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1. Originally in anthropology, the attribution of mysterious or supernatural qualities to material objects which then become the object of idolatry: see also commodity fetishism.

2. (psychology) A pathological sexual fixation on an object or seemingly inconsequential part of the body on which the fetishist depends for sexual arousal and gratification.

3. In Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the substitution of an object for the penis as a defence against the castration anxiety argued to be generated by a boy's discovery that his mother lacks a penis.

4. In Mulvey's psychoanalytic theory of the male gaze in film spectatorship, fetishistic looking is theorized as one response to male castration anxiety, in which the physical beauty of a woman represented onscreen, or some aspect of her appearance, becomes an erotic focus that makes this kind of looking gratifying; she suggested that this led to the cult of the female movie star. See also objectification; voyeurism; compare scopophilia.

5. In postcolonial theory, racism is seen as involving the fetishization of difference.

Subjects: Media Studies.

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