Disposal of the Abject

This paragraph from Practicing Feminist Political Ecologies: Moving Beyond the Green Economy (2015, Harcourt & Nelson, Eds.) seemed particularly relevant given recent world events. This passage is from a chapter entitled “World-wise Otherwise Stories for Our Endtimes: Conversations on Queer Ecologies” by Wendy Harcourt, Sacha Knox and Tara Tabassi. Tabassi writes (p. 229-300):

Drawing connections between the human constructions of cleanliness and its antagonist, the ‘abject’ (which Kristeva creatively explores through affective responses to the unclean, improper, waste, filth, excrement, dung, vomit and sewage), helps us to better recognize notions of subjects and abjects within capitalism (Kristeva 1982). By understanding the Western bio-political context regarding the valuing of life – as reflected in militarization and globalization – one can begin to draw connections between who and what is deemed abject and dirty, and thus worm’s meat, and who is deemed orderly, clean and therefore in need of protecting or sustaining. In the case of the United States anti-terror machinery, whereby order is claimed to be distributed by militarism, one of those currently deemed abject and dirty – the waste – is the terrorist body; a continuation of slavery narratives of disposability and dehumanization of the racial and sexual monsters of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: the black or Indian body (Puar and Rai 2002: 117). However, while the practice of the US government in highlighting successfully destroyed ‘terrorist leadership’ can be seen in the media, in practice the unspoken number of detention centres and unwritten number of drone deaths of Muslims horrifyingly resemble the unspoken disposal of industrial waste in oceans and landfills with little public awareness and marginal outcry. Again, we circle back to how our societies dispose of the abject: whether that is the private dumping of chemicals by companies; the mass disposal of dehumanized humans in bodies of water or bodies of land by government bodies; or the common dumping of mutilated trans bodies in forests or lakes by hate-crime perpetrators.

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