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The Celebration 2 - parallax 2004 vol 10 no 1 3039 The Picture of Abjection Thomas Vinterbergs The Celebration Tina Chanter Abjection is merely the

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parallax , 2004, vol. 10, no. 1, 30–39 parallax http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals DOI: 10.1080/1353464032000171064 The Picture of Abjection: Thomas Vinterberg’s ‘The Celebration’ Tina Chanter Abjection [. ..] is merely the inability to assume with sufficient strength the imperative act of excluding abject things (and that act establishes the foundations of collective existence). Georges Bataille Does cinema render evil banal? Does it authorize perversion? In its exhibition of evil does it participate in the mystification of evil? Or is it rather the demystification of evil? Julia Kristeva poses these questions in her recent work. 1 What happens when the abject is represented or depicted? What is the aim of such representation? Is it, as Hal Foster says about some contemporary art, intended to ‘provoke its operation, to catch abjection in the act, to make it reflexive, in its own right’? Foster goes on, ‘The danger, of course, is that mimesis may confirm a given abjection’. 2 Kristeva has investigated the signifying function of abjection in relation to literature, and in doing so she has raised decisive questions about the mechanism of mimesis and about the cathartic potential literature has as a signifier of abjection. She has also opened up a space for rethinking the maternal and feminine associations of abjection. Even as Kristeva is to be credited with putting abjection on the agenda in provocative and inspiring ways, I want to note a certain ambivalence her writing exhibits when it comes to addressing the relation between philosophy and psychoanalysis, between politics and the individual, between the collective and the singular. This ambivalence spirals into an anxiety that might be an expression of what she must set aside in order to be able to sustain her theses about abjection. I am concerned, then, to acknowledge what could be said to operate as a remainder of Kristeva’s discourse. The gestures of exclusion that Kristeva makes in the name of exploring the strange, disturbing, but also necessary, process of abjection, have the effect, I claim, of bracketing precisely the political and ethical implications of her work with which the abject confront us. The residue, or remainder, is, as Kristeva acknowledges, ambivalent. And while I agree that such ambivalence must be maintained, rather than rendered decidable in its meaning, I am also convinced that abjection offers us a way of analyzing a tension that Kristeva systematically puts aside, evades, or remainders. This evasion, this exclusion (this – I’ll say it – abjection) that might be said to operate parallax 30
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parallax 31 from the very centre of her discourse about abjection is what interests me. In particular, I am interested in the ways in which abjection gets transmitted from one individual to another, due to certain entrenched lines along which sanctioned forms of discrimination are sedimented. Kristeva evinces a certain anxiety about the relation of cause and effect between the
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The Celebration 2 - parallax 2004 vol 10 no 1 3039 The Picture of Abjection Thomas Vinterbergs The Celebration Tina Chanter Abjection is merely the

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