D&G’s Nomad as War Machine

Deleuze’s Treatise on Nomadology-The War Machine is a manifesto of sorts on not just the analogous example he uses at the beginning of the essay on chess and Go. Chess represents the State and the striated space, while  “Go” (a Chinese and Korean board game) represents the nomad and smooth space.  He writes, “The difference is that chess codes and decodes space, whereas Go proceeds altogether differently, territorializing or deterritorializing it (Make the outside a territory in space; consolidate that territory by the construction of a second, adjacent territory; deterritorialize the enemy by shattering his territory from within; deterritorialize oneself by renouncing, by going elsewhere…) (p.353).Deleuze goes on further to write that the War-Machine in its purest form is exterior to the State apparatus.  His definition of a State is not necessarily any society that has a hierarchy as he writes that primitive societies with chiefs are not a State, but that in ordered to be considered the State, there must be organs of power at work, or mechanisms. These are mechanisms, that go beyond the primordial, rhizomatic structure of a pack, which is nomadic, while what is arborescent, is centered around the organs of power (p.358).

For Deleuze and Guattarri the State is sedentary, while the nomadic moves in and tries to territorialize smooth space, and again deterritorializes striated space. The chapter moves increasingly form discourse about the war-machine and war to the opposition to the State. The war machine can occur anywhere in opposition to any mainstream school of thought, such as in mathematics, science, and (what I am planning to write my final paper about) art and cinema.

The characteristics and definition of the nomad were not as clear to me as the concept of the war machine in relation to the nomad, I think in this essay, but in searching for the meaning, some nomadic notions expressed are, “becoming, heterogeneity, infinitesimal, passage to the limit, and continuous variation (p.363). My own notion of what a nomad is, is turned upside down when reading this, as I have always thought of a nomad as just a sort of wanderer, but in doing a simple Google search of a nomad, Wikipedia describes nomads in three different stages. What is interesting is that in the Wikipedia article there is a section titled “Sedenatarization” which describes the many different examples of the threats to the nomadic lifestyle in the 20th century. As Deleuze and Guattarri go on to explain the nomadic lifestyle is one that is always at threat of appropriation, of being taken up by the state. For example, according to the Nomad Wikipedia page,

“In the 1950s as well as the 1960s, large numbers of Bedouin throughout the Middle East started to leave the traditional, nomadic life to settle in the cities of the Middle East, especially as home ranges have shrunk and population levels have grown. Government policies in Egypt and Israel, oil production in Libya and the Persian Gulf, as well as a desire for improved standards of living, effectively led most Bedouin to become settled citizens of various nations, rather than stateless nomadic herders..”

Once thought of as a people without a land (to me), Deleuze explains that the nomad is not without space, but has a territory; “the elements of his dwelling are concretized in terms of the trajectory that is forever mobilizing them “. “Whereas the migrant leaves behind a place, the nomad is one who does not depart, who clings to the smooth space left by the receding forest. The nomad moves, but while seated, and he is only seated while moving. He knows how to wait with infinite patience. He is a vector of deterritorialization.

Toward the end of the essay, Deleuze and Guattari define the war machine more broadly. They define it as a potential “creative line of flight” from the Statist apparatus of conquer and appropriation. But it is not the nomad who defines this constellation of characteristics, but the constellation that defines the nomad, “and at the same time the essence of the war machine” (423). For Deleuze and Guattari, war is not necessarily the prime activity of the nomadic, but they must create war to counter the destruction. This, I think is found in the work of some artists, philosophers, and scientists.

-Jennifer Thomas


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