112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

Doubling, Cloning, and Interpellation

Carole-Anne Tyler, "University of California, Riverside"

Drawing on psychoanalysis, this paper explores the uncanny and deathly dimensions of “interpellation” in the work of Althusser and some of his interlocutors, including Butler, who tend instead to find a "life-drive," rather than death, aligning it with doubling, cloning, or viral reproduction of subjects.


In perhaps his best known contribution to aesthetic theory, Freud argues that the sensation of the uncanny or unheimlich does not derive from encounters with the unfamiliar but with the familiar or heimlich, which a philological investigation underlines.  “Unheimlich is in some way or other a subspecies of heimlich,” he concludes, as the word “develops toward an ambivalence, until it finally coincides with its opposite.”  For Freud, there is no more uncanny familiar than the double, that version of the self that proves all too indifferent to the subject’s desires despite its sameness, as in so many 18th and 19th century gothic stories or in contemporary science fiction tales about clones.  As a response to the problem of “otherness,” cloning would seem to be the “final solution,” in Adam Phillips’s chilling words that recall Hitler’s eugenics program, yet it not only fails to solve the problems of relating to others, it also proves impossible.  Sameness resists replication and spawns difference, as Freud himself discovers when his effort in “The Uncanny” to reproduce castration anxiety as the motive force of the psyche gives rise not to one but two figures in his reading of the Hoffmann tale “The Sand-Man”:  the eponymous castrating father figure we expect to see, and the apparently castrated and feminine figure of the automaton Olimpia, with whom the protagonist has fallen in love.  Though Freud would like to turn a blind eye to her as a source of the uncanny, she haunts the text from its margins, the subject of a long footnote which raises the problem of the death drive that splits Freud’s disciples and Freudian theory, as he reworks some of his foundational notions about the psyche in the wake of its discovery.  Drawing on Freud and Lacan, this paper explores the uncanny and deathly dimensions of “interpellation” in the work of Louis Althusser and some of his interlocutors, including Judith Butler.  If in many explanations of interpellation, it seems a mode of cloning or doubling subjects and thereby reproducing hegemony, quite clearly there is something else at work that disrupts that replication, something that Freud explores in his footnote about Olimpia concerning what he elsewhere develops as the “economic problem of masochism” and links to the death drive.  How does the death drive ensure the subject cannot reproduce himself in another, even that other who is his double?  How is the viral machine of interpellation “humanized” by te death drive?  These and related questions are the paper’s concerns and are addressed through discussion of some of the major texts on interpellation and on clones.

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