What is it about?

Eating disorders are often linked to specific body ideals and the pursuit of thinness. But disordered eating may rather be a result of an individual's psychological, sociological and economic circumstances. This is illustrated in the article through a case study of Maya, a young, highly educated woman in North India who has found herself in the conundrum of traditional practices, such as arranged marriage, and modern life-style which demands from her to live alone and travel often. How could Maya ever satisfy the conflicting demands of her environment?

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Why is it important?

The article offers an in-depth understanding of disordered eating through the ethnographic approach. While the findings of this case study cannot be generalized, it provides an important example of how disordered eating may arise in India, a country where eating disorders have for long been thought 'impossible', but are now on the rise.


Since this is a case study with a single person, the relationship I formed with her was - and still is - deeply important to me. I write about our friendship in another paper where I describe the intricacies, possibilities and limitations of close relationships in fieldwork (Ahlin, Tanja. 2012. Of Food and Friendship: The Methods to Understanding Eating Disorders in India. Medische Anthropologie. Journal about Health and Culture 24(1): 41-56.)

Tanja Ahlin
University of Amsterdam

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This page is a summary of: What keeps Maya from eating? A case study of disordered eating from North India, Transcultural Psychiatry, April 2018, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/1363461518762275.
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