualised, treated and depicted in the UK today, but because these models differ tremendously with regard to how the illness itself is defined, the patient’s role in their recovery, and the responsibility they have in their treatment. A part of this study consists of a discourse analysis of recovery blogs, which are written by women who practiced bulimia. In doing so, Leonie aims to include the voices of those who had been living under the description of bulimia, and how they conceptualise the experience and treatment of the disease. This will also help her to gain insight into how (ex)patients relate to their illness, and how they picture and portray recovery, or the lack thereof.

First supervisor:

Nik Rose


3 – Health, Biopolitics & Social Inequality