'Hungry for Words: A cross-disciplinary approach to articulating, communicating and understanding male anorexia'

Project Details


The research network will investigate aspects of the eating disorder (ED) anorexia nervosa (AN) in males by bringing distinct arts & humanities perspectives to medical and health sciences thus mapping a field of cross-disciplinary enquiry. The collaboration is informed by the AHRC's highlight notice 'Cross-Disciplinary Research Networks Exploring Emerging Areas of Cross-Council Enquiry' and focuses on the AHRC highlighted areas of well-being and mental health.

Whilst EDs in females (e.g. anorexia, bulimia) are being explored fairly extensively in medical and cultural approaches, there is significantly less engagement with male EDs in general and male AN in particular. Despite being perceived as a 'female-only-problem', ED-charities suggest that male AN is an increasing problem in Western countries and highlight the need for greater awareness and more research. The relationship between human beings and food is highly complex and affects many aspects of life, involving biological, psychological, economic, social and cultural factors. This stresses the need for a wider and cross-disciplinary engagement that also takes questions of gender into account. All this makes our proposal timely and highly relevant and emphasizes its potential to stimulate innovative research.

Our network of international UK- and US-based investigators facilitates significant boundary-crossing exchange between medicine, psychiatry, mental health science, education, english, modern foreign languages, linguistics and mathematics to develop a joint research agenda. We also collaborate closely with named partners from 4 ED-charities in our research and impact activities (educational events with schools and UG students, a workshop with teachers, student training events). Our project has significant potential to impact on individuals, health and educational professionals, the wider public and policy-making and for future collaborative work across the disciplines. It is situated in the emerging discipline of health humanities that provides a platform for linking health disciplines with the arts & humanities encouraging innovative applications of the latter to improve the well-being of individuals and societies. It is also informed by the interdisciplinary work of Nottingham's Institute of Mental Health.

At the heart of our network is the desire for further research on, and to raise awareness of, male AN. It explores aspects of male AN in the UK and draws comparisons with North America, Germany, France and Italy in 3 areas of personal narrative: literature (fiction and autobiographical writings), online egodocuments (personal accounts in weblogs and forums), and oral accounts (client-led oral communication in a wider therapy context). Whilst participating researchers from academic institutions bring a distinct arts & humanities perspective to these 3 areas, the proposed key activities are not primarily designed to advance individual disciplines but to spark new conversations with participating scholars from medical and health care sciences. The project facilitates comparisons across different areas and explores how personal narratives can add to the understanding of male AN in a medical and healthcare context. Developing a joint research agenda has the potential to inform and transform the treatment and management of male AN framed by cross-disciplinary research questions:

How can personal narratives of male EDs delivered in literature, online egodocuments and client-led oral accounts

- help males with AN in an innovative manner?

- aid and inform their treatment beyond established medical definitions and paradigms of socio-culturally constructed concepts of disorder and gendered behaviour?

- be used in educating and training health care professionals?

- contribute to greater public knowledge, awareness and understanding?

How, in turn, can insights from healthcare professionals aid to the understanding of these 3 types of personal narratives?

Effective start/end date1/04/1630/06/18


  • Arts and Humanities Research Council: $51,243.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.