abjection/the abject A term used by Julia Kristeva to designate that which upsets, disturbs, or undermines some established order or stable position. It does so because it is in in between what we ordinarily take to be absolute opposites (for example, life and death, or the human and the mechanical). A number of English words are derived from the Latin jacere, "to throw." Some of these words (subject, object, and abject) are important for semiotics. Etymologically, the subject (sub = under) is that which is thrown under, or subjected to, some process; the object (ob = against) is that which throws itself against, or resists, another; and the abject is that which is thrown off, away, or from. The abject is neither subject nor object; rather, it is something that "disturbs identities, systems and orders. Something that does not respect limits, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the mixed up" (Kristeva). A corpse is an example of the abject, for it is neither human nor nonhuman—it is in between and mixed up. A mother's body is for a child something abject, something both belonging to and not belonging to the child. The abject is, according to Kristeva, a key factor in the formation of subjectivity (or the "l"). Early in the process of forming an identity (a process involving a transition from the pre-Oedipal semiotic level to the symbolic level), the abject contributes to the child's separation from the mother. But the formation of identity is a continuous process in which the semiotic dimension of subjectivity and language often disrupts the symbolic order. So, throughout our lives, the abject operates to disturb identity, system, and order. Since our identity and stability as subjects are derived from the unity and stability of the objects to which we attach ourselves, the abject by its very nature poses a threat to our subjectivity. The formation of subjectivity is a complex, ongoing, precarious process in which we witness, on the one hand, the blurring of the boundaries between self and other and, on the other hand, the ability of the self to distinguish itself from others. Jacques Lacan, Luce Irigaray, Kristeva and other semioticians and psychoanalytic theorists have explored this process in depth and detail; a distinctive feature of Kristeva's semanalytic account of human subjectivity is her attention to the role played by the abject.