Fetishism has been often linked to misrecognition and false belief, to one being “ideologically duped” so to speak. But could we think that fetishism may be precisely the very opposite? The purpose of this paper is to explore the potential of this at first sight counterintuitive notion. It locates the problem of fetishism at the crux of the problem of disavowal and argues that one needs to distinguish between a disavowal – marked by cynical knowledge – and fetishistic disavowal, which can be understood as a subcategory of the same belief structure of ideology.
This conceptual paper is based on literature review and utilizes examples from the author’s ethnographic fieldworks in India (2008-2013) and central Europe (2015-2019).
The paper provides a new insight into the structure of fetishism, relying on the psychoanalytic structure of disavowal, where all disavowal is ideological, but not all disavowal is fetishistic, thereby positing a crucial, often unacknowledged distinction. Where disavowal follows the structure “I know quite well how things are, but still […],” fetishistic disavowal follows the formula: “I don’t only know how things are, but also how they appear to me, and nonetheless […].”
The paper develops an original conceptualization of fetishism by distinguishing ideological disavowal from fetishistic disavowal.