Accepted Paper:

Embodied medi(c)ations: (not) swallowing anti-psychotics  
Anna Lavis (University of Birmingham)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores embodied encounters with anti-psychotic medications. It traces the ways in which the act of swallowing draws food and medicine into visceral entanglements that disrupt psychiatric imaginings of illness, treatment and recovery, and transform food into medicine.

Paper long abstract:

Arguing for a greater attention to materiality in anthropological approaches to mental health, this paper engages with the act of swallowing to interrogate material and metaphorical encounters between food and medicine in the context of lived experiences of psychosis.

The paper traces how particular psychiatric imaginings of illness and healing, as well as citizenship and responsibility, enter the body as anti-psychotic medications are placed on the tongue and washed down the throat. Attending to the textures and tensions of this process invites reflection on swallowing in the more figurative sense of 'putting up with;' participants' narratives illustrate how selves, bodies and affects may be uncertainly and processually mediated around these medications as their unwanted effects are traded off against the promises they transact.

Yet, as recent analyses of eating have shown, ingestion may be an act replete with resistance; it is particularly by engaging with food practices that may accompany the swallowing of anti-psychotics that this becomes apparent. Eating becomes a tool, employed to disrupt and reconfigure the meanings and effects of the medications. This renders boundaries porous as food is transformed into medicine in the agential yet haptic liminality of visceral encounters.

The paper locates this material transformation as central to the often poignantly precarious recovery of bodies, selves and lives that are ambivalently caught up in the unpredictable exigencies of both illness and medication.

Panel Med03
Food as medicine: biosocialities of eating in health and illness