Archive for Foucault

Sexuality as a line of flight, becoming-animal and masochism

Posted in Deleuze, Deleuze and Guattari, Subjectivity with tags , , on March 8, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Kutlug Ataman. Stefan’s Room, 2004.

In “Percept, Affect and Concept”, Deleuze and Guattari argue, “It should be said of all art that, in relation to the percepts or visions they give us, artists are presenters of affects, the inventors and creators of affects. They not only create them in their work, they give them to us and make us become with them, they draw us into the compound.” (WiP 175) Whether it is Van Gogh’s depiction of sunflowers or Durer’s thistles, art increases one’s capacity to affect and get affected. Whether it is increasing the range of one’s sensibilities, or adding more to them, art can be one’s ‘facilitator’ to becomings.

Because sexuality has been one of the most heavily regulated zones of human existence, perhaps the most, as Foucault shows in The History of Sexuality, it carries the possibility of being the most promising line of flight for humankind that would lead to deterritorializations and becomings. Not only sexuality has been heavily regulated, but also, the forces targeting human sexuality begin their projects on the child very early in the course of the child’s lifetime. Deleuze and Guattari write, “The question is fundamentally that of the body – the body they steal from us in order to fabricate opposable organisms. The body is stolen first from the girl: Stop behaving like that, you’re not a little girl anymore, you’re not a tomboy etc. The girl’s becoming is stolen first, in order to impose a history or a prehistory, upon her.” (ATP 276) Once the girl is interpellated as being-not-a-tomboy, there follows the boy’s affirmation as the Other of the girl. These chain reactions and affirmations keep on looping, becoming truths, as metaphors turning into truths after endless repetitions. “The great dualism machines” fixate the child’s hi/story’s beginning on a map, pinning it down by sewing through the tissue of her/his genitals, leading to a static cartography. Then, after pinning down an origin point (and defining it as a point A instead of a [0,0] or better, [X,Y,Z,.,.,.] ), it is really easy to turn the map into a line that needs to be followed, where point A needs to lead to point B, by manipulating one’ drives and motives, which are not necessarily one’s own, but which emerge once one enters into “the symbolic order”, in today’s case, “the capitalist machine”.

In “Literature and Life”, Deleuze argues “to write is not to recount one’s memories and travels, one’s loves and griefs, one’s dreams and fantasies. [… ] In this infantile conception of literature, what we seek at the end of the voyage, or at the heart of a dream, is a father.” (Deleuze 2) If this infantile conception of the literature leads to ‘bad novels’, does the infantile conception of subjectivity or sexuality or identity lead to ‘bad lives’? The continuous affirmation of our subjectivities and the non-stop workings of the great dualism machines seal the pin on the point A, not giving the slightest chance to the emergence of dynamics cartographies of one’s subjectivity, hence, existence. I would argue, whether it is the family-ethics or the capitalist machine, we have an infantile conception of human existence and sexuality, or the psychoanalyzation of them, even manifesting itself in the choice of our slang words, for example, in the use of “fuck” as a slang word for the hateful utterances and in regarding sex as being to the detriment of the female.

The non-stop workings of the forces regulating our sexualities are complemented by the “psychoanalization” of our subjectivities, perhaps, the former authenticating the latter. Perhaps this explains why Freud and his theory of Oedipus complex, ingeniously referred to as “mommy-daddy and their lovemaking” by Deleuze and Guattari are so popular now, being a part of everyday language. It is everywhere, in advertisements, in films, in our everyday conversations with our friends. Deleuze and Guattari write “ … fewer stupidities would be uttered on the topic of pain, humiliation, and anxiety in masochism if it were understood that it is the becoming-animal that lead the masochism, not the other way around.” (ATP 260) Masochism is defined as a personality disorder in the family-favoring-heteronormative system. This is such a paradox, since our existence is mediated through systems, whether they are economical or religious, which favor the logic of transcendence, meaning an acceptance of the Other that judges us, awards us or punishes us, making us “desire our own repression, a separation from our own capacities and powers” (Smith 68) Then, how is masochism a personality disorder or a perverted sexual practice, in a world of ethics of transcendence, whether it is manifested as God or as capitalism? However, this is not a valid question for Deleuze and Guattari, since they break the equation. For them, sexuality is not a game of seduction and conquest or “battle of sexes”, but “is the production of a thousand sexes, which are so many uncontrollable becomings. Sexuality proceeds by way of becoming-woman of the man and the becoming-animal of the human: an emission of particles.” (ATP 278) For them, “Masochistic characters enter zones of indetermination or proximity in which woman and animal, animal and man, have become indiscernible” marking Masoch’s work as “a literature of minorities, haunting the glacial zones of the Universe and the feminine zones of History.” (Deleuze 55)

                                                                                                              Piril Gunduz


Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. “1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible” in A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism And Schizophrenia. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. “Percept, Affect and Concept” in What is Philosophy?. Columbia University Press, 1994.

Deleuze, Gilles. “Literature and Life”, “Re-presentation of Masoch” in Essays Critical and Clinical. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Smith, Daniel W. “Deleuze and the Question of Desire: Toward an Immanent Theory of Ethics” in Parrhesia 2 (2007): 66-78.


“A Face Drawn in Sand…”

Posted in Deleuze, Foucault, Subjectivity with tags , , , , on February 9, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Here, in full, are the notorious final two paragraphs to Michel Foucault’s Les Mots et les choses (The Order of Things, 1966):

“One thing in any case is certain: man is neither the oldest nor the most constant problem that has been posed for human knowledge. Taking a relatively short chronological sample within a restricted geographical area – European culture since the sixteenth century – one can be certain that man is a recent invention within it. It is not around him and his secrets that knowledge prowled for so long in the darkness. In fact, among all the mutations that have affected the knowledge of things and their order, the knowledge of identities, differences, characters, equivalences, words – in short, in the midst of all the episodes of that profound history of the Same – only one, that which began a century and a half ago and is now perhaps drawing to a close, has made it possible for the figure of man to appear. And that appearance was not the liberation of an old anxiety, the transition into luminous consciousness of an age-old concern, the entry into objectivity of something that had long remained trapped within beliefs and philosophies: it was the effect of a change in the fundamental arrangements of knowledge. As the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.

If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared, if some event of which we can at the moment do no more than sense the possibility – without knowing either what its form will be or what it promises – were to cause them to crumble, as the ground of Classical thought did, at the end of the eighteenth century, then one can certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.”

It is for such lines as these that Foucault came to be described – indeed, came to be attacked – as anti-humanist. This term is accurate as long as we don’t confuse anti-humanist with anti-human. Foucault is not a misanthrope. He is critiquing here the humanist subject, and the anthropomorphism that is implied in humanism. He is critiquing the idea that man is the necessary end or telos to evolution (as though the goal of life were … mankind). His argument here is simple: the term “modern man” is entirely accurate to the extent that it refers to a historical category, a historical formation – the result of a specific series of discourses and discursive practices. And it is precisely because of this – precisely because it is a historical emergence – that it is possible, at the same time, to envisage a future without this particular form, without this particular mode of being. Again, what this means is not necessarily a world without humans but rather a world without the “human” in the sense that the term is used today. This, by the way, is also what Nietzsche means by the over-man.

Not surprisingly, when Deleuze was interviewed in the mid-eighties, at the time of the release of his monograph on Foucault, it was the question of his colleague’s anti-humanism that was repeatedly brought up and which Deleuze explains or defends. As he says in the interview entitled “Breaking Things Open, Breaking Words Open,” Foucault questions the extent to which man, as a conceptual category, can be understood as an opening –  a line of flight – and to what extent as an obstacle or obstruction, “a way of imprisoning life” (91). Understanding man as a historical entity also allows us to think about the “play of forces” in each historical epoch and how these forces work with, and against, “man” in order to create a composite form, e.g., man in relation to the infinite; man in relation to labor and language; man in relation to new kinds of materials and discourses. “In all Foucault’s work” – Deleuze says – “there is a certain relation between forms and forces that’s influenced my work and was basic to his conception of politics, and of epistemology and aesthetics too” (89). It is because the relation between forms and forces is not eternally fixed, he adds, that we are able “to follow some restless line still further,” pushing things forward, breaking things open, breaking words open. And this, Deleuze argues, is what Foucault did. This is why the development of his thought takes him from his initial interest in knowledge and power to an increased focus on what Deleuze calls subjectivation: the process of becoming a subject. At the end of his life, Foucault wanted to move beyond the enclosures that he himself had brilliantly diagrammed and follow another path, a leap into the unknown – a leap into the void. This is why we can’t interchangeably use the terms subject and subjectivation. The latter must be understood in intensive terms (not extensive ones), like “an electric or magnetic field” (91). And this is how Deleuze wants us to remember Foucault as well. Not as a self-enclosed substance but as “a gesture,” “a laugh,” “a volcanic chain” far from equilibrium.



Deleuze, Gilles. “Breaking Things Open, Breaking Words Open.” In Negotiations 1972-1990. Trans. Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995

Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. Oxford and New York: Routledge, 1989.