MAO: Live in the Studio Day 2 (pt 1)

I abject
You abject
He/She/It abjects
We abject
You abject
They abject


I'd like to verb the noun please. I think we're doing it all the time, abjecting things, casting them off, pushing them away. Down more like, down below us, so we can rise above them. So we can transcend them.

Abjection, Transcendence, Desire & Disgust

Abjection has previously been related to the human body (via Jacques Lacan/Julia Kristeva). Here's an incomplete list of abject things: dead bodies, innards and organs revealed to us by accident or design, blood, shit, piss, vomit, mucous and pus, semen and vaginal fluid, saliva, body odours and farts, coughs and sneezes.

The abject is that which is between subject and object, that which the subject casts off, into objecthood, in order to transcend objecthood and retain its identity as a subject.

But what if we operate within a discourse of objects? Well, then there are no subjects. Only objects with particular orientations, consciousnesses and metaphysics.

The act or process of abjecting is no longer restricted to that which was human being abjected into the non-human, but becomes a wider process of shedding material - conceptual or physical - in order to retain a particularity of being.

To give real world examples of non-human abjecting processes is necessarily anthropomorphic and implicitly tainted with human metaphysics, but even to imagine these anthropomorphised abjecting processes is to understand that they exist: a tree shedding leaves, a fire consuming oxygen and producing carbon dioxide, a computer processor pumping out heat, a local council selling its property interests, an international brand subcontracting production to the economic south.

And, to return to the human (which tbh we never left) we now have an expanded notion of abjection for ourselves, beyond the bodily abjection of Lacan/Kristeva.

I call it cultural abjection.

Cultural abjection is the process by which humans define themselves by rejecting that which they are not. It's a simple process - an act of selection, "choosing" one thing over another. Selection is something we all do, whether that's selecting one brand of coconut water (rather than another brand of coconut water), or selecting to get the bus (rather than to walk, or cycle, or drive a car).

I don't mean to imply free will here, some kind of free floating agency. Agency is a privilege, defined by cultural, economic and social context. But even if you can't drive the car (because, say you haven't got enough money to own one, or there aren't any roads), you still don't drive a car. Even if there is only one brand of coconut water in the off licence, you still don't drink the other brands available elsewhere.

If you're put off by this line of thought, don't worry, I agree with you. It's terribly off-putting. It brings up an awful, out of date, bourgeois notion; that of taste. And taste, I'm sure we'd all agree, is a notion to be rejected, a notion to rise above, a notion to transcend. Taste is to be abjected.

What I'm interested in is the possibility that taste is not some irrelevant effervescence produced by ideologies and cultural/socio-economic contexts, but that it is an essential part of those ideologies. Taste (the act of selecting one thing over another) helps produce those ideologies, as those ideologies help produce taste.

How does the bourgeois reproduce itself? Through selection that enforces the symbolic order in which it operates.

(I guess it should be more like, how do we bourgeois reproduce ourselves, though I'm cringingly aware that I'm often not as bourgeois as I thought I was. My family drank a lot of orange juice from concentrate, I call public school private school, I've never been skiing.)