Just jouissance: discerning and subverting a politics of inherent transgression in Malaysian socio-political discourse

Alwyn Wing Wang Lau, Chee Keong Steven Sim

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    The Kuala Lumpur Bersih 3.0 protests of 28 April 2012 exposed the fault-lines of Malaysia s ruling regime (led by the United Malays National Organisation, UMNO), which promises political reform whilst simultaneously employing crackdowns on protesters. This article aims to read Malaysia s socio-political discourse through Slavoj Zizek s political theory of the superego (itself predicated on Lacanian concepts) in which an obscene underside runs in dark parallel to the public official law. Many discussions of politics do not problematize the relation between power and its subversion, resulting in either a naive trajectory of protest as direct confrontation or as restricted to identity-based concerns (e.g. ethnicity and sexuality). An introduction to Zizekian-Lacanian theory interspersed with examples, both historical and contemporary, of UMNO s manifestations of the superego will precede a comparison of Bersih 3.0 mode of protest to the kind made popular by anti-government turned anti-Opposition blogger, Raja Petra Kamaruddin. As both represent divergent forms of political enjoyment (or jouissance), this article s thesis is that Bersih s specifically feminine form of protest-because of its capacity to subvert the superego within the nation s political discourse-is a preferable political response over against Kamaruddin s phallic, masculine type of political discourse based mainly on exception, privilege and exclusivity. A just jouissance could help overturn an unjust one. Largely a work of discourse analysis, this article aims to pioneer the application of psychoanalytical framework to the Malaysian socio-political domain, seeking to not only illuminate subtle cracks within an oppressive system but also redefine the very meaning of political liberation. (c) 2014 Taylor Francis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)147 - 163
    Number of pages17
    JournalAsian Journal of Political Science
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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