Dr Jessica Hamel-Akré


Postdoctoral Affiliate

College Roles

  • Postdoctoral Affiliate

University Roles

  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of History & Philosophy of Science


Email: jlh219@cam.ac.uk


Dr Jessica Hamel-Akré is a literary historian and medical humanities scholar with a particular interest in appetite, restricted eating, and gender.

She joined the department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge after completing a PhD, funded by a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier scholarship, in English Studies at the Université de Montréal. Jessica previously served as a School of Literature, Arts and Media visiting research fellow in English at the University of Sydney. Her current project “Possession, Dietary Medicine, and Women’s Food Refusal is funded by a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship. Her work was showcased on the BBC Radio 4 documentary “The Unexpected History of Clean Eating”, for which she was commentator and academic advisor.

Research Interests

Dr Jessica Hamel-Akré’s work considers the parallels between the rise of diet culture and the medicalization of women’s dietary illness, the gendering of appetite control, and the emergence of modern philosophies of food abstinence throughout the British long eighteenth century.

Jessica is especially interested in how cooperative medical and religious discussions on women’s eating behaviors promoted polite rational cultures which sought to limit women’s spiritual practices, self-representation, and extinguish folkloric knowledge of the body. Moreover, her study of eighteenth-century reading cultures also situates medical writing on appetite control within a network of popular literature, autobiographical and proto-feminist writing. Jessica claims that as this period idealized the rational body, it gave way to new moral standards which required women demonstrate a willingness to control their bodies through restrictive eating.

Jessica is currently writing her first book of narrative non-fiction which explores the weight of the history of women’s appetite control on contemporary life.