BSP Podcast: Tom Hey – ‘A Phenomenological Approach to Bulimia’

podcast update

This episode of the BSP Podcast sees Tom Hey presenting a paper from our 2022 annual conference, ‘Engaged Phenomenology II’.

Season 6 episode 137: 13 May 2024

Season 6 continues with another presentation from our 2022 annual conference, Engaged Phenomenology II: Explorations of Embodiment, Emotions, and Spatiality. This episode features a presentation from Tom Hey, Lancaster University.

Listen to this episode on the BSP’s Podbean site

You can also find this episode on all good podcasting apps by searching ‘BSP Podcast’.

Tom Hey
‘A Phenomenological Approach to Bulimia’

Bulimia has been medically and socially constructed as an illness afflicting affluent, young, white women, which is to be cured through weight gain and the resumption of a ‘normal’ relationship with food. This myopic depiction of bulimia represents a predilection to ‘make sense’ of illness experiences in medically- and/or culturally-intelligible terms, and constitutes epistemic violence towards sufferers through its erasure of diverse forms of suffering and its disavowal of the subjective complexities of recovery. The pervasiveness of the eating disorder memoir, which dominates written representations of bulimia and positions linear recovery (expressed in narrative terms) as an experiential norm, further marginalises ongoing experiences of suffering; as Angela Woods argues, ‘[n]arrative does not have a monopoly on expressivity’ (Woods, 2013: 124).   In this paper I will use a phenomenological approach informed by affect theories, specifically Sara Ahmed’s work on orientations and attachments, to engage with embodied experiences of bulimia. I will read Bulimics on Bulimia (2009), a collection of fragmented, first-person, present-tense accounts of bulimia edited by Maria Stavrou, to propose that living with bulimia can engender individualised, affectively-charged attachments between selves, objects, and spaces through which each is destabilised and redrawn. Aiming to ‘provide a sample of insight into what life is like living with bulimia’ (Stavrou, 2009: 7), Bulimics on Bulimia seeks to address the privileged articulacy of narrativized accounts of bulimia through its representation of moments of intensity situated within social worlds from a polyphony of voices. Using an engaged phenomenological methodology which provides new ways of listening to written accounts of living with bulimia, I will seek to rearticulate bulimia as an object around which surges illogical, ambivalent feelings and emotions.

Biography: Tom Hey is an AHRC-funded PhD student at Lancaster University, researching representations of eating disorders in contemporary literature through the intersecting frameworks of the medical humanities, postcolonial theories, and affect theories.

Further Information:

This recording is taken from our Annual UK Conference 2022: Engaged Phenomenology II: Explorations of Embodiment, Emotions, and Sociality (Exeter, UK / Hybrid) with the University of Exeter. Sponsored by the Wellcome Centre, Egenis, and the Shame and Medicine project. For the conference our speakers either presented in person at Exeter or remotely to people online and in-room, and the podcast episodes are recorded from the live broadcast feeds.

The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?