Rethinking Kristeva, with dog poop • Unpacking Theory

Dear Friends,

So, a long time ago I wrote an “Oh Woe is Me” about what it’s like to pick up dog’s poop. Well, we’re going to really get into it, today. Okay, not really, but I am going to examine what I thought was correct about Kristeva’s theory of abjection, and apply that learning again. It will be fun; there will be dogs involved! 🐶

Okay, so my initial premise was taken from the fact that Kristeva says that “defilement” and “shit” and “pus” are the things that invoke abjection. Abjection is the affective (emotional response) feeling of deep repulsion, of gagging, and that which causes you to question existence and meaning. Importantly, that which exposes the fragility of borders is abject. For example, Kristeva says that if you see a corpse with pus and wounds, the response you have to the pus and wounds is abjection, for it exposes what keeps us alive and the fragility of life in the face of death/mortality. However, “signified” death is a whole other kettle of fish. Signified death is the flat line that shows you there is no longer brain activity. You are being shown that death has occurred, and you can process that information in different ways. It is not the immediate confrontation of death, but the confrontation with that which tells you death has occurred.

So, let’s think about dog poop. I made the argument that picking up my dog’s poop was uncomfortable because of its relationship to abjection. However, I believe that this example was incorrect. Perhaps, for my tiny little dog with her superego structure, being confronted by her own poop might domino into an existential crises of meaning and being, but, for me, her poop signifies. Let’s think about that, I am not being confronted with abjection because fragility is not being exposed; her poop signifies her health and her continued existence for me. However, the confrontation with the abject occurs when we walk and other owners have not picked up after their dogs. Just thinking about it makes me unwell. This is because this poop does not signify, but it invokes death and disease and defilement.

So friends, pick up after your dog because your relation to it is not abject, but think about all of the abject people walking about exposed to the fragility of meaning because you’re too lazy. You do not want to be held accountable for that, do you?

 

 

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There are likely going to be more of these philosophy bites coming your way. Brace yourselves.

Things I’ve Learnt Walking My Dog

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There are some things that we have to do. Feed ourselves. Have a wee. You get the idea. As walking, capable beings, these acts seem second-nature, if not first. Of course, food depends on income stability. It’s something that may easily be taken for granted. My dog makes me think about this often. I use ‘make’ consciously because I have control over my food and her food, and when I am eating–she always wants some. I am aware that she wants some. She gets some bananny when I make smoothies. She gets cheese when I make lunch, even though I cannot eat cheese. She is fed promptly at the same times. She is loved. And, most of all, she loves chicken. She believes all chicken belongs to her. If you’re eating it, it must be some cosmic mistake. She will forgive you, but really, don’t you know better by now?

But these observations are quick to note down in one’s log book. I think the times I am truly awoken from a sort of unconsciousness are when we walk. My dog is especially stubborn. She is a shihtzu, and she doesn’t shed. In the summers, it gets far too hot for her, so we have to carry her home most of the time. Because of this precedent, she has, for years, decided that her compass points in one direction. And, in that direction, we must walk as far as possible at whichever speed she most prefers. I must, therefore, carry her home. I don’t really mind. It only gets difficult when she wriggles in my arms so she can see in the direction we’re walking, rather than over my shoulder. So with this in mind, I’m sure you can imagine I’ve had a lot of time to think…

I’ve wondered about how other dog owners or trainers might view this behaviour. Your dog should obey you. Your dog should walk in the path you prescribe. But, it’s not that easy. She’s small. She has a heart problem. So, when she’s tired. I’ll carry her. She’s also especially nosey. She spies on what people do. She does her business for them, too. You should be flattered. I am not at my most flattering angles whilst cleaning up her mess, but one must. For instance, there is someone in my neighbourhood who never cleans up after their dog. I feel like that’s the most basic of contracts you make with your dog and society. You poop; therefore, I scoop. Additionally, I’m beginning to wonder if another of my neighbours has a small pony they walk. A small flowerbed could be fertilized. I know this borders on the side of a disturbing topic, but I don’t think we should be as taboo about this stuff. Maybe, then, my neighbours would pick up after their doggies. Also, before I begin my next thought, I do not want it to seem contradictory that I am saying poop should be less of a banned topic and also affirming that my neighbours should clean it. It’s basic hygiene guys. Do your do.

Alright. So, I might have mentioned it before, but there is this philosopher, Julia Kristeva, who describes abjection. Kristeva explains that the abject is neither the subject nor the object, but it is the thing that is able to disturb the boundaries between finite positions or cultural constructions. An easy example is a corpse. The corpse disgusts the living being because it reminds us of death. Indeed, our own death. We are confronted by death, and we cannot challenge it. Another example is, what I have been discussing above, poop. In order to live, we must eat, we must defecate; but we are disgusted with our waste. So, we push the corpse into the coffin and our poop out of our minds and toilets. Our cultural consciousnesses is burdened and disturbed by these signifiers of death and filth. The corpse was once a conscious being–a subject. The poop is the evidence of food incorporated into our beings–giving us life.

I used to be really embarrassed about picking up my dog’s poop. I used to think, what would my friend think if they saw me do this? Or, what would my lover do? Leave me forever? Well, I imagine that, now, I would say to anyone that crap begets and is evidence of life. When we are ashamed of the dog’s filth, aren’t we just ashamed of our own filth. My dog’s consciousness is a matter I cannot fully examine. But I know she feels love, anxiety, happiness, boredom, sadness, fear, and calm. And, above all, she likes to poop for others. On our walks, perhaps, poop is less of a goal for her, but she does go. That is not our reason for walking. I always sense a stab of adventure from her as she pulls me in one direction and refuses to walk in another. I laugh at her when she does silly things. I tease her when she farts (it happens rarely). I give her kisses when she has a heart-fit and needs to be reassured of herself. I hold her, despite her unwavering sense of independence. I make trenches in the snow, so she can walk and lead me north or south, east or west.

I think one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learnt walking my dog, it’s that, no matter the weather, no matter the time of day, when I pick her up, I always tell her, look how beautiful the sky is today. Her eyesight might not make those fine distinctions, she may just see darkness or impenetrable light, but she is secure in my arms and, through me, our connection to the universe is infinite.

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unnamed-6My week thus far

We’re going for a walk now. Talk soon.

Heaps of love,
Word Play & Misha Xx