Kristeva and the Political (Thinking the Political)

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In this book, Kristeva scholars from a number of disciplines analyze her novels in relation to her work in psychoanalysis, interrogating the relationships between fiction and theory. R43 Informed by the theory of Julia Kristeva, Frances Restuccia analyzes a variety of contemporary films replete with psychoanalytic subject matter and styles.

New and classic essays on Antigone and feminist philosophy, including a contribution by Julia Kristeva. K75 B68 Julia Kristeva is a linguist, psychoanalyst and cultural theorist. This text provides a representative selection of her writings since the mid s. The Acoustic Mirror attempts to do for the sound-track what feminist film theory of the past decade has done for the image-track--to locate the points at which it is productive of sexual difference.

In Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Conquest McClintock, like Spivak, argues that abjection and psychoanalysis more broadly , is a concept forged from imperialist ideologies. However, for McClintock this is precisely why abjection is useful for mapping the mechanisms of imperialist power relations.

M/C Journal: "Abjection as ‘Singular Politics’ in Janet Frame’s The Carpathians"

As she writes:. This intervention is pivotal, because understanding abjection as a regulatory norm allows us to examine the ways in which abjection is incited in service of other norms and ideals, be they norms of gender, social class, citizenship, national belonging. For example, as Fanon notes on racial hatred in the USA:.

On Julia Kristeva's Couch

The metropolitan racism described by Fanon here constitutes the subject who hates but the specificity of the objects of hatred do not originate within the subject but are socially cultivated and ideologically sanctioned. We need to examine the mechanisms through which norms of abjection are fabricated, operationalized and internalised. It is only by critically engaging with abjection as contingent expressions of normativity that we might begin to disarticulate the effects of abjection as lived. Matter is the stuff of which a thing is made, its constituent material.


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To make something matter describes an attempt to bring something urgent or pressing to attention. However, as Butler suggests to make something matter can also imply a more violent forcing of matter into an identifiable form or name. And can we understand such criteria not simply as epistemological impositions on bodies, but as the specific social regulatory ideals by which bodies are trained, shaped and formed?

Butler reminds us here of the violent effects of classification.

Was the Philosopher Julia Kristeva a Cold War Collaborator?

To understand how abjection gives rise to resistance, we need to shift the emphasis to a consideration of the material effects of being made abject within specific historical, social and political locales. Only through an empirical focus on the lives of those constituted as abject can we consider the forms of political agency available to those at the sharp edge of subjugation within prevailing systems of power. The politicization of abjection which Butler describes involves both the historicization of abjection—which refuses the psychoanalytic account of abjection as a totalising pre-history of the subject—and the collective demand of those made abject to be heard in the political present tense Butler , p.

If the abject is a spatalizing politics of disgust, which functions to create forms of distance between the body politic proper and those excluded from the body of the state and forced to live in internal border zones such as banlieus , then the politics of the abject is a counter-spatial politics which attempts to reclaim the spaces and zones of abjection as radical sites of revolt and transformation. As the MIR contend, this project of decolonzation involves both physical and psychological strategies of counter-control, it is at heart a body-politics:. His writing is grounded in the insight that the fabrication of race is the central mode of colonial and post-governance.

For Fanon racial differences are forms of categorisation which are fomented as systems of power. To experience oneself as black is precisely to be made black by a white other. The implications of this insight are more complex than first appears. What Fanon produces, in his extraordinary prose, is an account of colonial and post-colonial power in which subjectivity is the prerogative of the white man alone. As Lotringer notes:. In The Wretched of the Earth Fanon details the debilitating forms of pathology which this gives rise to.

Fanon offers a series of case studies drawn from the period when he worked as a psychoanalyst in a hospital in Algeria during the war of Independence. Case no. As Fanon systematically argues, colonial power negates the equal humanity of colonized peoples by denying the attributes of humanity. He is dominated but not domesticated. In other words, there is always a disjuncture between the interpellation of the colonized subject as abject , and their experience of themselves as human nonetheless.

The work of self-reflection and critique leads to direct forms of action and resistance.

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Indeed, it is simply impossible to conceive the intellectual and political climate of France in the s, without a consideration of the influence of Fanon, who inspired and deeply influenced the theory and political praxis of the key intellectual figures of this period: notably Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre who published and wrote the preface to The Wretched of the Earth in , the year Fanon died.

The ethical imperative she and other postcolonial scholars variously suggest, is to work from the sites of ambivalence and dissonance which this melancholia effects. National abjects are in psychoanalytic terms fetishistic figures. As Stoler argues:. In Revolting Subjects I argue that we need sustained and critical accounts of how melancholic states fashion national abjects: figures whom, as I will argue throughout the book, are transformed into vehicles which both legitimate prevailing forms of political consensus and effect new forms of violence on those interpellated as human waste.

Compilations and Writings inspired by Kristeva

In the globalised world of the twenty-first century, economic polarisation has reached unparalleled depths both in terms of the deepening inequalities within post-industrial nation states such as Britain and in terms of the staggering inequalities between the global north and the global south. This is because, as David Harvey argues neoliberalism is a class project : an ideology which aimed to restore and consolidate class power, under the veil of rhetoric of individualism, choice, freedom, mobility and national security. Without some understanding of class struggle it is impossible to theorise the politics of global economic restructuring, urban disinvestment, the intensification of resource extraction and ecological crises, the opening up of state-borders to flows of capital and migrant labour, new forms of slavery, the emergence of a new class of super-rich, the deepening precarity of all labour, the demise of the post-war social contract and the fraying of the welfare state.

In The Birth of Biopolitics Foucault argued that the political form and structure of contemporary societies —and the biopolitical governance which characterises the neoliberal state—was effected by the invention of race and associated notions of indigenousity and natural entitlement. Foucault theorises class struggle as an effect of race-war, suggesting that class be understood as a secondary effect of racialization Foucault, , p.

What Foucault attempts to delineate, by thinking race and class together, is the common enlightenment roots of colonialism, fascism and capitalism. This in turn allows to us to focus on the commonality of the struggles against state and colonial violence these intertwined histories of oppression have affected see chapter six. It is the contention of Revolting Subjects that classed, gendered and racialised histories of dehumanisation and disenfranchisment need to be thought together—as different but related forms of classificatory violence see chapters six and seven.

Social abjection is a conceptual frame which precisely attempts to think race, class and gender together. Together these accounts move us beyond the orthodoxy of psychoanalytic doctrine, whilst allowing us to retain what is most useful about thinking how power operates to constitute subjects. Whilst Butler reveals how subjects become deeply invested in the norms which nevertheless subjugate them. It is through norms that we are granted the possibility of social recognition — we are all deeply invested in the moral values and forms of social capital which unfold from normative ideals.

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The relationship between the personal and the political is knotted together within these psycho-social accounts of subjectivity—and abjection enables us unravel and examine these knots. The account of social abjection which unfolds across Revolting Subjects is a psycho-social theory—which both draws upon—whilst troubling—a psychoanalytic register. The state, as the geographer Alison Mountz reminds us, is not mysterious, abstract, all-powerful entity which is detached from our daily lives, but is on the contrary a constellation of embodied practices.

What the conceptual frame of abjection reveals is that neither the subject nor the nation-state are solid or completable entities but assemblages of practices. The subject and the state are continually being made and undone Butler and Spivak, Social abjection is an apt interpretive frame through which to practices of state-making because, as numerous political philosophers have detailed state-power is also constituted through exclusion see for example the work of Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt, Giorgio Agamben.

That is the state exercises power through exemption —the withdrawal of the law, and the withholding or removal of rights and recognition from people within its territorial space. It is through exercises in abjection that different arms and operations of state are constituted as agencies with power by differentially determining the value of life—who is expendable and who is of worth.

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However, as Bauman suggests, in neoliberal societies waste populations are increasingly created within states, by for example, the withholding citizenship from migrants see chapters 2,3,4 or enforcing poverty on people through diminishing opportunities for welfare, education and work see chapters, 5, 6. What I am arguing here is that there can be no real understanding of political agency without working through specific, located, concrete instances of protest.

This argument is central to the story-telling methodology of Revolting Subjects which explores resistance in ways which attempts to trouble generic categories such as bare life through considerations of particular revolts against abjection and their documentary after-lives. Those border zones within the state, in which the overwhelming imperative is not transgression, but survival. What the conceptual paradigm of social abjection reveals, is that if state-power relies on the production of abject subjects to constitute itself and draw its borders, the state is also that which it abjects.

It is by employing revolts against abjection as a map or guide that Revolting Subjects attempts to breach open the dustbin of history.



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