I N T R O D U C T I O N
1. Studies of self-starvation, both in individual forms and as a taxonomy of
eating practices, have proliferated especially in the second half of the twentieth
century. See, for example, Bell, Holy Anorexia; Brumberg, Fasting Girls; Bynum,
Holy Feast and Holy Fast; Ellmann, The Hunger Artists; Heywood, Dedication to
Hunger; Orbach, Hunger Strike; Vandereycken and van Deth, From Fasting Saints
to Anorexic Girls.
2. Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 12–17.
3. See Foucault, ‘‘The Subject and Power’’; Heidegger, Being and Time. I
discuss these texts at greater length below.
4. I am gesturing here to Freud’s use of the ‘‘aim’’ in theorizing the nature of
instincts, which he describes as based on a model of hunger; for example: ‘‘Hun-
ger could be taken to represent the instincts which aim at preserving the individ-
ual.’’ Civilization and Its Discontents, 76.
5. This simple starting point is intended to evoke self-starvation in its broadest
strokes, and so to include in its sweep a range of di√erentiated practices, including
anorexia nervosa, hunger striking, dietary and religious fasting, staged perfor-
mances of alimentary abstention, and others. I use this broad deﬁnition to consider
larger political and philosophical questions about hunger and subjectivity and
amend it in each of the chapters that follow. I do not, in other words, attempt to
produce or argue for a universal taxonomy of self-starvation, and not all of the spe-
ciﬁc forms of self-starvation listed above appear in this book. For readers interested
in a more expansive taxonomy of self-starvation, I recommend Walter Vander-
eycken and Ron van Deth’s From Fasting Saints to Anorexic Girls, a historiographical
genealogy of self-starvation from the Middle Ages to the contemporary era.
6. As should become clear in the course of this introduction, by perform I do
not mean pretend.
7. See Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle; Heidegger, Being and Time.