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The paradox of virtue : (re)thinking deviance, anorexia and schooling
journal contributionposted on 2007-01-01, 00:00 authored by Christine HalseChristine Halse, A Honey, D Boughtwood
In this paper we posit a radical retheorization of anorexia as a form of deviance. We examine how the disciplinary practices and moral technologies typical of contemporary secondary schooling signify and enter into the articulation of three ‘virtue discourses’ (discipline, achievement and healthism), and tease out how these ‘virtue discourses’ play into the formation of the ‘anorexic’ subject. Informed by Foucauldian theory, our analysis draws on our life history interview study with teenage girls diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and their parents. We argue that anorexia can be understood not as a form of deviance but as a ‘paradox of virtue’ involving zealous compliance with and taking up of socially and culturally sanctioned ‘virtue discourses’ that are immanent in schooling and wider society.