Managing the Other within the Self: Bodily Experiences of HIV/AIDS
Based on the work of Julia Kristeva (1982), the concept of abjection allows us to explore the experience of illness and the way it is socially and culturally enacted through the human body and its bodily functions. The expulsion of bodily products – or the rejection of what is not of the body – is a highly ambivalent process through which the integrity of the body and the self are (re)affirmed by the ill individual. As suggested by Holmes and his colleagues (2006: 308), the ill individual ‘needs to reject subhuman matter in order to strengthen his or her subjectivity and preserve a Self propre (clean, proper, self-controlled) but in doing so is continuously facing doubts about personal integrity and autonomy’. In order to function effectively as a social being, the same individual will need to wash away (expel) the signs of illness before entering a clean and ordered symbolic state (Cregan 2006).