Thinspiration and Abjection: defining that feeling in your stomach

Abjection is important to my thesis and doubly important to narrating my horror at some of the stuff I’m seeing on thinspo sites.

Kristeva’s theory uses Freudian psychoanalysis to define the abject as a concept excluded from the accepted cultural order, hovering at the borders of the subject’s existence and threatening to loosen its claim as the dominant subject. To Kristeva, the abject manifests itself  in “what does not respect borders, positions, rules: the in-between, the ambiguous, the composite” (14), an example being the sight of a corpse, a powerful symbol of the abject as something mediating between the borders of life and death. Interestingly for my own study of eating disordered behaviour, Kristeva identifies the first form of abjection as that of “oral disgust”: “Food loathing is perhaps the most elementary and most archaic form of abjection” (11). Douglas’s original work contends that a fear of dirt has less to do with a wariness of hygiene than the avoidance of the symbolic disorder exemplified in certain types of food, and similarly Kristeva denies food loathing has any basis in a wariness of hygiene, “it is not lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order” (11).

Debra Ferreday’s work places the feeling of abjection in the mind of the concerned outsider, encountering pro-Anorexia blogs with a feeling of instant anger and revulsion. Like the Kristevan revulsion at the corpse, Ferreday narrates the onlooker’s “moment of disgust…. as the defining moment in which the boundaries of the ‘healthy’ body are threatened by an encounter with the anorexic body” (“Unspeakable Bodies” 291).  As imagery of ‘thinspiration’ causes the onlooker to retch, pro-Anorexia content  “brings about a final ironic assault of the boundary between the anorexic and the healthy subject in which the onlooker is forced into a parodic repetition of anorexic praxis” (291). By producing a very visceral sensation of revulsion, the anorexic body breaks down the distinction between the healthy subject and the abject other and it is this moment of anger and panic that fuels the aggressive desire to delete sites of this nature. 

Works Cited

Ferreday, Debra. “Haunted Bodies: Visual Cultures of Anorexia.” Borderlands E-Journal: New Spaces in the Humanities 10.2 (2011): 1-22. Print.

Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror : An Essay on Abjection. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez.  New York: Columbia University Press, 1982. Print.

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