Lexi Turner – Abject Bodies and Psychic Enclosures: Constitution of the Biopolitical Subject in the European Witch-Craze


The next K’ex lecture will be:

Abject Bodies and Psychic Enclosures: Constitution of the Biopolitical Subject in the European Witch-Craze
Lexi Turner

Thursday 20th April
Room 142, Richard Hoggart Building (RHB)
Goldsmiths, University of London
Site Here Available Here

Silvia Federici’s analysis of the European witch-craze of the C16th-17th, by focusing on specific practices in relation to the (particularly female) body, punished by the state as a key element of primitive accumulation, criticises Foucault’s discussion of the change from sovereignty to biopower in the same era for its ungendered approach. However, there remains enough of a parallel in their approach to this period that a dialogue may be formed to establish the persecution and execution of midwives, sex workers, and other women whose bodies and knowledge of bodies were sites of production as the transition to biopower, and the shift from a society of individual bodies to that of a population mass.

Whilst Federici accuses Foucault of allowing the reasons behind the transition to biopower to remain more-or-less shrouded in mystery, on account of his lack of coverage over the witch-craze, Federici’s Marxist-Feminist approach allows for patriarchal capitalism to be the cause in and of itself. This essay suggests patriarchal capitalism may in fact itself be a symptom. Thus, a third dimension may be required – one routinely engaged in the investigation of symptoms for causes: psychoanalysis.

The constitution of a biopolitical population mass, through a coextensive process of land privatisation and bodily abjection invites not merely comparison, but actual analysis from Lacanian / Kristevan concepts of identity formation. Thus, through investigating various accounts of the European witch-craze as the transition to the early-modern era, begins a psychoanalysis of the neurotic – even psychotic – condition of capital, itself.

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Lexi Turner is a current MA Contemporary Art Theory student, following a BA in Film Studies at King’s College London. Her research interests include: psychoanalysis, screen theory and structural film, questions of performativity, identity and subjectivation, abjection’s role in bio/necropolitics, and ontology of the photographic image in relation to theology and decay. Outside academia, Lexi is probably best known as lead singer / multi-instrumentalist in experimental groups such as Lillian Gish and Falling Masks, and for her techno, jungle and avant-garde DJ sets as Black, MA. Her dissertation has the working title “Political and Erotic Weapons: Aesthetics of Noise, Perversion and Resistance” and is on the topic of exploring the resistance / revolutionary potential of noise’s connections with BDSM culture.

Suggested reading:

  • Federici, Silvia. “Introduction.” In Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body, and Primitive Accumulation. 11-20. New York: Autonomedia, 2009.
  • Foucualt, Michel. “Lecture Eleven: 17 March, 1976.” In “Society Must Be Defended:” Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-76. 239-264. Edited by Arnold I. Davidson. Translated by David Macey. New York: Picador, 2003.
  • Kristeva, Julia. “Approaching Abjection.” In Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. Translated by Leon S. Roudiez. 1-31. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.
  • Lacan, Jacques. “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience.” In Ecrits: A Selection. Translated by Alan Sheridan. 1-7. London: Tavistock, 1977.

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