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  • Authors: Nina Nikolova
  • EXCREMENTUM: Senses of Proximity

    A Sociological Analytic

    This book thematizes the so-called senses of proximity,
    locating them in most diverse contexts: from the anal eroticism
    and the amorphous perversity of the small child (analyzed
    through her sense of smell), through the blissful state of being
    tipsy which allows for the triumphal return of all that culture has
    stigmatized (viewed through the prism of the sense of taste), up to
    the opposition between ‘the city of pain and compassion’ and ‘the
    city of cosiness and isolation’ (in the aspect of the tactile sense).
    The starting premise is that in comparison to the senses
    of distance (vision and hearing), the senses of proximity, also
    called ‘lower’ senses, are related to disgust and pleasure to a much
    greater degree. Putting the focus on the topos of disgust, but in
    a specific, primarily psychoanalytical, aspect, it is regarded as a
    former desire. The desire itself is conceived as being peculiarly
    coupled with pleasure (which may be seen e.g. in the ambivalence
    of the German word Lust that means simultaneously desire and
    pleasure): thus pleasure becomes expectation, the foretasting of a
    future pleasure.
    208
    In early childhood, senses of proximity dominate over sense
    of distance. The child tastes, smells and touches much earlier and
    much better than she perceives by her vision and hearing. To get
    to genuinely know something or someone, she must touch, smell
    and put it in her mouth as she has first done with her mother’s
    nipple. Thus she cognizes the world by literally tasting it – an
    intersensory experience where olfactory, tactile and gustatory
    sensations are merged.
    The emphasis on senses of proximity shifts to senses of
    distance very slowly and gradually in the course of individual
    development, and this is done by the strict tabooing of gustatory,
    olfactory and tactile perceptions. Her parents categorically
    don’t want the baby to put everything in her mount and they
    stubbornly teach order and cleanliness to her, in decisively and
    insistently demonstrating their disgust with the objects she craves
    most, these of the body and its excretions. In fact the child doesn’t
    want but feels that she must abstain from the pleasure that these
    sensations bring. As a result of upbringing, pleasure is going to be
    repressed and become disgust, while desired objects are going to
    evoke aversion.
    Simultaneously, the research interest as so defined also
    presupposes a specific perspective to the body. It is treated in a
    phenomenological context as in-der-Welt-sein [being-in-theworld],
    as Heidegger would say, or, speaking in Merleau-Ponty’s
    terms, as être de porosité [being of porosity]. Speaking otherwise,
    this is a question of the body as penetrated by the world and as
    penetrating into the world, as located in a peculiar fleshly (in the
    sense of Merleau-Ponty’s concept of ‘flesh’) symbiosis with the
    world. An example of such a symbiosis is the space of ‘genuine,
    affective-phenomenological proximity’ as a space of the so-called
    ‘(atom)sphere’ (in the understanding of M. Diaconu which I
    am discussing in the book), dominated precisely by ‘senses of
    proximity’ – in it, the Other is inhaled, touched, even ‘tasted’.
    209
    Thus when talking of a ‘sociological’ analytic, what is meant
    here is a rather unconventional understanding of sociology as
    far as, as I have shown, the reflexive sociological approach is
    articulated, on the one hand, with the psychoanalytic research
    vision and, on the other, with the phenomenological one.
    Enriched in this manner, the sociological strategy becomes far
    more sensitive, or, to permit myself a pun, far more sensory for
    the human senses.

  • Series: Sociooptics
  • Subject: Cultural Studies, History of Socialism, Psychoanalysis, Social Philosophy, Social Psychology, Sociology
  • 9.00 7.00

    Preface . . . 7
    PART ONE
    1. Simmel, Freud, and the world of smells
    as a challenge for sociology . . . 15
    2. Das Unbehagen by Freud . . .  37
    3. Excrements and perfumes: deodorization and aromatization of bodies and urban spaces . . . 53
    PART TWO
    1. Ekel vs. Lust . . . 73
    2. Noli me tangere . . .  91
    Appendix 1: Homo hapticus: a critique of enhancing . . . 109
    Appendix 2: The ‘wild’ body and sport: Toward a historical sociology of sport . . .
    PART THREE
    1. Sanitary culture: toilet challenges . . .  131
    2. Private space under socialism? . . .  153
    P.S.: The ‘former ones’ and the Procrustean bed of the new world . . .  180
    Appendix: The materiality of affective memories . . .  195