Abjection and self-identity: towards a revised account of purity and impurity

Robbie Duschinsky

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Kristeva describes abjection as the repugnance, the retching that thrusts me to the side and turns me away from defilement, sewage, and muck'. Her account of the abject' has received a great deal of attention since the 1980s, in part due to high demand for theoretical attention to themes of purity and impurity, which remain important in contemporary society. Yet Kristeva herself has noted that my investigation into abjection, violence and horror ... picks up on a certain vacuum', and other scholars have agreed that there is need for further work on what Campkin has described as an under theorized' topic. This article will begin by exploring the central line of criticism that has been made of Kristeva's concept of abjection, before then considering an attempt by Goodnow to address these concerns through a re-reading of Kristeva. Goodnow's re-reading of Kristeva, together with some conceptual clarifications from Hegel, will point the way towards a more precise account of purity and impurity. I shall contend that Kristeva's work on social abjection sometimes hits upon a pattern, which greater conceptual precision will be able to revise into a new social theory of when and why themes of purity and impurity are invoked in Western societies. It will be argued that impure phenomena are those in which heterogeneity is seen to disturb a qualitative homogeneity, taken to be basic; pure phenomena are those understood to be all-of-a-piece and as a result identical with their essence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)709-727
    JournalThe Sociological Review
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


    Dive into the research topics of 'Abjection and self-identity: towards a revised account of purity and impurity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this