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April 06, 2008


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some people are starting to like Hassidic pornography, for example the pictures of Leah Kleim. This is a developing field, but one with tremendous fetishistic potential.


What, you're not jumping on board Zizek's interesting but ultimately facile argument that "'Western Buddhism' [...] perfectly fits the fetishist mode of ideology in our allegedly 'post-ideological' era..." I see that you're talking about specifically sexual fetishes though. There might be something there, especially in tantric sex, about which I really know nothing at this point.


surely there's a bit of fetishisation of the Hindu religion within the hippy subculture?


I think its potentially about people breaking free of strict religious rules. You mention Islam - its entirely possible a post-"strict interpretation" generation, more willing to throw irony at their/their parent's religion, if or when one exists, will also produce such images of fetish as the naughty nun or what have you...


Reminds me of a quip of P.J. O'Rourke's: "No-one ever fantasized about being tied to a bed and ravished by someone in a liberal uniform".


Might this not be somehow linked to Carl Schmitt's understanding of catholicism as THE political form (complete with his conception of the political)? Catholic authority is somehow the "arkhé" of western religious authority and therefore, following Schmitt, of authority "in general". Also, there is an amount of objects in catholic rituals that could be made into fetishes. By the way, the Irish stand up comedian Dylan Moran actually does a routine where he accidentally (?) touches upon the lacanian conception of perversion when describing how his catholic identity works. That might be a clue.


I think the important element here is the icon heavy ritualism. Any religion in which people are raised in an icon-rich background is ripe for fetishization and parody. I wonder if awareness of this was one of the forces behind the impulses that drove the Protestant Reformation or Islam's iconophobia? I have more to say about this, but will respond more fully at some point on my blog.


Maybe Dominic hits on the ultimate non-eroticism of liberalism' it's an affective black-hole....except for the self-righteousness of liberals which makes them ripe sites onto project non-liberal fantasies. Maybe then liberalism is the political form because it enables and requires a potentially infinite number of alternative investments to be anything at all (contra Schmitt, then).

On hippies...but is their fetishism of Hinduism really fetishism? it doesn't seem to have the intensity of Catholic fetishes.

And how come there aren't forms of religious drag other than Catholic? I don't buy the 'post' interpretation because I think that transgression arises with the law.


Badouian--I had never heard of Leah Kleim. You are right. Great example of what I have in mind. I don't know the names of the religious objects featured in some of the photos, particularly the one with the long leather straps, but these clearly fit the bill. What is a frum?

Mehmet Çagatay

Hello Ms. Dean,

This is my first comment on your blog thus I will try to minimize the subsequent trivialities. All right, unlike a fantasy that enables love to pass through the real to field the imaginary, an object of fetishism operates as “the return of the repressed”, the substitute material filling the cavity which originates from the act of denial of the symbolic castration. Therefore, the pervert subject of fetishism could cross the boundary of the symbolic only by use of the object of fetishism as the authorization certificate, i.e. the transit visa for the passage from the symbolic to the real. Let me give a considerably free flowing illustration by employing our Marxist concept of “the fetishism of commodities”:

Although we have been castrated from the means of production and from our own labor power, etc. in the symbolic order, due to still being an individual who is obliged to satisfy his or her needs to survive in society, to obtain a ground to ensure the real conditions of our existence, we need a substitute that enables us to disavow the repressed the trauma of symbolic castration. I need something that makes me to fallaciously perceive that there is nothing derogatory in the capitalist production. There “the fetishism of commodities” comes into the picture. For instance, in the feudal production God itself functions as the object of fetishism.

As regards to the Catholicism that you mention as the only fetishized religion that you come up with, for my part, I don’t see an exceptionally distinctive characteristic in the Catholic practice of Christianity that reinforces nunsploitation and nun fetishism. I think any particular outfit, especially uniforms, (the uniform of the women of God in the naughty nun case) that relates the human body with Lacanian big Other has the potential to serve as an object of fetishism that substitute the missing symbolic phallus and make the sexual intercourse possible while the complication of the denial of symbolic castration is still in the view.


I agree with Mehmet Çagatay that there is nothing particularly Catholic about fetishism.

Of course, just one example is the 'veil' in Islam. From a Lacanian perspective (though somewhat divorced from any theological considerations), there's Joan Copjec's chapter about the veil in Read my Desire. Also, Nilufer Gole discusses this to some extent in The Forbidden Modern, and Assia Djebar does it all over the place.Check out her Women of Algiers in Their Apartment. I do know of some Islamic drag as well.

But as I was saying earlier, from an anthropological perspective, any deeply upbringing that is ritualistic (equaling religion in that idiom)is going to produce adult fetishism as a natural after-effect.This extends to funeral practices as well, not just everyday matters such as veiling.


The countries of majority Sunni Muslim populations, indeed lack the iconic richness of Catholicism (see Darknessatnoon) but are by no means devoid of fetish.

As a counterpoint to the Leah Kleim photography I would add a contemporary Egyptian photographer Youssef Nabil who forges a distinctly Arab fetishism out of masculine coded social objects. See his hand-colored retro portraits of men in bed wearing a جلابية (a long traditional garment, here for sleeping) and men and women smoking the شيشة (water pipe).


My favorite is "Rachid with a shisha in his mouth (Paris, 2004)".

I personally would like to commission one of Rashid with a مسبحة (prayer or "worry" beads in his hand) or perhaps ask Nabil for a Shiite crossover to shoot me a photo of men wearing black for Ashoura.


i don't suppose you would count secularism, and if you did you wouldn't count teacher/school fantasies.

it also seems you are looking for disavowed sexual tensions, so the tradition of temple dancers in hinduism (who are also traditionally prostitutes) doesn't count?

@Mehmet: why, then, is there so much, for example, pornographic fetishization of these moments of catholicism but not surrounding other religious uniforms that relate the body to the big Other in like manner?
also, do you think naughty nuns are just about the costume?


the long leather straps are tefillin or phylacteries.
frum denotes religiously observant jews.
but i think there is something very catholic about these photos.


Mehmet, thanks for commenting. I'm interested in the way you interchange/exchange symbolic order and economic order/commodity production. I'm not sure that people are castrated in commodity production in the same way that we are in the symbolic/language. Or maybe the 'we' here doesn't work because of the difference between feminine and masculine jouissance. In other words, I'm inclined to think that there are more differences between the psychoanalytic and the Marxist notions of fetishism here that need to be brought out.

That uniforms operate fetishistically seems right to me: their symbolic force occupies the place of the lack of their wearers' actual power. I think, though, that other garments (sometimes but not always linked to religion) have different kinds of power, authority, affect that bring out differing dimensions of fetishism. Bluntly put, I don't think the officer's uniform and the nun's habit are essentially the same.

Badiouian--would the 'something catholic' come from gaze?

Leah Kleim

The pictures of me, and what I post and have to say on the subject are nothing new. People just kept "ffrum fantasys" quiet before.

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