This article is about the theoretical life of `the abject'. It focuses on the ways in which Anglo-American and Australian feminist theoretical accounts of maternal bodies and identities have utilized Julia Kristeva's theory of abjection. Whilst the abject has proved a compelling and productive concept for feminist theory, this article cautions against the repetition of the maternal (as) abject within theoretical writing. It argues that employing a Kristevan abject paradigm risks reproducing, rather than challenging, histories of violent disgust towards maternal bodies. In place of the Kristevan model of the abject, it argues for a more thoroughly social and political account of abjection. This entails a critical shift from the current feminist theoretical preoccupation with the `transgressive potentiality' of `encounters with the abject' to a consideration of consequences of being abject within specific social and political locations.
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Feminist Theory, 10 (1), 2009, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2009 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Feminist Theory page: http://fty.sagepub.com/ on SAGE Journals Online: http://online.sagepub.com/