Abjection & Alterity: Ideology, Individual, and Space Formation in German Media (Roundtable)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Nadia Schuman/ NeMLA
contact email: 


In examining “the concept of spaces, their appropriation and occupation, the demarcation of borders, [and] processes of inclusivity and exclusivity, […]” one may look to a discussion of alterity and the abject, or to the process of abjection, for explanation or insight into the formation of spaces and borders, and the determination of inclusion or exclusion (Call for Papers, NeMLA). Julia Kristeva describes that “[t]here looms within abjection, one of those violent, dark revolts of being, directed against a threat that seems to emanate from an exorbitant outside or inside” and that “what is abject […] is radically excluded and draws [one] toward the place where meaning collapses […]. It lies outside, […] and does not seem to agree to the latter’s rules of the game” (1, 2). Therefore, when applied to social constructs, that which is abject is the encroaching foreign, the speaking subaltern, and thus, the feared. The abject threatens foundations and meanings that constructs a variety of spaces, including: the nation, the notion of a people, the healthy, and the normative—even the self. It threatens the status quo, hierarchies, and even the understanding of the self. This exclusion of the abject shapes spaces, via demarcation of borders and boundaries, reproducing them via ideologies, often perpetuated through various forms of literature and other media. This panel will discuss the abject/subject relationship as it is presented in German media, past and present, with the subject ranging from the individual to the subject of the state, or the array of subjectivities lying between the two. This panel will address the relationship between alterity, abjection, and subjectivity. How does the relationship change from one that is identity shaping to identity annihilating, i.e., how does the object become the abject? What are some implications, socially or personally, of embracing the abject?

DescriptionWhat is the relationship between alterity, the abject, and the subject? While alterity is related to both the formation of and threat to identity, the abject threatens to annihilate it completely. As boundaries blur, abjection sharpens. The 21st-century rise in nationalism is no new phenomenon; the abject other is an ever-lurking latent threat to the status quo and the individual. This panel will discuss media representations of this relationship. Please submit abstracts to: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/16776