Transgression and the limits of subjectivity

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- This multi-disciplinary thesis explores two questions: What role does transgression play in defining the author’s identity? And what role does transgression play in defining the limits of subjectivity? The work comprises two sections: firstly a self-reflexive autoethnography (Section I) and secondly, a theoretical examination of that autoethnography (Section II). Section I addresses three specific lived experiences of transgression: the author’s parents gifting the vast majority of their material possessions when he was a child; his mother working as a prostitute; and his own experiences of self-injecting heroin. Section II, Chapter One deploys Michel Foucault’s notions of the ‘[s]piral’ of transgression (1977, p.35) and Georges Bataille’s ‘[s]eries of chances’ (1985, p.29) in order to explore transgression in relation to the shaping of subjectivity. It argues that the method of mapping lived experience as a spiral of transgression offers researchers a new way of understanding how individual subjects operate power against other individual subjects. Section II, Chapter Two comprises an analysis of the theoretical connections between gift-giving and humiliation, deploying Marcel Mauss’s concept of potlatch and Bataille’s argument that humiliation is part of the economy of gift-giving. It shows how the author’s act of publishing his autoethnography as a commercial memoir resulted in a further spiraling of transgression and humiliation. Section II, Chapter Three analyses the author’s lived experience of self-injecting heroin. It argues that individuals have a biological as well as a cultural need to master the forces that impinge on their lives and that it is the quest to meet these needs that define subjects. It deploys Bataille’s notion of the sovereign subject and Nick Mansfield’s formulation of ‘Energy, Propriation, Mastery’ (2010, p.41) to examine how self-identity is both a biological and cultural process, and suggests that the author’s heroin use provided a mental space within which those pressures were not experienced.
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