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Abjection

 

Disciplines > Psychoanalysis > Concepts > Abjection

Description | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Abjection is a state of deep and sickening horror that we experience for example when we see a corpse, see an open wound or hear of horrible crimes against children.

It is based in a breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between linguistic binaries such as subject and object or self and other.

Discussion

Kristeva suggests that abjection is something that we must experience as a part of our psychosexual development, after the chora and before entering the mirror phase. The horror of abjection at this stage may be an early step out of undifferentiated unity and towards a sense of separate self, through realization of separation from the mother.

'Abjection preserves what existed in the archaism of pre-objectal relationship, in the immemorial violence with which a body becomes separated from another body in order to be.'

Kristeva describes how abjection is the first step in moving away from the base animal state towards

'By way of abjection, primitive societies have marked out a precise area of their culture in order to remove it from the threatening world of animals or animalism, which were imagined as representatives of sex and murder.'

Abjection contrasts with Lacan's object petit a (object of desire), which coordinates desires and facilitates the symbolic register.

Abjection in adult life is a threat of a return to the base animal place and is thus linked with the real and jouissance, and is both repugnant and attractive.

One does not know it, one does not desire it, one joys in it. Violently and painfully.

See also

The Chora, Kristeva, Life and death drives

Kristeva, J. (1982). Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia UP

 

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