In Shit We Stand United: Solidarity and Separation on the Lower Grounds

  • Robert Pfaller University of Arts and Industrial Design in Linz, Austria
Keywords: shit, universalism, solidarity, sadism, masochism


In his Interpretation of Dreams Sigmund Freud quotes a poem by Heinrich Heine: "Selten habt Ihr mich verstanden/selten auch verstand ich Euch./Nur wenn wir im Kot uns fanden,/so verstanden wir uns gleich". ("Rarely did you understand me, and rarely did I understand you; Only when we found ourselves in the muck did we understand each other at once.")

In my contribution, I want to examine this ability of the excrement to function as a kind of universal equivalent for understanding; a kind of perfectly convertible currency or primordial gift (according to Freud's account). What is it that makes this border-element between culture and nature so specifically useful when nothing else seems to help in human communication?

This question shall be raised specifically with regard to the "scatological rituals" examined and analyzed by Stephen Greenblatt as well as with to the issue that D. A. F. de Sade makes of the excrement in his "120 days of Sodom", where it plays an astoundingly predominant role when it comes to finding unequivocal proofs of human autonomy. 

Author Biography

Robert Pfaller, University of Arts and Industrial Design in Linz, Austria
Professor of Philosophy