The
Philosophy Hammer
Philosophy, Economics, Politics & Psychology Tested with a Hammer

39: Julia Kristeva part III:
The Abject

Summary by: Jeff McLaren

         The Abject and Individual Identity
        
         If the Id has its demands and desires and the ego has its object then the abject belongs to the superego. Abjection usually can have real physical symptoms such as when most westerners contemplate eating insects but it is deeper than the discharging of bodily drives (Q1).
        
         When confronted with abjection, the abject object challenges and disorders one's identity, system and/or order. Some of Kristeva's examples include: “...the criminal with a good conscience, the shameless rapist, the killer who claims he is a savior....Any crime, because it draws attention to the fragility of the law, is abject, but premeditated crime, cunning murder, hypocritical revenge are even more so because they heighten the display of such fragility.... the abject simultaneously beseeches and pulverizes the subject.” (Q2)
        
         The abject is both desirous and revolting: a good conscience is desirable but not criminality. To mix them is a challenge to our categorizes. It is from the feelings and responses we experience from contact with the abject that we can discover who we are; our individual identity; what society has made of us (Q3)(Q4).
        
         Narcissism or the self-love of our image, which Kristeva claims is usually good and perfectly healthy(Q5), suffers a narcissistic crisis in the presence of the abject. By mixing the good and the bad (or the evil) in a single object we become confused: should we like/accept/love/justify this or dislike/reject/hate/condemn this. The judgments we make in such situations are how our individual characters are formed (Q6).
        
         The Abject and Group Identity
        
         The presence of the abject drives us to want to clean it; drives us to purify it; drives us to catharses(Q7). The whole history of rituals, taboos, religion, art and nationalism has been the catalog of the different means of purifying the group from the abject. The purifying act always has the purpose setting up borders between the in group and the out group (Q8). By Jettisoning the out group the in group gets its identity: negative identity seems to come first (Q9).
        
         Questions
        
         Q1 What is your understanding of “abject” or of “abjection?” What was the last object with abjectionable qualities that you remember?
        
         Q2 Are you attracted and repulsed by the abjectionable? Do you agree with Kristeva that it is due to its supposed good and bad qualities in one object. Or is the abjectional object always repulsive?
        
         Q3 Does the abject reveal our character or does it make our character. Or is Kristeva missing something (and if so what)?
        
         Q4 Is the abject really conditioned by society or is it part of our hard-wiring. Are most people's revulsion at eating insects a conditioned response or a genetic response? Is our incest taboo a result of environment or breading?
        
         Q5 Narcissim is usually considered a bad personality trait but Kristeva claims it is common to all of us and properly so. Is narcissism ever good? And if so, at what point does it become bad (or evil)?
        
         Q6 Is our response to the abject really how our character is formed? Is she missing something?
        
         Q7 Do you feel the need for catharsis after seeing the abject? What are some common ways of achieving catharsis in your culture? How effective are these ways?
        
         Q8 Is it true that there must always be an out group? Is cathasis better if there is an out group?
        
         Q9 Is group identity always formed negatively first? In what other ways can groups build identity?
        


© 2008 - 2017, James Jeff McLaren