Frida Kahlo: Trauma, Abjection, and Affect


The main aim of this study is to utilise trauma and abjection as a foundation for understanding affect in selected works by Kahlo. In the literature dealing with her work, it has already been shown that trauma and the abject are depicted in Kahlo’s work. These concepts are fundamental to understanding the way in which her work affects the viewing subject. Much has been written about the abject, trauma, and affect in terms of cinema, film, psychology, art and literature. All three discourses relate very specifically to understanding Kahlo’s work. In addition, Kahlo has been discussed in many disciplines with reference to, or in relation to, disability. Furthermore, researchers have also investigated the maternal abject in Kahlo’s work. However, there has been little written about the intersection of trauma and the abject and just as little about how these interconnected terms form a fundamental basis for understanding, discussing and analysing affect. To an even lesser extent, research contextualising all of these terms in relation to Frida Kahlo’s life and artwork are scarce or perhaps non-existent. It is problematic that all the research that deals with trauma, abjection and affect are done so as separate from one another. Therefore, in order to understand affect, this topic should be considered in terms of trauma, in terms of the abject and in terms of Kahlo’s artworks which evoke reactionary affects in its viewers. For this reason, the question posed here is: how can trauma and abjection be understood as foundational to the affective impact of Frida Kahlo’s work? Put somewhat differently: how can affect, in terms of trauma and abjection, be analysed in specific examples of Frida Kahlo’s work?

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