Social AbjectionWhat are Kristeva's theories on Social Abjection, and its effects on the abject?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Abjections specifically means...

..."the state of being cast off".

It is a literal that someone is separated from the "whole."

Examples of abjection refer to groups who are "marginalized." This would coincide with groups in a minority. Examples given are women, unwed mothers, etc. They are people who are not a part of the mainstream, though with "women," I would think there is a fine line here: I assume it would depend upon the context in which women were considered to be marginalized: perhaps dealing with the distribution of power in corporate business or politics.

Julia Kristeva is connected to abjection based upon her book Powers of Horror. In this she addresses the reaction of human beings when there is "a breakdown in meaning" in the relationship between "object" and "subject," or that which separates "self" and "other." In such a state, "meaning collapses."

While this can pertain to death, it can also deal with anything that creates a break in "connection:" seeing something horrific, for instance. One source states that it can be caused by the sight of "an open wound" or simply the film on the top of milk. It is directly related to the symbolic order, which deals with "the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real." It seems to relate to one's reaction to the elements of the world and the overall effect this experience has on an individual.


Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kristeva's Social Abjection theory has its roots in Freudian ego-centric psychosexual analysis. As a result, she posits that, in ego-centric fashion, revulsion at the sight of a corpse or other triggers--like a wound or the skin formed on viscose warm liquids or foods (e.g., milk, oatmeal)--is solely the result of our instantaneous and primal realization of our own "materiality," or mortality. This, incidentally, takes no account of an equally plausible primal reaction that stems from equally instinctual homocentric response(s). When this theory is applied to the original categories, as described above, there can be no "effect" because a corpse--the abject--cannot, by definition, be effected in a psychosexual sense. However when this theory is applied at its originating point the effect on the abject is that it is instinctively separated on a primal psychosexual level to the category of other: "borders" are erected that separate elemental us (i.e., human, culture, society) from other. Research has continued to expand this theoretical concept to encompass work, such as Imogen Tyler's, on disability, ethnicity, social class, and other classes of otherness.

Dino Franco Felluga Ph.D., Purdue University Lecture Notes: Kristeva Psychoanalytical Criticism:

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Kristeva's work, abjection describes those things that are recognized as human in some sense, but not in others. We both fear the abject and identify with it. For example, a person looking at a dead body recognizes that it is human, but that it is not human-it is a corpse. We are both repelled and drawn to it, because it forces us to recognize our own mortality. Abjection is related to femininity because, unlike Freud, she argues that the first example of abjection is when we reject or dependence on our mothers. This process helps perpetuate a patriarchal society by make the female body abject. Kristeva (and many others) argues that many of the social groups we view as abject are also feminized in that they are viewed as dependent.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am fairly confident that Kristeva's work has also been used to explain the marginalisation of specific groups of individuals based on the colour of their skin or other genetic characteristics. The gap between object and subject, or the self and the other, allows us to project everything that we are not onto the other in a form of binary opposition that allows abjection to occur. In colonial times therefore natives were seen as being ignorant and savage because of European's self-perception as being intelligent and cultured.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The only thing I could find on Kristeva and abjection involves the breakdown of the meaning found between an object and subject and a self and the other. This comes about from how one understands, or fails to understand, death. Therefore, one who associates images associated with death are immediately reminded of death.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Abjection is when certain groups are marginalized by society.  For example, women and the working poor, are not granted the same privileges.  The result is the continual putting down of the abject, who does not feel worthy.

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