Rebecca Lester is a professor of sociocultural anthropology in Arts & Sciences. Her work sits at the intersection of anthropology, psychiatry, religion and gender studies. She is interested in how individuals experience existential distress, and how this distress manifests as psychiatric symptoms, religious angst, somatic pain and other culturally informed bodily conditions.
Lester’s research considers how bodily practices deemed “deviant,” “extreme” or “pathological” — and local responses to such practices — make visible competing cultural logics of acceptable moral personhood.
Lester is most intrigued by the ways in which subjective experiences of suffering are systematically targeted for change through the cultivation of different forms of body discipline (e.g., in a convent or an eating disorders treatment center) and how institutions shape, but do not entirely dictate, these processes.
She is the author of a 2019 book, “Famished: Eating Disorders and Failed Care in America.”
Rebecca Lester, professor of sociocultural anthropology
Rebecca Lester, professor of sociocultural anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, offers advice for coping with the emotions brought on by COVID-19 anniversaries and moving forward.
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 for her book, “Famished: Eating Disorders and Failed Care in America.”
A new book from Washington University in St. Louis cultural anthropologist Rebecca Lester explores eating disorders — a topic that impacts and kills almost as many people in the United States as the opioid crisis yet receives a fraction of the sympathy, support or funding.
Rebecca Lester, associate professor of sociocultural anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been appointed the next editor-in-chief of the interdisciplinary journal Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry. She also was recently elected president of the Society for Psychological Anthropology.
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 […]