SIX. An exclusionary matrix: degenerates, addicts, homosexuals

The concept of "matrix" is central to group analysis, signifying, as it does, those supposed invisible but highly effective connections which bond persons, "a psychic network of communication which is the property of the group and is not only interpersonal but transpersonal" (Foulkes, 1968, p. 182). Foulkes extends the idea of the matrix to the "mother-soil" of the social unconscious, in which people are said to "share a fundamental, mental matrix (foundation matrix)" (Foulkes, 1973, p. 228). Two aspects of his views are of relevance to the current chapter; first, that the matrix is (usually) conceived in a positive manner, and, second, that it emphasises that which is shared and disemphasises those excluded and unincorporated elements who exist on another side, as it were, who stand on uncommon ground and who are thus seen as threats to the symbolic social body.

This chapter explores this "other side", that of a negative matrix and site of non-incorporation. It focuses on the way the nineteenth-century culture conceived of certain types of deviant persons and groups. Importantly, there is a footnote here concerning correlations between group theories and some actual groups that are to be found in this end-of-the-nineteenth-century cultural mix; the coincidence of the two helped to identify and imagine several feared groups, "dangerous classes" (e.g., immigrants, anarchists, women's activists), who, from the dominant viewpoint, represented monstrous possibilities within society (Barrows, 1981; Weegmann, 2008).

An exclusionary matrix

Mills (2005) coins the term exclusionary matrix to signify the production of "a dangerous, abject region that circumscribes the identities of ideas, institutions and selves" (p. 7). Although scapegoatism accompanies exclusion, the exclusionary matrix often involves more than one suspect category, suggesting overlapping subjects who co-occur or supersede each other over time, with a metonymic sliding of associations between them. More importantly, it is not just that certain projections are put upon pre-existing groups and identities, but that discourses, rules, and narratives help to constitute the very objects that they derogate or malign; from this point of view, the notion of "construction" is a more fertile one than that of "projection" alone.

An example of one such configuration, from early modern Europe, is that of Jews, heretics, and lepers. Moore's (1987) classic account of the formation of a persecuting society, mapped the evolution of such exclusions and negative attributions from the thirteenth century onwards. Paradoxically, such subjects disturb central, normative identity whilst at the same time affirming it. As super-excluded figures, these groups were objects of discourse and law, subject to edict and management, and although they were not regarded as incomprehensible subjects, they nevertheless represented a dangerous or perverse "outside" of order, a remnant or a warning to the community of the faithful. Thus, Jews (physically excluded from Britain in 1291) increasingly represented the enemies of Christ. Valuably, Bauman (1998) has suggested the term "allosemitism" in premodern contexts, meaning the setting aside of Jews and the consignment of different concepts to apply to them, practices which whilst non-committal in theory, contained the seeds of hatred as well as more positive attitudes towards them. Lepers were regarded as unclean representatives of the living dead and thus subject to laws of segregation; according to Foucault (1965), the imaginal, if not the actual physical, spaces occupied by leprosy were later filled by others (the mad) on the margins of communities. Through complex transformations of dissent into heresy, the same period witnessed a dramatic demonization of heretics. Moore (1987) contends that, "the disparate, fragmented, inarticulate heresies of the 11th and early 12th centuries were converted from their untidy, and generally insignificant selves into fragments of a larger picture—the picture of a monster by which their adversaries believed themselves to be threatened" (p. 72). Amongst the overlapping strands connecting the three groups were attributions of malevolence and death, inversion of the natural order, spiritual darkness, sexual debauchery, and vileness. This does not exhaust the negative matrix, since other contenders (e.g., homosexuals, female prostitutes, and, at least in some contexts, Muslims) had contemporary, overlapping associations with the same set of assumed dangers.

Borrowing ideas from social anthropology, I refer to core dangers as constituting a focus of social anxiety; what lies close to or beyond acceptable boundaries is met with horror and disquiet. "Groups" and "grids" coincide in a work of articulation, groups offering a boundary around communities, on the horizontal axis, and grids (rules, regulations), operating on the vertical axis (Douglas, 1970). Hence, dangerous forces live around boundary lines, transgress order, and threaten to weave their way inside, hence the common association to pollution or corruption (Douglas, 1966); if unchecked, such pollutions could lead to a "permeation of society and the individual by the unseen and unwholesome" (Foxcroft, 2007, p. 11). The human body has often been used as a metaphor for social and governmental relations (e.g., the "head of state" idea), and this is no less true of the nineteenth century; in that century, the very health and order of the "social body" was at stake, threatened by new sources of disorder.

The strong hold and slow evolution of core dangers point to a process of sedimentation, meaning the silting and overlaying of cultural elements; as when Foulkes and Anthony (1957) claimed that "words are old and so carry layers of meaning". What was once deposited in a given culture can become reoccupied through later social mutations. Although reverse and alternative discourses are possible, if not inevitable, they face the discursive weight of history, the power of established discourses and institutional conditions, defining who can speak, from which position and about what. On the other hand, as will be hinted, from positions of marginality and attributions of abjection, new sources of discourse and identity can arise, which help reform that which is considered acceptable and valued.

The notion of degeneracy was central to a great deal of nineteenth-century culture, its portmanteau nature allowing it to be deployed in relation to the natural sciences, criminology, sociology, social debates, literature, and images of the crowd. Such concepts played an important role in both the new science of the "mass" or "collective" and within the emergent science of the individual, that of psychology (Rose, 1985). If degeneracy formed the "ground", as it were, the "figure" of the degenerate was occupied by various human types who came to embody it, including criminals, alcoholics, perverts, primitives, and so on (Neve, 1997). By the close of the nineteenth century, addicts and homosexuals were part of this cast of characters and became objects of a searing psychiatric and criminal gaze. I argue that alcoholics, addicts, and homosexuals, amongst others, populated a significant exclusionary matrix, linked together in many ways because of the supposed dangers they represented to society, to its health and defence. Such beings and errant bodies were indeed inhabitants at the very margins of society, groups on the edge, whose very presence was a threat to it.

Foucault's work is useful background to this historical excursion, particularly his analysis of a new regulatory "biopolitics" of the population and the rise of a "disciplinary society" (1977, 1978a). In his words, "Nineteenth-century psychiatry was a medical science as much for the societal body as for the individual soul" (Foucault, 1978a, p. 8). And, as Gilbert (2007) points out, the figure of the "healthy body" had considerable prominence in a range of Victorian concerns, including debates on the franchise, sanitary and housing publications, and in novels: "Throughout the mid-century, evolving discussions of the healthy body and its tastes would undergird debates about individuality, the social body, and fitness for citizenship" (p. 6).

 
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