Abjection and Liminality

According to Kristeva (1982), entities which transgress the psycho-cultural boundaries between subject and object, particularly those which appear simultaneously part of the living body-subject and yet not, inhabit a ‘space of abjection’ and generate an uncanny unease for those who encounter them. From this perspective, which seeks to yoke Mary Douglas’s ‘matter out of place’ (1966) to Lacanian theory, the psychic repulsion experienced with regard to the ambivalent and fetishized object prompts efforts to ‘cast it out’ from the self, in order to more firmly establish oneself as fully within the symbolic order.

More on Foucault, discipline, and the individual

At the heart of all disciplinary systems functions a small penal mechanism. It enjoys a kind of judicial privilege with its own laws, its specific offences, its particular forms of judgement. The disciplines established an ‘infra-penality’; they partitioned an area that the laws had left empty; they defined and repressed a mass of behaviour that the relative indifference of the great systems of punishment had allowed to escape. ‘ [. . .] The work­shop, the school, the army were subject to a whole micro-penality of time (latenesses, absences, interruptions of tasks), of activity (inattention, negligence, lack of zeal), of behaviour
(impoliteness, disobedience), of speech (idle chatter, insolence), of the body (‘incorrect’ attitudes, irregular gestures, lack of cleanliness), of sexuality (impurity, indecency).

Foucault, Luhmann, and the individual

In an army of pikes and muskets – slow, imprecise, practically incapable of selecting a target and taking aim – troops were used as a projectile, a wall or a fortress: ‘the formidable infantry of the army of Spain’; the distribution of soldiers in this mass was carried out above all according to their seniority and their bravery; at the centre, with the task of providing weight and volume, of giving density to the body, were the least experienced; in front, at the angles and on the flanks, were the bravest or reputedly most skilful soldiers.

1 2