Maps and Margins

Politics of Place

Today saw the publication of an interesting new postgraduade journal – ‘Politics of Place’ – and their first issue has a number of articles on maps.

Katrin Fennesz has a delightful piece (‘Rhizomatic Travels and Cartographic Connections’) comparing two Canadian novels (Restlessness by Aritha van Herk and The Hornbooks of Rita K by Robert Kroetsch) and their key protagonist’s obsessions with travelling. Her approach is a Deleuzian one so the reading uses the rhizome and the nomad as reference points. There are also nods towards Mark Monmonier, J.B. Harley and Denis Wood. In the article, Fennesz suggests that:

both Aritha van Herk and Robert Kroetsch set out on their nomadic adventure to draw their own map. Yet they engage with unmappable terrain; they seek “to chart the unknown and the unknowable” (van Herk, “Temptation” 134)

Both writers seek to “resist their own ends” (Kroetsch, “Circle” 69) by writing non-teleological stories intent on unraveling rather than cementing a narrative – something Deleuzian readings of the map also intend to do; elevating modification, adaptation, connection or severance over security, coordination and endurance. Joe Gerlach’s ‘Lines, Contours and Legends’ (2013) is representative of such a reading.

As Fennesz dives into the titles themselves, she suggests that endless travelling does not equal a nomadic existence. In fact, as she quotes Rosi Braidotti (Nomadic Subjects 1994: 5) as saying, “[i]t is the subversion of set conventions that defines the nomadic state, not the literal act of travelling”. Two characters in each of the novels (Dorcas in R and Raymond in THoRK) – allegedly nomadic – are far from unshackled beings, reliant as they are on maps, itineraries and timetables for their endless travels. Instead it is Rita (THoRK), the homebound friend of Raymond who is in fact the true nomad – intent on escape, disappearance and invisibility. She wants to, in Deleuzian terms, ‘become-imperceptible’. It is this subversion that defines the nomadic existence, and despite her unwillingness to travel as the other two characters in the novels do, she does is fact stay true to nomadic principles. It is only later, as Fennesz writes, that Dorca is able to do the same – finding such an existence in Calgary, as she:

…[E]xplores the city’s secrets. From ghosts and horses in hotels, to high-risers appearing like tombstones and the chinook with its own mythology only southern Albertans can understand—Calgary absorbs Dorcas and Dorcas disappears in and with the city. Invisible at last. She is escaping the codes, defying signification and definition.

Only then is she able to discover her own world, rather than follow an already-existing one.


‘Rewriting the City: Reading Harry Beck’s Tube Map as a Form of Writing’ by Andrea Vesentini is also in the issue. 

Deleuze, Desire, Strategy and Revolution

A two part interview with Andrew Robinson at the New Left Project on Deleuze, desire, political strategy and revolution (Part 1 and Part 2).

A rather handy reading list of some relevant original works (Societies of Control), standalone versions of 1000 Plateaus chapters (Rhizomes, Nomadology), secondary analysis (on utopia, anarchism, fear etc.), and video lectures is at the end of the second part. Although I would add work by Nicholas Tampio and Thomas Nail to the list too.

There’s a section from Galloway’s The Interface Effect (2012) that is more than appropriate to the questions posed to Robinson in the second part. He categorizes the work of Deleuze as combining an ‘aesthetic of coherence with a politics of incoherence’ (p. 49). This is what Galloway calls a poetic regime of signification (or mode of operation). He suggests he elevates the art of philosophy over other concerns. The other concern that Galloway is primarily talking about is politics, political alignment and political strategy. One of the questions Robinson faces is ‘[w]hat is the Deleuzian model of political organization?’ The answer he provides tallies with what Galloway says, that Deleuze’s political mode is incoherent:

Eyal Weizman has written of the ways in which the Israeli Defense Forces have deployed the teachings of Deleuze and Felix Guattari in the field of battle. This speaks not to a corruption of the thought of Deleuze and Guattari but to the very receptivity of the work to a variety of political implementations (that is, to its “incoherence”). (p. 50)

He goes on to suggest that Deleuze’s work is ‘open source’ (p. 50) in the same way open source software does not preclude appropriation. Deleuze’s work does not intrinsically suppose a political project, let alone an emancipatory and progressive one. Moreover, from the other side, that appropriation of rhizomatic concepts, the construction of non-hierarchical formations and other Deleuzian strategies are necessarily automatic paths to freedom. There are theoretical and methodological dangers in supposing either. These are normative judgements on an otherwise non-aligned and incoherent Deleuze.

Stuart Elden links to a review of Thomas Nail’s Returning to Revolution (2012). Worth reading alongside some of Nicholas Tampio’s work on Deleuze and revolution too.

Progressive Geographies

Thomas Nail’s Returning to Revolution: Deleuze, Guattari and Zapatismois reviewed at NDPR.

NailWe are witnessing the return of political revolution. However, this is not a return to the classical forms of revolution: the capture of the state, the political representation of the party, the centrality of the proletariat or the leadership of the vanguard. After the failure of such tactics over the last century, revolutionary strategy is now headed in an entirely new direction. This book argues that Deleuze, Guattari and the Zapatistas are at the theoretical and practical heart of this new direction. Returning to Revolution is the first full-length book devoted to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of revolution and to their connection with Zapatismo.

The first 50 pages of the book can be downloaded for free.

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3 Deleuzian critiques of Hardt & Negri

As Tampio (2009) says in ‘Assemblages and the Multitude: Deleuze, Hardt, Negri, and the Postmodern Left’ (direct link here), Deleuze has three issues with Hardt and Negri’s political endorsements.

Tampio claims that Hardt and Negri have reinterpreted Deleuze and his many concepts (the multitude, rhizomatic networks, nomadology, organs without bodies, war machines) for their own ends. In doing so they have obscured Deleuze’s ‘distinct contributions to the contemporary left’ (385). So, those three issues below:

1. The concept of the proletariat. Not because they don’t exist per se, but that categorizing people as proletarians risks preserving a rather outdated opposition between capitalism and communism (bourgeoisie and worker). The left needs to work beyond these distinctions.

2. The concept of revolution. Every revolution ‘almost always’ (390) ends badly and rarely changes people’s minds. This is in opposition to what Deleuze calls ‘revolutionary becoming’ (Transformations 1995: 171) – a kind of experimentation of political change. It goes beyond thinking about revolution as a requirement for political change and supposes that change can be brought about through smaller interventions.

3. The desire for an end to sovereignty. Deleuze wants to ‘strike [an] optimum balance’ (391) between the state (order) and the war machine (chaos). In calling for an end to sovereignty we risk damaging individual and collective life. ‘It is far better to use a ‘very fine file’ to open up the political body to new possibilities than to wield a sledgehammer to obliterate its contours’ (391).