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Crimen Sollicitationis

Tabooing Incest after the Orgy

Diederik F. Janssen

Keywords: anthropology; childhood sexuality; child sexual abuse; incest taboo; queer theory

Late modernity’s binary intrigue of child sexuality/abuse is understood as a backlash phenomenon reactive to a general trans‐Atlantic crisis concerning the interlocking of kinship, religion, gender, and sexuality. Tellingly dissociated from 1980s gay liberation and recent encounters between queer theory and kinship studies, the child abuse theme articulates modernity’s guarded axiom of tabooed incest and its projected contemporary predicament “after the orgy”—after the proclaimed disarticulation of religion‐motivated, kin‐pivoted, reproductivist, and gender‐rigid socialities. “Child sexual abuse” illustrates a general situation of decompensated nostalgia: an increasingly imminent loss of the child’s vital otherness is counterproductively embattled by the late modern overproduction of its banal difference, its status as “minor.” Attempts to humanize, reform, or otherwise moderate incest’s current “survivalist” and commemorative regime of subjectivation, whether by means of ethical, empirical, historical, critical, legal, or therapeutic gestures, typically trigger the latter’s panicked empiricism. Accordingly, most “critical” interventions, from feminist sociology and anthropology to critical legal studies, have largely been collusive with the backlash: rather than appraising the radical precariousness of incest’s ethogram of avoidance in the face of late modernity’s dispossessing analytics and semiotics, they tend to feed its state of ontological vertigo and consequently hyperextended, manneristic forensics.

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