Fetish: An Erotics of Culture

Fetish: An Erotics of Culture

Fetish: An Erotics of Culture

Fetish: An Erotics of Culture

Synopsis

In Fetish, Henry Krips draws together Freudian and Marxian insights to provide accounts of fetishism and the gaze that afford new ways of understanding the relation of the individual to the social, of pleasure to desire. He uses discrete cultural artifacts as windows through which to view local instances of the mediation of pleasure and desire, demonstrating that users of cultural objects adapt them to suit their own strategic ends. Ranging widely over texts and cultures, he discusses Hopi initiation rites, Holbein's painting The Ambassadors, Robert Boyle's early scientific manual New Experiments Physico-Chemical, Toni Morrison's Beloved, the popular television series Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and David Cronenberg's film Crash. Jacques Lacan's theory of the gaze and Louis Althusser's theory of ideology frame Krips's perspectives on fetishism and the discourse of perversion, which he considers in light of postcolonial theory, the history of science, screen theory, and, of course, psychoanalysis. What results is a work remarkable for its clear exposition and its sophisticated synthesis of major theorists, its provocative argument that pleasure comes not from attaining desire but rather from moving around its object-cause.

Excerpt

My introduction to social theory came through reading and teaching Althusser, Derrida, Foucault, and Lacan. This group of authors, situated on the break between what seemed to be a moribund structuralism (associated with Lévi-Strauss, Mauss, and Durkheim) and a new, intellectually vigorous poststructuralism, promised new concepts of the text and subjectivity. the works of these writers also hinted at the possibility of a new politics, one that bypassed the doctrinaire and formulaic certainties of traditional left-wing critique.

The intellectual project that I, like many others, took from this experience was a fascination with the constitution of the subject, specifically with the relation between the subject and that which, in an older vocabulary, was called the social setting. Lacan, in particular, became a key figure in this project, since it was clear that, through his reading of Freud, a substantive break had taken place from earlier structuralist and Marxist conceptions of the subject as a ficelle, a placeholder in a social structure. the Althusserian problematic of interpellation, specifically in its Lacanian reworking by Screen theory, and later by feminist critics, was a key site at which this project took shape. the problematic of interpellation also became a key point of transition at which the “serious” work of social theory intersected with what, on occasions, seemed to be lighter issues in cultural studies, film theory, and communication.

The book that follows has been written at this particular conjuncture. Its framing concern is with the intersection of the social and the individual . . .

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