Nov. 27, 2006

CU professor works with noted filmmaker on 'Thin,' new book and HBO documentary

So many young women are dying to be thin ... literally. In fact, "One out of seven diagnosed cases with anorexia nervosa will die. People with eating disorders develop amenorrhea and osteoporosis, many lose teeth and hair prematurely. A cure is not easily accomplished and recidivism rates are high," writes Cornell professor Joan Jacobs Brumberg in her introduction to "Thin."

The title is that of both a new book and a related new HBO documentary film by photographer Lauren Greenfield. Brumberg, a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow and professor of history, human development and of gender studies, has been working with Greenfield since the photographer's book, "Girl Culture," for which Brumberg also wrote the introduction. Greenfield's photography exhibit of the same name was featured at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art in 2004.

"Anorexia nervosa and bulimia both flourish in cultures of plenty where food is abundant," writes Brumberg in "Thin." "In this kind of society, the appetite is not just about hunger. Instead, it becomes a voice, a way to say something about the self, especially among women. ... Today, eating disorders have a firm hold on our psyches, and they continue to be disproportionately female, involving a wider age range of women than ever before."

Both the book and film chronicle the experiences of four women, ages 15 to 30, with eating disorders while they were patients at the Renfrew Center, an eating disorder clinic in Coconut Creek, Fla.

Brumberg, whose introduction frames the film in cultural and historical terms, will show the film to Ithaca-area psychotherapists, Nov. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Hospicare on East King Road. The film also will be shown to Cornell students, Feb. 8 in the early evening (time to be later confirmed) at Robert Purcell Community Center.