Foucault, embodiment and gendered subjectivities: The case of voluntary self-starvation

From the idea that the self is not given to us, I think that there is only practical consequence, we have to create ourselves as a work of art. The person who voluntarily starves uses her body to recreate herself.   She recreates herself ‘as a work of art’ whose bodily form is so confronting that it cannot be, and is not, ignored.  The message conveyed by the emaciated self-starver is: ‘Read my body!’

The self-starver is recreating a sense of self, but a self which is not based on a stylised notion of beauty. It is a self which is distant enough from our current culturally constructed notions of aesthetic beauty, ‘outside the dictates of style’, to not be merely a reflection of fashion. It appeals almost to the timeless image of the thirteenth-century Catholic  saint or the Eastern ascetic rather than the twentieth-century fashion model. The self-starver challenges our sense of rationality and our twentieth-century Western sensibilities. Foucault’s notions of the relativity of truth and the possibilities of multiple constitution of the self allow us to engage with these apparent anomalies rather than dismiss them as signs of irrational deviance.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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