Monday, August 6, 2007

Some quotes from Brian Massumi

If the politics of Deleuze and Guattari seem implicit or are lost in their rhetoric then Brian Massumi comes across explicitly. Here are some quotes from his 'Introduction to Capitalism and Schizophrenia' book about gender and singularities:

"Man" and "Woman" as such have no reality other than that of logical abstractions. What they are abstractions of are not the human bodies to which they are applied, but habit forming attractors to which society expects it bodies to become addicted.' (p86-87)

'No body is "masculine" or "feminine"' (p87)

'A body does not have a gender: it is gendered' (p87)

'Gender is a form of imprisonment, a socially functional limitation of a body's connective and transformational capacity' (p87)

'The ultimate goal, for Deleuze and Guattari, is neither to redefine, misapply, or strategically exaggerate a category, nor even invent a new identity. Their aim is to destroy categorical gridding altogether, to push the apparatus of identity beyond the threshold of sameness, into singularity.' (p88)

Some thoughts:

From reading through Massumi's Deleuzian politics and the quotes specifically the main attack is set against the system of the general (the category) and the particular (the entity). It is not that Deleuze and Guattari don't see benefits of feminism, where they argue for a becoming of women in A Thousand Plateaus, but is just that they want rid of categories that are abstract and try to code behaviours of particulars that are 'members' of a general category. This is why Deleuze and Guattari view language as prescriptive and not referential, where someone can say 'its a boy!' as a means of using particular bodies designated for the general categories. For Deleuze and Guattari each species and each body is a unique singularity, and such designations of 'male' and 'female' should be destroyed in favour of realising each singularity undergoes and obeys far more complex rules of formation. In short, each singularity undergoes its own highly individual historical formation, which the logic of the general and the particular fails to recognise. While Deleuze and Guattari do understand gender does play an active role in todays' society, they argue for an ethics that opposes the general and the particular as they feel these are systems of over-coding and determinism.

One afterthought:

Deleuze and Guattari do not argue this from a social constructivist position, as Manuel DeLanda makes clear in this public lecture at the European Graduate School.


Wildly said...

Some interesting thoughts here, evoking a vague memory from reading D&G: isn't one of their points that bodies are not merely bodies as we might usually identify them (head, torso, arms and legs) but all of the parts that make them up as well? That is, aren't bodies for D&G able to be understood as both smaller (say, seeing a *part* of the body as a body in itself) and larger (say, seeing car+driver as a body too?) than the body? (I'm now having an angsty moment of thinking that I might well be thinking of Spinoza, and though D&G draw on him, it would be remiss of me to pretend they are the same!) Anyway, if bodies are able to be understood in these more 'flexible' ways, I wonder (and I actually *do* wonder, I'm not just being annoying) what this does to your (somewhat implicit, I'll admit) connecting of the presumably bodily singularity with *personal* individuality, aka the problematic site of gender?

And I'll have to check out the Manuel DeLanda link; thanks for that!

Mark202 said...

I completely agree that we need to think about bodies in a more flexible ways, and so would Deleuze and Guattri. I am reminded of Colebrook's introduction to Deleuze, where she discusses the machinic assemblages of D & G, and gives the example of how a bicycle and a 'human' can form a new machine - a cycle. The 'human' body therefore opens itself up to new experiences, transforming its previous habit.
I'll admit that there is (implicitly) a connecting of body singular and 'personal' individuality from my post. But, along with DeLanda, species formation, in that a species becomes sexual reproductive, creates a new, historically constituted, singularity - the singularity being the species. This is why I would argue the humans species is (at present) a singularity), but is not composed of two genders. However, just because the human species is a mulitple singularity does not mean it should become 'human, all too human', as it should recognise all the other interactive/unconscious forces that are productive, and actually produced consciousness. We should therefore not become reactive, considering the ‘subject’ as the centre, and produce some form of humanism.

A quote from Deleuze’s book on Nietzsche sums this attitude up:
‘Nietzsche knew the hour had come…to remind consciousness of its necessary modesty is to take it for what it is: a symptom; nothing but a symptom of deeper transformation and of the activities of entirely non-spiritual forces.’ (p39)

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