Uncanny Returns

Liberal modern personhood presumes a coherent, indivisible subject. Yet there is plentiful evidence to suggest that selfhood in modern times is often experienced as inchoate: as split, doubled, even overtaken by the haunting presence of intimate others, benevolent or benign. Steeling the individual against instability and fracture has been the enduring task of the grand normalizing institutions of public care and correction, of schools, hospitals, prisons. It has also been the mandate of the more intimate, domestic processes that cultivate the “second nature” of affective individualism (Elias 1939; Foucault 1978). Salient, too, has been the privatization of religion, its focus on an ever more personalized notion of faith and salvation in an otherwise dispirited world.