Subjectivity: Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway

By Nick Mansfield | Go to book overview

6 Kristeva and abjection:
Subjectivity as a process

JULIA KRISTEVA (b. 1941) was one of the most influential theorists of the 1980s and 1990s, linking post-Lacanian psychoanalysis with topics as diverse as semiotics, love, melancholy and migration. She has written on writers as dissimilar as Marcel Proust, Louis‐ Ferdinand Celine and Phillippe Sollers, and also published her own fiction.It is her work on abjection and horror, specifically in Powers of Horror ( 1980), that has been the most influential, however, with its rich theorising of the interconnection between subjectivity, the body, textuality and the law.

Debates in psychoanalytic feminism in the 1980s were dominated by the contrast between Kristeva's work and Irigaray's (see Chapter 5). Lacan had taken an emphatic line on the centrality of the masculine in the construction of subjectivity and, in turn, on masculine dominance over the symbolic.It quickly became clear in an era of feminist politics that this was a wholly inadequate account of the feminine, and thus of gender altogether. Yet Lacanianism was an opportunity for feminist theorising as well.It made clear that gender inequities in a society could be viewed not only as a matter of restrictive social roles and limited opportunities; nor was it simply exclusive economic and educational institutions that produced masculine dominated gender power structures. This politics could be detected at the very heart of human interaction, and the machinery that Lacan saw as its basis: language itself.

Yet if the symbolic order was inalienably masculine, what possible change could be promised to those entrapped by an atrophied patriarchy? As we have seen, Irigaray answered this question by proposing a 'female imaginary', matching the Lacanian transcendental signifier with something of equal applicability and

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Subjectivity: Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Subjectivity - Theories of the Self from Freud to Haraway *
  • Series Introduction v
  • Acknowledgments viii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Free and Autonomous Individual 13
  • 2: Freud and the Split Subject 25
  • 3: Lacan: The Subject is Language 38
  • 4: Foucault: The Subject and Power 51
  • 5: Femininity 66
  • 6: Kristeva and Abjection 79
  • 7: Masculinity 92
  • 8: Radical Sexuality 105
  • 9: Subjectivity and Ethnicity 118
  • 10: Deleuze and Guattari 136
  • 11: The Subject and Technology 148
  • 12: The Subject and Postmodernism 162
  • 13: Conclusion 174
  • Glossary 181
  • Bibliography 186
  • Index 193
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