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?




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