The “Gospel of Fatness” and Acts of Sitophobia: The Foodscape and Power Relations at the Grahamstown Lunatic Asylum, 1890 to circa 1910
Keywords:Cape Colony, diet scale, femininity, foodscape, lunatic asylums, sitophobia
The article explores the foodscape of the Grahamstown Lunatic Asylum, South Africa, from 1890 to circa 1910. The staff of the asylum were disciples of the “gospel of fatness” in which a patient’s weight gain was regarded as an index of restored physical health and possibly also the onset of convalescence from mental illness. Nevertheless, the practice of this gospel at the asylum did not amount to an equitable distribution of food. Instead, the diet scale that the patients received was based on their race, sex and status as paying or non-paying patients. Although the patients were able to secure more food rations via sanctioned and illicit foodways, it is of significance that some patients sought to resist the regimen of the asylum and its dietary scale by acts of sitophobia – the refusal to eat. The study concludes by investigating the themes presented in the acts of sitophobia committed by women.
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