Dr. Rebecca Lester is an Associate Professor of the Department of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Lester’s work sits at the intersection of anthropology, psychiatry, religion, and gender studies. When Rebecca Lester was eleven years old—and again when she was eighteen—she almost died from anorexia nervosa. Now both a tenured professor in anthropology and a licensed social worker, she turns her ethnographic and clinical gaze to the world of eating disorders—their history, diagnosis, lived realities, treatment, and place in the American cultural imagination.
In this talk, Dr. Lester will share reflections from her forthcoming book Famished: Eating Disorders and Failed Care in America, with particular attention to the benefits and challenges of engaging in interdisciplinary work with vulnerable populations. Famished is the culmination of over two decades of anthropological and clinical work—as well as a lifetime of lived experience—that presents a profound rethinking of eating disorders and how to treat them. Through a mix of rich cultural analysis, detailed therapeutic accounts, and raw autobiographical reflections, Famished helps make sense of why people develop eating disorders, what the process of recovery is like, and why treatments so often fail.