Deleuzian feminism - some contributions

Faulkner, K. (2002) 'Deleuze in Utero: deleuze-sartre and the essence of women'. Angelaki   7(3): 25—43.

Apparently an early essay, still in French, developing ideas about the Other-structure. We know that Others cannot be other subjects, other ‘Is’ but must be related to possibilities in the world. Apparently D borrowed from Sartre (although Husserl too, in Logic of Sense).  He went on to describe two kinds of Other-structures, one which discloses possibilities in the actual world, but another one which leads to the virtual.  For some reason, he describes these two structures in gender terms,[ possibly because he wanted to intervene in that rather silly debate about the essence of women which preoccupied French philosophers].  So the actual other structure is called a male other, and we relate to it in terms of friendship.  The point here is that we can simply ignore the other possibilities that it reveals to us, using a device in Sartre that looks rather like turning friends into anonymous types.  The structure involving the virtual is called a female other( or just ‘woman’) , it has a much wider range of possibilities and cannot easily be categorized or bent to our own will.  The relationship we have with it is called love.  We are seduced. It is much richer. It has interiority (the virtual) . Love is worth far more than friendship. This notion of the essence of women [sic] might explain the controversial remarks in Thousand Plateaus that it is important to become woman first and foremost [I will have to look up the quote]

Now Faulkner says we should not confuse these categories with particular men or women, since all this is ontological and categorical, but it is odd that Deleuze genders them in the first place, and in such conventional way.  On the one hand, this seems to support the feminist idea that women are not just simple binary opposites to men, but are lots of things all bundled into one.  On the other hand, we’re not far away from the usual equation of women with boundless nature, something that exceeds the empirical, or the cultural.  It seems also close to the idea that women complete men, and therefore that heterosexual union is somehow  a natural combination of the instrumental and expressive, the pragmatic and the romantic. So womenare useless ( not to do with the pragmatic and practical) ,a luxury. Yet women are the virtual – their outward looks do not express anger but are anger (32) .

Used to develop further notions of qualities which do not reside in objects – like ‘pure pain’. Experienced immediately, with no need of reflecting. First realization of an external world. Hence odd remark about women as thing.(32) .

Possibilities in woman unfold. Diff types possible  – formal, transcendental, fleshy/actualized (33) . When they use makeup women show us how to produce a persona –face as indicator of the interior. Woman as secret in essence,not possessing secrets that we will access. Unthinkable, unknowable,  reminder of virtual. NB the caress enfleshes, folds, it is incarnation (34). However, she needs this sort of act to become real and actual.

The issue of the Other structure also explains the importance of the face with its black holes as representing otherness, not the gaze or the Lacanian mirror

It is also strange to see Deleuze importing such heterosexual terminology—why prioritize love between men and women? Men philosophise and become women not vice versa.

Later piece (still in French) about passion – to project oneself as self-sufficient, escape contingency (= discovering God) . Anticipates LofS about how perversion works – to institute necessity rather than possibility, develop a world in itself, perverted self-sufficiency, no other-structure except as accomplices or victims. Involves becoming thing-like. Dissolves differences between sexes. Unexploring. Mediocre. Narcissus-like. This characterizes ordinary life in the actualized world – things are simply things, no possibilities. Reminds us of own finitude. Apparently a risk women run.

Answer is not to conceive of objects sparking off new perceptions in consciousness [as in Husserl] , but to do transversal sharing of qualities [v similar to becoming]. Note differences too. Not just via analogy – need to invoke essence, essential sharing[?]. This essence guarantees the properties of both person and object. Not representation, function of immanence (36). Expose unity of contradictory possibilities, interiors and exteriors secret and not-secret. This is basis of human passion – to unfold [v abstract philosophical notion again] –what love is.

NB section about n sexes is not seen as warrant for queer theory but indifference towards sexual difference [ which is a philosophical  perversion in name of the One?]. Actual discussions sexuall differences imply they emerge from Kantian ‘moral law’, categorization as acts of consciousness, unity of dsisjunctive. Associated with lack, guilt etc (37). Good side of perversion – to remove lack. Usual views of division of sexes a way to cope with guilt. Projected on to women, even in love. Actions like caress attempt to fold back in some innocence, but never successful, women guilty and secretive. Multiplying sexes is an attempt to break this circle


Good summary 38f


Deleuze operating in absence organized feminism in Fr of 1940s. Male-centred defns? But attempt to move from Sartre’s even worse defns. Definitely objv rather than about fem consciousness. Male desire dominates account – but notion of passion to unfold more neutral and could explain female desire too. Context explains—desire to break with Sartre rather than develop an account of sexuality etc. And develop the notion of desire without lack. And immanence.

From Goulimari, F. (1999) 'A Minoritarian Femism? Things to do with Deleuze and Guattari'. Hypatia 14(2): 97—120

V solid piece discusses the legacy of Deleuze and Guattari among feminists. Two issues especially – becoming woman and minoritarian langsages/lines of escape etc (ie mostly D&G later stuff). Nice problems, recognizable in Isherwood on  feminism vs queer theory, and me on the politicisation of everything. Braidotti apparently imp for introducing Deleuzian teminology etc

Becoming woman (b-w) (we know how dodgy that is from Faulkner above) has been criticised as gynesis (pstrlists hijacking feminisms and imposing a role of women as liberated etc – hence becoming woman the most imp.) Incoherent critioque at times but sound and leads to ‘sexual difference’ approach as the most important, irreducible and basis for feminist politics.

OR becoming minoritarian (b-m). More general, about deterritorializing wherever and whenever. Not just women. Possible alliances though. Weakens and dilutes women but doesn’t isolate them.

[So familiar but important struggle. Could be argued for class just as well. General issue of how one does apply Deleuze/Guattari of course.  Raises issue of gross abstraction and generality of Deleuzian politics}

 Focused on Jardine (J) and Braidotti (B) as fundamental texts. Focus on b-w and b-m respectively. Both involve dispute with Irigaray (I) on sexual difference, and B now closer to I rather than D&G, so closer to sexual diff rather than b-m. Goulimari (G)  wants to reassert b-m.

Jardine writes about D and his (br)others, the French poststructuralists.  (one of first pieces in English, apparently) and accused him of gynesis ‘the necess but mystifying problematization and putting into discourse of ‘woman’ and the ‘feminine’ in contemporary thought’ (G quoting J, n2, 115)   –  a false male construction of woman compared to I’s notion of female feminine.

There are no feminist followers of D&G except Braidotti, says J. J is critical of D&G as examples of false interest in becoming woman, B more interested in D&G’s own emphasis on minoritarian etc. – a false genderization for J, avoiding genderization for B ( D&G ignore the importance and specificity of women becoming minoritarian). Both tend to abandon D&G for I though.

J is summarized. US acads either marginalized D&G or put them at centre of a (male) cult. Stylistic probs D&G lead to J saying D&G future oriented, utopian, and concepts not new ( not very convincing). G argues D&G realists. Gynesis way to ackno women yet mystify them, deny specificity. Noted stereotypes in D&G (not convincing for G – but see above). B-w most imp concept for Fr feminists at least. Driven by need to make gynesis fit says G. - -eg B interested in becoming-m not b-w. J’s egs include desiring machines and bwo –replacing women and substituting for the real preservation  of organless bodies in women [pregnancy?]. Very like I’s tactic to demand if categories represent or ignore women. Misunderstanding bwo, says G,  [dodgy] which really about Marxian lab and surplus value – bwo appears as mysterious cause of work of desiring machines (101). In AO, though, desiring machines do the work of making lateral connections, and there is no class problematic. Desiring machines form lines of escape. J insists this is another way to insist on female – via escape through unconsciosness.

J emphs bits in TP about necessity of b-w. Read as eg of the figure ‘knight of faith’ in Kierkegaard [pass]. G reads D&G to say 2 modes of being fascinated with other [bit like early version above] –other  as [possibs in this world] needing to remain other and separate,  and becoming other.  First option means artificial territories and tree structures, with majoritarian identity based on [Oedipal] structures  –man ,male, adult, woman, child. This is universal. From this perspective, feminism subverts from a subordinate position. But some feminism is happy to accept this majoritarian scheme says G. – really supports majoritarian thinking. Should follow lines of escape to from proper minoritiarian position. Follow lateral rhizomatic connexions rather than work up and down arborescent ones. D&G need to be explored re this process of becoming minn and avoid recuperation by majn. (103).The importance of b-w in TP is a recognition of the work of feminism in breaking out of old structure as above (working through Man etc). Retains women as avenue to multiple otherness [through virtual?]. J sees it as a trick to persuade women to abandon usual political identity.

J turns to novel by Tournier M. (1967) Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique, which exemplifies D&G’s theoretical wk –D wrote about it –in LofS  [apparently about 3 male figures who rape their desert island]. J sees D, G and Foucault as like the 3, a brotherhood. D really banging on about Other structures, and differences between normal others and others which are otherwise. Like I’s feminine other of the same and other of the other – latter to be discovered via proper pursuit of sexual difference. But are dangers excluding others, perversion for D&G,  and thus artificial territories again.

J insists women's marginal status –limbo – is to be preserved as void that re-energises thought. Line of escape to that void could be through b-w. This is the radical element of the brotherhood. What they have in common with sexual difference feminists! Leads to only alternative between radical brothers and radical sisters – nowhere for any other minoritarian thinking. But G believes role of feminism is to open the gate for other minorities too.

B’s Patts of Dissonance surveys feminist though AND relates to D&G and Derrida. It identifies 3 types feminists – tactical, radical sexual difference (sd), critical epistemologists. Represents Le Doeuf, I and Harraway as a 3rd option emerging from sd. B explores ontology in her other  essay – sd provide basis for ontology and is a possible basis for w-becomings. Dangers of being too exclusive are present. though. B has artificial territory constructs with sexual diff (with subdivison of race and age etc)  then claims it as basis for alliances between those diffs (107).

Earlier PofD  divides feminists into reformers and radicals, Le Doeuf and I. Reformers insufficiently break from conventional philosophy (and initially include poststructuralists). Then extended to mean further break even with poststructuralists. Le Doeuf sees postructuralist critique of reason as permitting more liberated philosophy, using non macho bits. Radicals see completely new feminine way to do philosophy via female feminine. But winnowing out masculine bits of philosophy is similar,  says G., and what the poststructuralists did so no need to reject them too (107). LeDoeuf goes back before poststructuralism says B, to neo-humanism.

G defends LeD and reads her as celebrating multiple differences rather than essentialist sexual difference. This really radical critique of philosophy for G –not just one essential diff to manage but thousands. She is focused on reforms within French state, including acceptance of Bretons (her own group). B assumes just one poststructuralist movement ( shades of evil brotherhood argument). D&G on b-m is compatible with LeD. D&G interested in escape not particular territories. Haraway too on need heterogeneous sites of resistance permitting alliances New Left (109).

B offers a history of philosophy with dominance of Cartesian thought. D&G still have genderless discussions. Radical feminists are ones who discover the positive sexed basis of philosophy and new forms rationality.  Francocentric says G and sees radial feminism as representing all feminisms. B never mentions D's  co-authors. Does use D’s lang  a lot but amended –e g ‘singular multiplicity’ to rep sd ( some sort of new territory again, restricting multiplicity, says G)  Otherwise about nomads and b-m though. But sd dominates as above. D&G are really more general and universal in work says G – becoming and territoriality universal [too fucking universal]. Desire for otherness important in b-m. NB says rhizome the term rather than radical for D&G (110). B collapses b-m into b-w. Sees b-m as too general, losing specificity of women. But inclusive escapes is at the heart of  D&G for G. Ultimately, nomadism and multiplicity are subordinated to and contained within radical sd for B.

B also sees D&G as offering radical individual freedom to speak – but D&G are antindividual, the individual is a reactionary term, abstract escapes etc are needed. Against verticality as in transcendent arguments in favour of transversality and alliances. Sd groupings also would need escape.

B sees the feminine as the ultimate otherness. Feminine rationality as vital in attack conventional rationality. Does acknowledge minoritarian movements as further problems for dominant rationality but never developed. Admires women's movement – but as a kind of mass unlike elite female theorists. So it is OK for the movement to contain black and other women – but there is no recognition of  these categories in own right. Issues of constants versus variables for B.

B really worried that gates unlocked and loads of minorities will emerge to demand rights –too late anyway says G. The specificity of women is a generality, an ‘empty form’ for G (114). Wrong to legislate on the basis of sd purism [surely same applies to D&G b-m?]. B-m abstract?  But so is any attempt to insist on a particular concrete territory compared to flow of general processes of becoming etc [rules out any concrete politics for D? Retreat to politics of intellect etc as Fraser said about Derrida?]

[So do D&G go far enough is the issue? They make effective critiques of conventional philosophy including its male biases. But they go into difference in general rather than the specifics of sexuall diff? There are political pros and cons, of course.  I am hearing echoes of similar disputes about class politics – can any of the bourgeois social sciences be retained? D&G need to be proletarianised?  Politics is NOT the abstract struggle for smooth spaces etc. Stratification is a class phenomenon – they ain’t sociologists enough to argue differently. What about bourgeois apparatuses and the issues of class politics or popular front? D&G far too general for that too. Instead of smashing State though, they want to develop a new society to answer question of needs etc. Very general and hesitant – no ackno by G tho]

NB Braidotti has written a lot  aboput Deleuze. Are lots of references to b-m in D&G piece on Kafka, apparently.

From MacCormack, P. (2009) 'Feminist Becomings: Hybrid Feminism and Haecceitic (Re)Production'. Australian Feminist Studies 24(59). 85—97.

 Says she, like all feminists, contextual – Australian corporeal feminism.  A floating location.  Dominated mostly by dialogue with French Post structuralism, but a whole range of corporeality, performance, equality, difference.  Very critical relation to all male disciplines including Deleuze.  Corporeal inflection unique to Australia, leading to alliances with other male philosophers against other feminists—hybrid encounters.  Multi disciplinary as well.  Rejection of binaries, and interest in relations with specific philosophical positions—‘inherently queer’ (86), sees both the past and the future as open.  Strongly against post feminism, which implies that the movement is past, a pseudo feminism which liberates women to participate in capitalism.  Danger of protest and resistance as mere ‘outward fetishism’ (87).  Phallocentric society attempts to domesticate through classifications and systematization [just like it did with youth].  Includes standpoint feminism.  In favour of a transversal feminism and an embodied one.

Early stage to get in bed with various male philosophers including Marx.  Getting into bed with poststructuralists is already perverse, and, because they have rejected the canon, not a problem of compromising with patriarchies.  Feminist poststructuralists made a full contribution, although they are often seen as just specialist.  Her contacts with Deleuze and Guattari through feminists initially, including LeDoeuf and Irigaray.  Turn to Deleuze and Guattari no problem because they already deconstruct masculinities and work with concepts such as general desire, critique Oedipus and so on.  Still critical though.

They promise a feminism without organs (88) [that is no interconnected networks that privilege Phallocentrism].  Feminism has no conventional organs with fixed uses, so it is not a question of reprioritising or inverting male philosophy, and nor are there issues with extra roles such as the male homosexual or the lesbian.  It is non oedipal, so there are no family relation hang-ups, the descendants or parents, and no sisterly relationships.  Sees itself as more fleshly, with no preassigned roles to bodily parts, so no territories, only possible alliances with a wide range of other minority movements.  Rejection of convention extends to an interest in the asemiotic—performances, body modifications which can be ‘non grammatical’ (89).

 It is a suitable entry point to philosophy which avoids early contamination with phallocentrism.  Instead of ‘isomorphism, enforced genealogy and reproduction of transcendental signifiers of worth, value, commoditisation and use’, it offers feminists ethics based on ‘immanence, creativity, haecceity’ (89).  This also benefits other minoritarian positions.  However it is important to resist Deleuze’s ultimate meaninglessness and the eternal return, and so conventional philosophy can also have its place.[What if you can't do this without losing the basis for the point that only joy should guide us -- see Fuglsang]

Feminism without organs sees canons as particular constellations, including a possible feminist one.  This would involve the creation of hybrids.  Like all hybrids, it would not be possible to reproduce it as an alternative territory, nor to develop a conventional history as a series of added developments, the reproduction of itself in a classically male manner, through families.  This is ‘epistemological sodomy’ (90) [although this is exactly how Deleuze describes his own relation to traditional histories of philosophy].  The routinisation of philosophy in the university system also reifies.

Hybrid philosophy, by contrast, works through ‘strange’ (90) applications and cross fertilisation.  Corporeal philosophy renders flesh as material and as thought.  The body of feminist philosophy is a Spinozan one—all one, but entirely diverse ‘more than one through its connectivity, and less than one in its infinity which the self cannot comprehend’ [which sidesteps essentialism, but retains woman as a tactical signifier] (90).

Deleuze and Guattari argue that becoming woman is the route to discovering sexuality.  Lyotard also celebrates Cixous-type jouissance, and ‘subject dissipation’ (91).  Desire drives thought.  Bodies are heterogeneous passive syntheses.  They do not seek equality with feminists, or vice versa.  Some feminists have seen them as ignoring real women and real relationships, even supplanting women by becoming women themselves, and the same goes for animals.  This is where corporeality is important, to resist excessive abstraction—for example by emphasizing real suffering as an aspect of womanhood, so that becoming woman is not just a happy escape.  Nor should becoming woman mean adopting conventional representations of women, in their organs, so to speak.  It should be a matter of obtaining ‘a libidinal body without organs’ (91).  Nevertheless, it is difficult to think of a way through becoming as a form of activism, especially as conventional women in earlier feminist movements also have to become woman, so that establishing a continuity is important.  Ultimately, it is a matter of retaining flexibility and making political alliances, deciding ‘which becoming intensities align us with certain groups for tactical events of thought that can activate change’ (92) [so the dangers of purely discursive politics loom here].

The risk is always to divide up and essentialise particular categories and groups.  Importance can replace value, leading to internal divisions over who is the most important.  This is what has affected the women’s movement and its split between reformers and radicals.  The issue is to find out what will lead to movement forward, based on the notion that we are all equally important haecceities.  We should avoid a politics based on sameness and similarities—this will only lead to new territories and majorities, new projects to realize selves of the old kind.  The ideas of destiny and of self are still male conceptions.

So how to resist reification?  Should we look for categories that are simply other, or distinctively feminine?  The realization of the importance of feminist ethical issues emerges, paradoxically, when activism seems impossible, when everything seems incommensurable, where there are different generations .  We should choose that which brings Spinozan joy, or the correct form of alterity in Guattari.  Activity without guarantees is valuable in its own right [starting to look increasingly consolatory!] ‘We have to meander without evaluation, seek without goal’ (93) [followed by a very Christian looking quote from Deleuze: ‘the true city offers citizens the love of freedom instead of the hope of reward’, apparently from the book on Spinoza].

So, freedom from but what next?  In particular, how can we think of intensities without being able to name them?  Incommensurability is productive, but what do we guide it with, or at?  We can enhance incommensurability by refusing the conventional boundaries, including those between generations of feminism and other minorities.  To some extent this looks passive initially, because it involves refusing conventional subjective agency—it becomes a matter of developing ‘passive open anonymities’ (93), straddling boundaries [Lyotard is cited as recommending a fully passive view of effects, that they do not run through human agencies, not even human discourses].

There is no single ‘I’, except as a microcosm of a group.  There is no single face of feminism and ‘no inherently, transgressive, important urgent cause’ (94), only a rhizomatic territory characterized by heterogeneity.  This helps us transcends the normal notion of ‘impossible’ which relates only to a reified world, and recognized causes.  The subject positions created are tactical and mobile, [but also material and accountable she insists—but why should they be?  Why not fascist ones?] producing many possibilities.  Collectives will mobilize effects [and this will prevent new territories developing?].

Majoritarian identities become masks, showing how all subjectivation requires signification.  It is the face that shows the possibilities of negotiation [and this is an example of corporeal material analysis].  Guattari has actually seen how semiotisation, not psychoanalysis, is the biggest problem.  It is risky to attempt to negotiate in this way, and this risk is itself a result of intensity [which is the closest she is likely to get to arguing for some social underpinnings of fixed identities?].

Feminism should not attempt to prioritise or struggle between the different generations and their goals.  There must be collective mobilisation.  Deleuze and Guattari offer abstract theoretical analyses that can guide this mobilisation [for those who can understand them].  The whole renegotiation of territories is required rather than developing minoritarian positions, since majorities will always be in a position to limit and incorporate [the examples are the university and the state] (95).  This can be what happens with some male French poststructuralists interested in becoming woman [hints of Jardine then?], and these tendencies are to be fought with an emphasis on the corporeal female flesh, embodied struggle as well as theoretical.  The move to embodiment reintroduces passion into Cartesian abstract reason, although there was a tendency for early exponents of female embodiment not to refer to philosophy at all.

There is a danger here of repolarising and essentialising again, arising from ‘the fact that we are not yet coming already to be, beyond gender’ (95).  Australian corporeal feminists have got the closest to reconciling abstract French theory with corporeal struggles—producing ‘fleshly post structuralist feminism’.  One aspect of their struggle has been to publish across the usual academic thresholds and boundaries, taking the chance to comment on haecceity wherever they encounter it, aiming at deterritorializing.  This helps them ‘unfold and find joy in enfleshed affective – ism’ (95) [the delights of inflicting symbolic violence on others in academic life]

Note that the Lyotard cited above is his Libidinal Economy (1993).

Dispute between Ahmed and Grosz, both in NORA—Nordic Journal of Women’s Studies, 15 (4) 2007.  Both are interviews

Ahmed, S.  (257-64) (Tuori, S and Peltonen, S.)

A post colonial theorist and feminist.  Began with feminist theories of the subject.  Began to realise the connections while stopped by the police in Australia and suspected of being aboriginal.  Made her realise the importance of the politics of identity.  Australian post colonialism is rather different from other variants—the colonisers did not leave, there was little written about aboriginals or the importance of Asia, but more about the marginalisation of white Australia.  In the UK, post colonial theorists were ‘diasporic intellectuals’ (258).  Ahmed is still interested in the cultural legacies that inform the present, including colonial discourses.  She has become involved in black feminism specifically and the struggle for more black women professors in the UK.

Q: Grosz has argued that we should not think in terms of categories and structures.  Wouldn’t this seriously threaten thinking about racism and sexism?

A: ‘For me, the Deleuzian turn has just replaced one set of vocabularies with another’ (259).  Grosz’s emphasis that difference just exists makes it look rather like the idea of god ‘the cause without a cause’.  Certain terms seemed to have taken on a life of their own, such as becoming or rhizomes, and this can obscure things.  Adopting Deleuzian terminology can avoid political issues so that ‘it might become “desirable” for some to talk more about becoming molecular rather than whiteness’ (259).  We need to retain the concept of structure in order to understand how the world coheres in particular ways.  We need a language that helps us to explain systematic regularities [as in racism], patterns and distributions.  ‘So I do not think that we can start by talking about acts as things that just happen’.

Q: Methodology?

A: Ahmed likes to approach issues such as race and gender indirectly.  She writes about particular themes such as emotion, orientation or the stranger.  Then she pursues notions like racism as an effect of those processes.  Her background is literary studies, not philosophy.  This led her to analyse various texts including public documents and to see how they worked to construct meaning, especially through metonymy.  She also uses personal experience to interrogate philosophical texts as in the work on phenomenology.

The notion of the stranger continues with a discussion of phenomenology—queers are also out of place in relation to the ‘comforts of heterosexuality’.  Sexual identity also provides entire orientations, and this needed to be added to phenomenology, to queer it (260).

There is also a more empirical ethnographic piece on the stranger and strange encounters.  This arose from her interest in Lancaster University’s diversity policy (she had to write it).  This led her to look not only at the language but at the set of processes by which they are assembled.  She explored the ‘diversity world’ (261).  The policy was praised, but she saw it as a failure, ‘part of performance culture, it can actually conceal all sorts of inequalities’ (262).  Organisations assume that because they can write good documents, they have avoided racism.  She did not interview BME staff, however, because they are always being asked for their opinions.  This raised important ethical questions of the imbalance in power.  Instead she researched the practitioner community.

Q: Have you revived interest in violence and power, the personal and the political?

A: The feminist slogan requires us to change a language act into something that links our intimate lives with the political, and that changes our understanding of both spheres.  It helps us recognise, for example the ‘heterosexualization of the street’ (263) [where quite intimate heterosexual encounters are OK, but not queer ones]. 

Q: So what is your relationship with philosophy?

A: I agree  we must philosophise and think critically about concepts, but I remain an alien.  The large philosophical heritage of some feminist texts puts off students.  They can sometimes turn their sense of inadequacy into something creative, to notice things.  This can help if you combine your reading of philosophy with reading other texts., And these ‘improper juxtapositions’ show the benefits of interdisciplinary work.  (264).

Grosz, E (246-56) (Kontturi, K-K and Tiainen, M.)

Q: Most people are interested in representation and its politics, and how this constructs reality, and this is been useful in developing feminism has a critical project.  Why reintroduce ‘reality’?

A: To talk of realism or neo realism is to engage in epistemology, and that is not my interest.  I’m not a realist but a materialist.  Representation refers to a relation between a subject and the world.  My interest is in the dynamics of reality itself [so very similar to DeLanda].  Art can be seen as experimenting with the forces of the real to attempt limited representation.  Science addresses quantities.  Both can help to grasp reality.  Cultural studies needs to follow the same paths.

Focusing on representation limits attention on the potentials for change in the real itself.  Classically, feminism has been interested in the ways in which women are represented in structures of meaning, and later in poststructuralist versions.  Butler is an example, following Derrida in arguing that there is no sense outside of linguistic systems.  But what material forces affect representation and can even change it?

We need to reconceive nature as dynamic while representations temporarily slow it down, and systematize difference.  There is only flow.  This dynamism affects the flows of culture: ‘culture is the fruition, the culmination of nature’ (248).  Human culture is just the latest development.  Politics is also dynamically driven. 

Q: So what is the influence of Deleuze and Guattari and why are you interested in Darwin?

A: Darwin can be read as the first theorist of differentiation and becoming.  Feminists have ignored his biology, but it has an important future orientation, anticipating further becoming or evolution for humans.  He saw time as duration.  He saw sexual differentiation as the most important creative difference which goes on to engender all sorts of other biological differences, through sexual selection.  This predates even the separation of animals from plants.  Sexual difference means increasing difference with each generation.  Thus ‘sexual difference is ontological, the very conditions for the emergence of the human’ (249).  Race and class are important for much more recent history.  ‘Race is not reducible to sex, but racial relations are an expression of sexual relations’ but only ‘on the biological level’, while ‘class is a very very indirect effect, like an open ended effect of sexual selection, as is ethnicity, geography and all the other particularities that define human life’ (249).  Sociobiology and neo Darwinism are hostile to feminism, but Darwin himself shows great potential.

Deleuze and Guattari do not mention Darwin very specifically, but talk about involution and symbiosis through evolution, but 'Nietzsche and Bergson are primarily Darwinian' (250).  Deleuze and Guattari want to derange or queer Darwin [see DeLanda’s commentary on evolutionary theory].

Q: How could we understand art in this material way?

A: Feminist art used to depict forgotten or silenced women, but it is not clear what it does now.  Perhaps it should be used to criticise mainstream art?  The purpose should be to create autonomous art even if this does not directly imply feminism.  It is a question of trying to make materials express something.

It is not just the reader's reaction that makes a work of art.  Art probably addresses the future not the present audience.  Some feminist art reduces this impact by attempting to address readers, whereas an artwork stands by ‘what it produces, whether it is understood by an audience or not'.  (251).  Art addresses the field of art, the plane of composition, but also addresses an art to come [if it is intended to be minoritarian].  We do not want to reduce art to a mere lesson.  This would produce bad art that is moralistic.

Q: Feminist art has become interested in the affective and the bodily.  How do Deleuze and Spinoza fit in?

A: The affective turn so far has been phenomenological, centred on the emotions and perceptions of the subject.  Ahmed is an example, looking at the emotions and intentions and the connection with objects.  Deleuze is different, however.  For him affect is linked to unlivable forces.  He replaces Husserl with Nietzsche.  The point is to see how intensities belong to cosmic forces.  The emphasis on the subject was an important stage in feminism but we need to move beyond it.

Q: This notion of art is elitist?  Concepts of our changing the world through art are modernist and most feminist reject them in favour of the everyday.

A: This is elitist in the sense that it is not open to all.  To be open to all would be to produce a lowest common denominator.  Avant-garde theorists like the Russian formalists wanted to see art as autonomous to the extent that it is free of every day practices, including the struggle over government art.  That sort of activist politics threatens to turn art into propaganda.  What art should really contest are the artistic values of earlier generations, a struggle with previous forms and techniques.  This is elitist in that you have to know something about the history of art to grasp it, and most producers know this, while most consumers do not.  Political art produces ‘new artistic forms and norms' (253).

Q: Can different forms of arts generate new bodily forms of intensity [equals new bodies]?

A: Each field of art can be seen as addressed to a specific sense organ, but it can also activate the whole body, directing our other senses too.  Each art resonates with other arts and establishes 'a common connection between the body and the earth'[luvvie!] (253).  All arts address the same external forces despite their different techniques.  In general, they attempt to depict duration, to temporalize it, say by giving it a rhythm.

We can see this as a matter of vibrations, expressed in art, but also representing 'attunement’ between forms of life and their environment (254).  Vibration provides the rhythms of the universe, and the particular structures of organisms that define specific animals.  The arts are also vibration.  Thus  'Force vibrates from the cosmos to the body to the work of art and back again'.

Non human animal forces are important because they have produced sexual difference.  Indeed 'the human is an effect of animal sexual difference'.  Animals attract each other sexually through vibrations like birdsong and the colour of plumage, and man borrows these qualities for art.  Inspiration and raw materials come from nature.  'Sexual difference is a natural concept that culture transforms into its own'.  The open endedness of nature provides 'the very conditions for making art'(254) [so this is Deleuze as vitalism?  Why not start with the amazing properties of metals as DeLanda does?].

Q: Unlike most feminists, you are not critical of Deleuze or Spinoza?

A: I have always avoided critique, which only reinstalls the object of criticism.  It is too negative, for example with the endless feminist critique of patriarchy.  That was necessary at first, but feminism should not remain too defensive, still 'attracted to its lowest enemy'(255).  We need to be able to learn from any text.  'I don't think we are in danger of being contaminated by patriarchal thought, since we are already contaminated by patriarchy [SIC]'.  We need to exceed patriarchy, and find more in texts, searching for tools that can favour women.  Deleuze and the others do that, although they have nothing particularly positive to say about women.  We need to develop joy.  We need to remember that ‘theory is a luxurious joy' and we need to affirm the joyousness of thinking and perceiving.  Feminism itself needs to stress joyousness as a form of understanding, especially if thinking is now confined to a few pockets of knowledge production and the arts.  We need a new horizon 'And this is something that art can give us: a new world, a new body, a people to come' (256).

Bacon, H.  (2007) ‘What’s Right With The Trinity?  Thinking the Trinity in relation to Irigaray’s notions of self love and wonder’.  Feminist Theology 15 (2): 220-35.

[A useful critique of Irigaray, and the dangers of feminising god too much instead of keeping him ontologically other].

The usual androcentric language describing the Trinity is a problem, but not if you see language as an imperfect representation of ontology.  So, for example, referring to god as the father seems to endorse patriarchy, [Mary Daly is cited a lot here] and referring to the son suggests that god is more interested in expressing himself in male forms.  However, even in orthodoxy, the spirit is usually rendered in the Hebrew as a feminist term.  This can reintroduce female qualities, but even here they tend to be the conventional ones such as caring and so on.  Some feminists have rediscovered Sophia as an element, but the approach here is to try to get behind language to thought [the classic hermeneutic problem].  This can be achieved by the cautious use of the term metaphor [we need caution because we don’t want to reduce god to language]: patriarchal language becomes a metaphor pointing to the real existence of god, and it is necessary to add less patriarchal descriptions to the Trinity as well.  [The argument is the transcendental deduction again, that all language only partially represents the reality of god.  Presumably we can deduce this reality by deducing what lies behind all the partial representations?].  It will help if the Trinity is described as offering three conceptions of personhood.

Irigaray talks of both self love and wonder, and sees self love as the required basis for any kind of [egalitarian mutual] love.  Women must learn to love themselves, but not of the conventional way, which is excessively male.  Male love involves a return to the maternal feminine through objects and through female partners: the woman becomes a mirror for his self esteem, or an other that remain subordinate.  Normally, women only find their identity through acting in this way as an object for others.  What is really needed is to develop a ‘horizon’ or ‘protective envelope’ within which genuine female self love can develop, or separate space ‘outside the male imaginary’ (226).  This initial separation of women is essential if they are to be involved in real love as an egalitarian relation.

Irigaray suggests that a feminine divinity would be useful here, that women should aim of becoming divine, that is fully autonomous and sovereign.  Males use the conventional divine as the final proper to their identity, and women should do the same, so that they too can see themselves as transcendent.  Divine women would no longer find their being only in the male gaze.  Women must define their own god and see themselves as incarnated.  [All this is Irigaray’s, apparently!].  God and women can then meet in a ‘caress’ (228).  So to love self is to love god, a god that is not alien but which incarnates itself in women.

The full relationship between people is called ‘wonder’ [shades of Deleuze’s earlier work here on the other structure having two dimensions?].  It depends on the fundamental unknowability of the other and can never be recuperated or incorporated [and is something to do with a critique of Descartes apparently].  Unknowability produces an essential gap between self and others, and this leads to curiosity and interest.  Instead of reducing others to what we know, we need to explore, and this is ‘awakens our passion for the other’ (228).  To wonder is to appreciate the unknown.  Relations between others in this context involves the caress, which is not consumption, but an invitation to become, ‘Not out to own or possess but to embrace and encourage’ (229).  This is a clear break with phallocentrism.

The problem is that it could be an invitation to create god in women’s image, just as men do.  Irigaray sees difference as the basis of relationships, but this reduces the difference of god, and even threatens to restore god to a mirror as before.  God becomes a mere projection of woman, an envelope for female identity, a speculative other not a real being.  A relation of wonder with this kind of constructed god is unlikely.

God is to be understood as different, with its own envelope and identity, ontologically distinct.  This is where the notion of the Trinity can be helpful.  It does not simply reduce the divine to the human.  It offers trinitarian logic instead of binary logic.  By offering three distinct areas of personhood, it forms the basis of a real egalitarian relation, where one area does not consume or dominate the others.  [There is a mysterious Christian bit about how these three centres can intertwine and relate with each other dynamically nonetheless, but without hierarchy].  The Trinitarian god emphasises difference as ‘always – already contained within the divine being’ (231).  Difference can speak its name instead of being inexpressible. Wonder is also inherent, since the difference between the personhoods is sufficient to trigger it [a trace of goldilocks reasoning here?].  The whole Trinity represents ‘a community of self love and wonder’ (232).

This extends to the relations between god and human subjects, which can also be seen as subject – subject not subject – object, an example of genuine love as above.  God is a partner to the human subject, with mutual regard and invitations to develop.  [The implication is that god is affected by human beings and is not timeless, 232].  As above, proper mutuality demands that differences be maintained, and this is usually done by insisting that god is ontologically prior to human beings [apparently, Barth argues this with his implication that god chooses human subjects and not the other way around.  God initiates the relationship by manifesting himself in the person of Jesus Christ.  God opts for a relationship of wonder with human beings.]

This reading of the Trinity can help women develop self love.  They do not have to relinquish their personhood in a choice of binaries, and god does not threaten to consume women as patriarchy does.  God does not have to support the domination of Males in patriarchal systems.  The trinity demonstrates a non hierarchical relation between others, and we can do no better than to imitate in our own egalitarian relationships.  However we have to avoid another analogy that might suggest that male sexuality is ontologically prior just as god is, and that there are ontological or essential differences between the sexes [just as there might be among the personhoods?].  So Trinitarian ethics can offer effective challenges to phallocentrism.

[Shows how careful you have to be in borrowing images from Christianity?  This stuff is equally a projection and speculation about god, this time from the basis of different Christian feminist philosophy].

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