By Elizabeth A. Wilson
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Additional resources for Gut Feminism
The belly takes shape both from what has been ingested (from the world), from its internal neighbors (liver, diaphragm, intestines, kidney), and from bodily posture. This is an organ uniquely positioned, anatomically, to contain what is worldly, what is idiosyncratic, and what is visceral, and to show how such divisions are always being broken down, remade, metabolized, circulated, intensified, and excreted. If we also take this U nderbelly â•… 43 stomach to be a Kleinian organ, then conventional divisions of mind and body are similarly entangled, and perhaps the motivations of the patient that Leader describes at the beginning of the chapter (“her next thought was to swallow all the pills together”) appear in a new light: we can see that one of the gut’s archaic feats is minding, apprehending, caring.
It has been argued, for example, that at a parÂ�ticÂ�uÂ�lar tipping point in the infant’s development the stomach-Â�mind cedes ground to the capacity for abstraction. Robert Hinshelwood, the original author of the respected Dictionary of Kleinian Thought, calls this juncture, hyperbolically, “a glittering moment in the history of each individual” (Hinshelwood 1991, 352). At this point, he notes, something crucial changes in mind-Â� body relations: “Phantasies about the bodily contents stand for the Â�actual primary bodily sensations” (38).
The infant is certainly internally directed, for Klein, but not in a solipsistic way. Rather, the infant is in intensive relations to internal objects—to parts of the world, parts of its body, parts of other Â�people that have been taken in through the gut. Right from the beginning, other things are a core part of me. Right from the beginning, I am impurely, relationally, enterically constituted. Klein object relationship begins with, or soon Â�after, birth, whereas I consider that there is a narcissistic and auto-Â�erotic phase of several months duration, which precedes what we call object relations in the proper sense, even though the beginnings of object relations are slowly building up during this initial stage” (in King and Steiner 1991, 418–419).