Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Kristeva and Bataille: Archeologies of Prohibition and the Erotics of the Uncanny

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Kristeva and Bataille: Archeologies of Prohibition and the Erotics of the Uncanny

Article excerpt

If I want to realize totality in my consciousness, I have to relate myself to an immense, ludicrous, and painful convulsion of all of humanity.

Georges Bataille

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

J. Krishnamurti

The greatest sinners makes the greatest saints.

Roger Callois

I spit myself out.

Julia Kristeva

In a democracy where an individual and a collective have equal agency, vulnerability is not "treated" as a threat or a pathology, but as an emancipatory politic. In the West, we do not live in such a democracy. We are allowed to experience and express vulnerability only in private. The private is constructed as ambiguous, deficient, and pathological, requiring unquestioned taxonomies of regulation and normalization. These taxonomies shape the violence of "everyday" representations. Abigail Solomon-Godeau reminds us that: "The most insidious and instrumental forms of domination, subjection, and objectification are produced by mainstream images of women rather then by juridically criminal or obscene ones."'

This daily violence can be characterized by the ways in which we embody constructed desires and fears of our own bodies and of difference. Insidiously, this sanctity of normalcy constitutes a hegemony of representation that colonizes our relationships with our bodies - distrust of our innate corporeal humanity. Consistently, the public/collective manifests itself as that which is contained, easily assimilated, and reproduced at the lowest common denominator. When the private/individual transgresses his/her own socially-imposed boundaries and surfaces in public, reactionary hegemony uses its power to neutralize difference and make vulnerability palatable to and for the public. This taken-for-granted, "civilizing" neutralization forms the foundation of imperialist psychological tourism2 - the roots of contemporary US-style democracy. The hegemony of the everyday eventually obliterates vulnerability's absolute receptivity and openness to violence. The implications of such repressive social dis-ease reach into larger cultural domains that threaten the very foundations of a democracy, making untenable the possibility of a radical citizen-ship in which individuals can make unadulterated choices.

Paradoxically, vulnerability disrupts and threatens the violence of normalcy and the taken-for-granted. By exploring the contradictory nature of violences enacted by and upon individual and social bodies, we can discover the socio-political potency of the sacred in the form of vulnerability. Vulnerability defies the status quo. It exposes one's very humanity and the dangerous, unpredictable arena that that agency invokes. Vulnerability and the sacred co-exist as a fertile uncanny opposition to the hegemonic reductionism of the public sphere. Like Georges Bataille, I am identifying the sacred as a manifestation of art - that which is not taken for granted. In Bataille's philosophy of sacred destruction and excess, we can find a Dionysian opening which allows us to pay explicit attention to the contradictions embedded within our own psyches and bodies. Recognition of and exposure to these ambiguities roots us in the sacred - a paradoxical embodiment of the both/and status of the ineffable.

The violence of vulnerability gives birth to one's self through a recognition and embodiment of the contradictions of the uncanny. Violence can be scrutinized in relation to the sacred by examining its paradoxical realms: that of vulnerability on one hand and of normalization on the other. The violence of everyday mediocrity and supposed neutrality exposes the intersection of entertainment, consumerism, and ethnocentrism as a collective violence through which we experience our bodies and consciousnesses.3 Entertainment (the violence of diminished collective imagination; internalized mediocrity), consumerism (the violence of the culture of convenience - that which is easily identified/categorized and possessed), and ethnocentrism (the violence of assuming the ethnically, sexually, and economically neutral individual body of a Christian, "white," heterosexual, 9 to 5 "productive" worker) invisibly co-exist within the rubric of the ostensibly typical and everyday. …

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