By Derek Hook (auth.)
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Additional info for (Post)apartheid Conditions: Psychoanalysis and Social Formation
Deserving of special attention here are doubts as to whether ‘an apparently animate object is really alive; or conversely, whether a lifeless object might in fact be animate’ (1919a, p. 226). Similarly uncanny are the effects of fits, manifestations of insanity because ‘they excite in the spectator the impression of automatic, mechanical processes at work behind … ordinary mental activity’ (1919a, 226). One detects in Freud’s explanation two basic ‘poles’ of the uncanny: anxieties concerning variants of embodied absence on the one hand, and disembodied presence, on the other.
It is important to note the extent to which Freud emphasizes the role of recurrence within experiences of the uncanny, so much so that ‘the quality of uncanniness can only come from the fact of the “double” being a creation dating back to a very early mental stage, long since surmounted’ (1919a, p. 236). The uncanny is hence that class of the frightening in which something repressed makes its return. Moreover, the uncanny is not a category of repressed material but ‘an unsettling sense of familiarity that appears when repressed material manages to slip into consciousness’ (Herbst, 1999, p.
Rather than an excess, a spectral fullness, we are dealing here with negativity, with a void or vacuum incurred by such sites, a mute materiality unable, as it were, to realize itself. The flipside then of the ‘overspill’ of fantasmatic presence is emptiness, deadness – the mausoleum-like quality of monuments has often been remarked upon – a kind of ‘minus of subjectivity’, a gap that begs the involvement of the subject. My argument is easy enough to anticipate: what is lacking in the monumental site draws on the subject, exercises (again, a fantasmatic) pull, an extraction of that which in the subject might bring the field of the monumental place to life.