This paper works towards a social geography of eating disorders through the lens of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK. Through an empirical engagement with experience-centred knowledge, I couple nine in-depth interviews with autoethnographic material, drawing out the spatial (real and virtual) and temporal (habit, routine, anticipation, non-linearity) dimensions of eating disorder experience, management and recovery; highlighting principally how pandemic lockdown conditions intensified space-time, mind/body and social relations across various micro-domestic and macro-governmental scales. I engage ‘lightly’ with Foucauldian concepts of disciplinary and biopolitical power to draw out broad-brush themes around matters of containment, control and surveillance; taking feminist inspiration to think through Foucault critically as I explore a nexus of gendered pandemic power relations. In doing so, I contribute towards new feminist understandings of the disciplinary gaze, emphasizing the ongoingness of surveillance through both physical body-checking and what I term psychological ‘guising’. Through such (in)voluntary disordered bodily practices, and an engagement with the feminist mind/body dualism, I emphasize the complexity of EDs as embodied mental illnesses, further complicating feminist understandings of control. I close by discussing the ethical-methodological importance of ‘empathy’ while emphasizing the overall imperative of critical qualitative inquiry for socio-cultural geographies and beyond.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.

Cite as

Feather, E. 2024, 'Containment, control and surveillance: a qualitative inquiry into eating disorders and the COVID-19 pandemic', Social & Cultural Geography. https://doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2024.2327286

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Last updated: 29 March 2024
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