Professor Reflects on Brocher Foundation Fellowship
Published on October 22, 2018
Cristina Hanganu-Bresch, PhD, assistant director of writing programs, participated in a fellowship with the Brocher Foundation in Switzerland for two months, from July to August 2018 where she had an opportunity to work on a project related to orthorexia, a newly proposed eating disorder defined as an obsession with eating right. Dr. Hanganu-Bresch had this relfection of her time at Brocher Foundation:
The foundation was created by the late Jacques Brocher and his wife Lucette Brocher, who donated their domain on Lake Lemans near Geneva, Switzerland for the purpose of hosting “scientists and experts in the ethical, legal, and social implications of the development of medical research and biotechnologies.” Supported by private and state funds, the foundation aims to host a small group of researchers at a time (a maximum of 12) from various fields such as bioethics, philosophy, sociology, medicine, history of medicine, etc., who would develop a project and engage in dialogue over such issues. Exchanging ideas with such a diverse group of people reemphasized for me the importance of interdisciplinarity and collaboration.
I hope to bring back to the class a renewed sense that stepping outside one’s discipline is not only advisable, but crucial, and that nuanced, multifaceted problems of the kind our students will often confront require a multidisciplinary approach. I also hope to encourage the idea that international travel and collaboration is something they should aspire to and necessary for their own spiritual and professional growth.
While not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual yet, orthorexia has certainly been taken seriously by clinical researchers as well as by the public. Given the proliferation of fad diets and dubious dietary and health advice, it is certainly a timely topic and one of the many pathological (and paradoxical) facets of our preoccupation with health.
I'm interested in the intersection of orthorexia, healthism, and neoliberalism broadly construed, and the construction of the orthorexic subject as a perpetual project caught in the consumerist ideology of self-improvement (healthism is the neoliberal idea that we are solely responsible for our own health). Central to the book is a discussion of the tension between eating right from an ethical vegan/vegetarian point of view and eating right from a healthist point of view. While at the foundation, I worked on a couple of articles based on the concept. I also finalized a book proposal and drafted a couple of chapters; I am happy to report that based on the proposal, I have signed a contract with Lexington Press (Health Communication series). The manuscript, tentatively titled Better Than Well: Orthorexia, or the Rhetoric of Eating Right, is due at the end of 2019.
The fellowship provided the ideal milieu for reflection and time for writing that is otherwise, under the rigors of daily routine, a mythical construct. I am grateful to the Brocher foundation and happy to have had the opportunity to start a new chapter of my academic research agenda under these circumstances.
Read another article published about orthorexia here.