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ASCH and the research group 'Religious Dynamics and Cultural Diversity' are pleased to announce that Nanouschka Wamelink has been awarded a PhD position in the highly competitive NWO PhDs in the Humanities Programme. Her project is entitled “Fasting in the public eye: medieval ideas about saintly self-starvation and spectatorship”, supervised by prof. Gerard Wiegers and dr. Jacqueline Borsje. ASCH congratulates Nanouschka on this great achievement.

Nanouschka Wamelink

Summary of the project

In the Middle Ages, dozens of female saints were believed to have stopped eating and drinking except for the Holy Eucharist. This radical kind of fasting is in scholarly literature referred to as inedia and formed an important marker of female holiness. In medieval sources, this inedia is described as a public act, in which women performed their starvation in front of spectators. Also, these sources themselves were used to disseminate ideas about female holiness to a public. This research will consist of the analysis of approximately 15 medieval case studies from the Low Countries, Germany, France and Italy. On the one hand, the medieval ideas about performances of inedia as described and depicted in various sources will be investigated with regard to the relationship between performer and public. This will be done by comparing these medieval case studies in a historical-literary analysis. On the other hand, the ways in which medieval notions of food abstinence as holiness were construed and distributed by various sources to an intended public will be investigated in a source critical analysis. Additionally, the alleged performances of inedia, as well as the usage of media to communicate an idea of self-starvation to a public, will be compared with the public imaging of other forms of food abstinence from various periods of time, such as hunger strikes, anorexia nervosa, and the fasting of hunger artists.

PhDs in the Humanities offers talented researchers a paid PhD position. The aim of the programme is to give talented researchers the chance to obtain a PhD and acquire a tenured academic position.