The Picture of Abjection: Film, Fetish, and the Nature of Difference

The Picture of Abjection: Film, Fetish, and the Nature of Difference

The Picture of Abjection: Film, Fetish, and the Nature of Difference

The Picture of Abjection: Film, Fetish, and the Nature of Difference

Synopsis

Tina Chanter resolves a fundamental problem in film theory by negotiating a middle path between "gaze theory" approaches to film and spectator studies or cultural theory approaches that emphasize the position of the viewer and thereby take account of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Chanter argues that abjection is the unthought ground of fetishistic theories. If the feminine has been the privileged excluded other of psychoanalytic theory, fueled by the myth of castration and the logic of disavowal, when fetishism is taken up by race theory, or cultural theory, the multiple and fluid registers of abjection are obscured. By mobilizing a theory of abjection, the book shows how the appeal to phallic, fetishistic theories continues to reify the hegemonic categories of race, class, sexuality, and gender, as if they stood as self-evident categories.

Excerpt

A close-up mirror image of a child carefully applying lipstick seduces the audience into gendered assumptions that director Alain Berliner sets out to render unstable in Ma vie en rose. When Ludovic’s parents dismiss his wearing his sister’s “princess” dress as a “joke,” their laughter deflects his deadly serious identification as a girl, yet not before both their new neighbors and the audience are offered the opportunity to be unwittingly complicit with Ludovic’s desire to identify as a girl. the heteronormative causal lines that are usually assumed to operate among bodies, gender, and desire are thereby momentarily suspended, before being reenacted. the parents of Ludovic’s schoolmates petition to have him removed from school, and his house is daubed with the words “bent boys out.” Forced out of their affluent, suburban neighborhood after Ludovic’s father loses his job, his family discovers that the causality that requires male bodies to underlie masculine genders and female bodies to ground femininity is also constitutive of middle-class identity.

Identificatory regimes operate according to imaginaries that facilitate and support symbolic matrices in ways that remain inarticulate or invisible to dominant representations. By effecting a momentary disruption of such identificatory regimes, film can bring into relief alternative imaginaries, and in doing so can open up the possibility of transforming the terms in which dominant socio-symbolic representations construct identification as normative. At the same time, film can expose the complicity among dominant configurations of gender, sexuality, class, and race, such as the way in which middle-class identity relies upon the causal implication between a male body and masculinity. Gender assumptions are revealed to be constitutive of class identity. They are part of the fabric that helps to consolidate the image that the middle class projects of itself and imposes on those who fall short of it. When Ludovic fails to live up to these assumptions, he is effectively expelled from the community. Unable to tolerate the disorder that Ludovic represents, the community thus strives to maintain intact the continuity between male bodies and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.