The Interpersonal Expression of Human Spatiality: A Phenomenological Interpretation of Anorexia nervosa

Chiasmi International 8:157-173 (2006)
This paper extends Merleau-Ponty’s arguments regarding the interpersonal character of human spatiality and Bateson’s conception of the dynamically extended nature of consciousness. The central argument is that human communication is essentially spatial in nature, and that it is experienced and expressed as such. Using this analysis, the paper argues that Anorexia nervosa should not primarily be understood as an eating disorder, but rather as a spatially expressed and felt communication disorder. Moreover, it demonstrates that anorexia is not an illness of an individual, but rather is a symptom of an ailing system of communication, most commonly that of an ailing family. By means of a novel interpretation of anorexia as a neurosis that both reflects a contracted environment and also offers a spatially significant gesture in response to this contracted environment, the paper helps to elucidate the spatial nature of communication in general and to show how acts of communication are not primarily acts or experiences of isolated individuals confronting other self-sufficient individuals, but are rather spatially shared and expressed experiences of intersubjectivity.
Keywords Maurice Merleau-Ponty  Gregory Bateson  Communication  Continental Philosophy  Anorexia  Space  Spatiality  Mental Health  Psychology  Intersubjectivity
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