Stanimir Panayotov (2009) Review of Sanitary Enigma

Stanimir Panayotov (Sofia, Bulgaria, 2009)
Review of “Sanitary Enigma”

The general contribution of the book “Sanitary Enigma” (Templum, Skopje, 2006) by Jasna Koteska amounts to the critical psychoanalytical appraisal of Julia Kristeva’s abject theory, on the one hand, and post-Freudian / Jungian-influenced archetypal dissection of subject formation in light of a critique of the subject, its expansionism, and its indoctrinating purity that runs all through the modernizing forces from the earliest formations of subjectivity to the present right-wing backlashes against identity politics. This theoretical-psychoanalytical critical attitude of the subject and its attached purity is submitted to a broader philosophical provocation which in turn may be identified as ontological research of the human subject’s psyche and its accommodations where ideology and truth meet to create a working space for a constructed and stable communication between real and imaginary, i.e. aspects of the political domain that construe recent phenomena of exclusion through certain subject identities and policies. 

The latter as the domain of an ontological and political stability is being repeatedly analyzed in a chain of interlaced analyses all along the book’s contents with a span as wide as racial / ethnic relations, gender-sexuality materialist oppositions and revelations, center / periphery, as to promote more tangible approaches within the local theoretical landscape, by way of using an interdisciplinary approach mixing at once psychoanalysis, gender studies, film studies, literary theory, philosophy. I.e., the theoretical investigation of the author directly touch upon the very domains it performatively identifies as the melting pots of what constitutes the book’s inauguration, the so-called Sanitary Era, which is the central subject of analysis that leads the reader to the decentering of the subject in inscribing Kristeva’s abject within the foundation of the Cartesian understanding of what it is to be a willing, stable subject.

The theoretical and contemporary contribution of the author lies in this inauguration of the sanitary era, which is approached through what the author sees as “sanitary enigma,” a temporalized and rationalized set of socio-political impositions over the subject‘s becoming-subject. The Freudian Oedipalized onset of the dirty, downgraded subject targeted at the female is from then on recognized as the “sanitary source of power” and the mechanisms that construct purity as the prerequisite for orderly social sets, which in turn constitute the civilized, non-infantile subject. While the first part of the book discriminates the features of the “sanitary” source of power and re-articulates psychoanalytical impediments and prerequisites for the subject itself to become one, the second part more autonomously researches the hierarchical and widespread purity-systems that occupy the human psyche and thus the human bodily constitution in the pop cultures and the reified consciousness of the present day social-political realm. Thus, the author is trying to relate with the psyche’s own ontological foundations. 

The latter is the direct gateway to the third part of the book, where one is to meet Koteska’s own local revisionist theory of the subject – the expansion of the subject as a neuropolitical ontology of the present. These constitute a broader space that, on the hand, shows the risk of inscribing the totalizing pre-ontological and thus socialized purity of the social orders, and, on the other, hide the features of what is the modern European foundations of the subject. To revise these prerequisites the author uses Lacanian accounts of Freudian interpretation of the dream in order to discern a pre-Oedipal definition of the human subject and its Cartesian mind-body onset where the impure is gave up and rendered unruly. 

This itself makes a strong case for Koteska as a distinct and independent theorist of the modern European subject with its manifold, often psychoanalytically “sanitized” structures of the very subjective existence. This individual account that is achieved at the end of the book opens up the space for a non-naïve and rational understanding of the "expanded subject" strongly needed for a future socio-political reality in the Balkans and its recent and more and more rigid conceptions of what is, for example, a recognizable legal subject, or human rights subject. 

This renders Koteska’s psychoanalytical-philosophical contribution a focal point for a renewed and useful subject theory that opens up spaces for rethinking end enacting the regional and often precarious social orders in the Balkans in a non-reductionist, post-theoretical lens. Generally, this theoretical contribution is a direct investment in the foundations of the psychoanalytical tradition of the philosophical concept of the Real and what structures pure subjective spaces.

Stanimir Panayotov


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