chapter  7
18 Pages

A different divided subject

The alternative understanding of the divided subject, which Kristeva mentions and then by-passes, does not regard the division as essential to subjectivity as such. Rather, it is conceived as a contingent division which, although widespread, is constitutive only of disturbed psychological formations and is, in principle at least, the kind of division which can be overcome. This is the division of R.D.Laing’s ‘divided self, the conception of which is broadly derived from Winnicot and which can also be found in Freud’s early case studies-those undertaken when he was in the process of formulating the notion of the unconscious.4 It is understood as a division between two whole personality fragments which are at odds with each other-sometimes so much so that that the one is unknown to the other.5 Of these two personalities the least dominant could be said to be unconscious or repressed. While it is true that only the dominant personality fragment has an obvious voice, this is not because the other fragment is by nature unable to speak or to be spoken about but purely because of the specific character of the dominance as dissociation. If one were to think in terms of this sort of notion of the divided subject, power would not be identified as a relation between the speakable and the unspeakable, embedded in the nature of subjectivity as such, but would be seen rather as a function of particular and contingent forms of subjectivity. (The splitting of personality fragments and the dominance of one fragment over the other-itself a kind of power-could be explained as the result of the person being subjected to traumatic forms of power.) And even if it were subsequently thought that the effects of this power had in fact, in some people, disturbed the very process of formation of their subjectivity (or sense of identity), what would be posited would be an instance of a contingent intertwining of this kind of power with the fundamental process of subjective formation.6