Lester’s book on eating disorders wins Victor Turner Prize


Rebecca J. Lester, professor of sociocultural anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, won a 2020 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing. The Society for Humanistic Anthropology awards the prize as part of an annual juried competition. Lester’s book, “Famished: Eating Disorders and Failed Care in America,” won third prize this year.

Through ethnographic analysis, clinical accounts and emotional autobiographical reflections, “Famished” helps make sense of why people develop eating disorders; what the process of recovery is really like; and why treatments so often fail.

“Eating disorders are the deadliest of all psychiatric conditions,” Lester said. “They affect more people per year than autism, breast cancer and schizophrenia. Yet they are often explicitly excluded from insurance coverage, receive pennies on the dollar of research funding compared to other conditions and are often derided and plagued by stigma among clinicians and the public.

“Sufferers are often given minimal, if any, care,” she said, “and if they remain sick they are routinely blamed for simply not wanting to get well.”

Read more about the Victor Turner Prize on the society’s website.

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