85. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, “Geophilosophy”

by breavman99

deleuze guattari what is philosophy

I really ought to be reading Anti-Oedipus, the massive tome Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari wrote in the 1970s and by which so many walking artists and postmodern geographers seem to be influenced. I’ll get there, eventually, but its length and difficulty encouraged me to spend part of the afternoon wrestling with one of their shorter texts, the essay “Geophilosophy,” included in the collection What is Philosophy?–a book which was, surprisingly, a best-seller in France when it came out: surprisingly, that is, because of its difficulty. I added “Geophilosophy” to my reading list because it was influential on the dissertation of another walking artist, Carolina Santo, who says that she was inspired by the essay to name her practice (and her recent dissertation) “geoscenography” (1). I must say that I’m not sure there’s a connection between “Geophilosophy” and my own work, but perhaps, after reading texts that look ahead to a future revolution, there is a link. The subject of “Geophilosophy” is philosophy itself, but as it is situated in history and in geography. And, as I always find when I’m reading Deleuze and/or Guattari, I always have the feeling that I’m just about to grasp what they’re talking about, but that I never quite get there. So this summary is, of necessity, going to rely on quotations (because I can’t possibly paraphrase their difficult prose) and my attempts at understanding those quotations will be confused and, perhaps, confusing. That’s the experience of reading their writing.

The essay begins with these words: “Subject and object give a poor approximation of thought. Thinking is neither a line drawn between subject and object nor a revolving of one around the other. Rather, thinking takes place in the relationship of territory and the earth” (85). Deleuze and Guattari suggest that the thinking of Kant and Husserl is grounded in this way; the work of those very different philosophers is in a relationship with the earth (85). “Yet we have seen that the earth constantly carries out a movement of deterritorialization on the spot, by which it goes beyond any territory: it is deterritorializing and deterritorialized,” they write (85). “The earth is not one element among others but rather brings together all the elements within a single embrace while using one or another of them to deterritorialize territory” (85).  In fact, “the process of reterritorialization is inseparable from the earth, which restores territories” (86)—so it both deterritorialized and reterritorializes. “Territory and earth are two components with two zones of indiscernibility—deterritorialization (from territory to the earth) and reterritorialization (from earth to territory)”—and it’s not possible to say which of those zones came first (86). 

From here they turn to “States” and “Cities,” which turn out to be distinctions between empires, on the one hand, and the political forms that characterized ancient Greece. States and Cities are often defined as territorial, “as substituting a territorial principle for the principle of lineage,” that that statement is inexact, because “lineal groups may change territory, and they are only really determined by embracing a territory or residence in a ‘local lineage’” (86). But, on the contrary, States and Cities “carry out a deterritorialization because the former juxtaposes and compares agricultural territories by relating them to a higher arithmetical Unity, and the latter adapts the territory to a geometrical extensiveness that can be continued in commercial circuits” (86). Both are forms of “a deterritorialization that takes place on the spot when the State appropriates the territory of local groups or when the city turns its back on its hinterland. In one case, there is reterritorialization on the palace and its supplies; and in the other, on the agora and commercial networks” (86). “In imperial states deterritorialization takes place through transcendence: it tends to develop vertically from on high, according to a celestial component of the earth” (86). This sentence is important, because it connects States and empires to hierarchy and religion. In contrast, in the city “deterritorialization takes place through immanence,” and it frees “a power of the earth that follows a maritime component that goes under the sea to reestablish the territory,” which they term an Autochthon (86). (I’m not sure why they use that word.) The “imperial Stranger” that reterritorializes the earth needs surviving Autochthons and “the citizen Autochthon calls on strangers in flight,” which makes the relationship between State and City more complicated (86). 

At this point I paused. The terms “earth” and “territory,” and the notions of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, are not being defined in this essay, so they must have been defined earlier in the book; I check the index. “We already know the importance in animals of those activities that consist in forming territories, in abandoning or leaving them, and even in re-creating territory on something of a different nature,” Deleuze and Guattari write in an earlier essay in the volume, “Conceptual Personae”:

All the more so for the hominid: from its act of birth, it deterritorializes its front paw, wrests it from the earth to turn it into a hand, and reterritorializes it on branches and tools. A stick is, in turn, a deterritorialized branch. We need to see how everyone, in the smallest things as in the greatest challenges, seeks a territory, tolerates or carries out deterritorializations, and is reterritorialized on almost anything—memory, fetish, or dream. (“Conceptual Personae” 67-68)

“We cannot even say what comes first, and perhaps every territory presupposes a prior deterritorialization, or everything happens at the same time,” they continue (“Conceptual Personae” 68). “The merchant buys in a territory, deterritorializes products into commodities, and is reterritorialized on the means of production; whereas labor becomes ‘abstract’ labor, reterritorialized in wages” (“Conceptual Personae” 68). “But are there not also territories and deterritorializations that are not only physical and mental but spiritual—not only relative but absolute in a sense yet to be determined?” they ask:

What is the Fatherland or Homeland invoked by the thinker, by the philosopher or artist? Philosophy is inseparable from a Homeland to which the a priori, the innate, or the memory equally attest. But why is this fatherland unknown, lost, or forgotten, turning the thinker into an Exile? What will restore an equivalent of territory, valid as a home? What will be philosophical refrains? What is thought’s relationship with the earth? (“Conceptual Personae” 68-69)

So in the terms “deterritorialization” and “reterritorialization,” Deleuze and Guattari seem to be talking about tangible things becoming evanescent and then returning to tangibility; or perhaps (to say it slightly differently) about the concrete becoming abstract and then concrete again. Objects—or perhaps concepts—become representations and then returning to being objects or concepts. At least, I think that’s what’s happening. Perhaps, then, in the movement from earth to territory, specific places become abstract spaces, idealized, mapped, represented, before becoming specific places again? Doesn’t the word “earth” suggest something grounded in that way? That was my first attempt at understanding their terminology, although because they abandon the term “earth” almost immediately, it’s not quite correct. My strategy in attempting to understand this essay became one of following the various (undefined) shifts in the terms “deterritorialization” and “reterritorialization.”

Back to “Geophilosophy”: the next paragraph considers ancient Greek city-states as developing “a particular mode of deterritorialization that proceeds by immanence; they form a milieu of immanence” (87). That milieu—a crucial word in this essay—“is like an ‘international market’ organized along the borders of the Orient between a multiplicity of independent cities or distinct societies that are nevertheless attached to one another and within which artisans and merchants find a freedom and mobility denied to them by empires” (87). Those city-states are different from the “imperial states” and perhaps similar to the “Cities” they discussed earlier (86)—or, as is more likely the case, identical to them. Those city-states are inhabited by “strangers in flight,” artisans, merchants, and philosophers who are emigres; and those emigres find three things in the Greek city-states, things which are “the de facto conditions of philosophy”:

a pure sociability as milieu of immanence, the “intrinsic nature of association,” which is opposed to imperial sovereignty and implies no prior interest because, on the contrary, competing interests presuppose it; a certain pleasure in forming associations, which constitutes friendship, but also a pleasure in breaking up the association, which constitutes rivalry . . . and a taste for opinion inconceivable in an empire, a taste for the exchange of views, for conversation. (87-88)

“We constantly rediscover these three Greek features,” they write: “immanence, friendship, and opinion” (88). Those are the historical features that enabled the creation of philosophy. At the same time, though, I sense perhaps a political emphasis (given the discomfort, if that’s the word, that European countries have with immigrants and refugees) on the importance of migrants and migration, although I could be completely wrong about that.

“Whether physical, psychological, or social,” Deleuze and Guattari continue, “deterritorialization is relative insofar as it concerns the historical relationship of the earth with the territories that take shape and pass away on it, its geological relationship with eras and catastrophes, its astronomical relationship with the cosmos and the stellar system of which it is a part” (88). That concept, “relative deterritorialization,” is opposed (or at least juxtaposed) to “absolute deterritorialization”:

But deterritorialization is absolute when the earth passes into the pure plane of immanence of a Being-thought, of a Nature-thought of infinite diagrammatic movements. Thinking consists in stretching out a plane of immanence that absorbs the earth. . . . Deterritorialization of such a plane does not preclude reterritorialization but posits is as the creation of a future new earth. Nonetheless, absolute deterritorialization can only be thought according to certain still-to-be-determined relationships with relative deterritorializations that are not only cosmic but geographical, historical, and psychosocial. There is always a way in which absolute deterritorialization takes over from a relative deterritorialization in a given field. (88)

Here they raise a question: does relative deterritorialization take place through immanence or through transcendence? Is it characteristic of philosophy, in other words, or of religion? “When it is transcendent, vertical, celestial, and brought about by the imperial unity, the transcendent element must always give way or submit to a sort of rotation in order to be inscribed on the always-immanent plane of Nature-thought” (88-89). (What “Nature-thought” means I have no idea.) “Thinking here implies a projection of the transcendent on the plane of immanence,” they continue. “Transcendence may be entirely ‘empty’ in itself, yet it becomes full to the extent that it descends and crosses different hierarchized levels that are projected together on a region of the plane, that is to say, on an aspect corresponding to an infinite movement” (89). This seems to align transcendence with empire and oppose it against the Greek city-states and immanence (89). Indeed, they continue, “the transcendence that is projected on the plane of immanence paves it or populates it with Figures”—and figures are “essentially paradigmatic, projective, hierarchical, and referential” (89). So this is about religion rather than philosophy, and the examples of figures they provide are all religious ones. I’m seeing how these ideas cluster together, and how religious transcendence is distinct from philosophical immanence.

The Greeks “invented an absolute plane of immanence,” Deleuze and Guattari state, but their originality “should rather be sought in the relation between the relative and the absolute” (90). “When relative deterritorialization is itself horizontal, or immanent, it combines with the absolute deterritorialization of the plane of immanence that carries the movements of relative deterritorialization to infinity, pushes them to the absolute, by transforming them,” and “[i]mmanence is redoubled” (90). The concept—and if I had read the first essay in this volume, I would be more certain that when they say “concept,” they are referring to philosophy—“comes to populate the plane of immanence. There is no longer projection in a figure but connection in the concept. This is why the concept itself abandons all reference so as to retain only the conjugations and connections that constitute its consistence” (90). The concept’s only rule, the only thing that governs or restrains it, is its “internal or external neighborhood” (90): “Its internal neighborhood or consistency is secured by the connection of its components in zones of indiscernibility; its external neighborhood or exoconsistency is secured by the bridges thrown from one concept to another when the components of them are saturated” (90). That suggests that the creation of concepts really means making connections between “internal, inseparable components to the point of closure or saturation so that we can no longer add or withdraw a component without changing the nature of the concept; to connect the concept with another in such a way that the nature of other connections will change” (90). In addition, they state, the concept is thus plurivocal, and its plurivocity “depends solely upon neighborhood (one concept can have several neighborhoods)” (90). Also, “[c]oncepts are flat surfaces without levels, orderings without hierarchy”—so they are opposed to the transcendent and to the imperial, which are vertical (90). So the questions “What to put in a concept?” and “What to put with it?” are important in philosophy (90). “The concept is not paradigmatic but syntagmatic; not projective but connective; not hierarchical but linking; not referential but consistent,” they claim (91). For that reason, “it is inevitable that philosophy, science, and art are no longer organized as levels of a single projection and are not even differentiated according to a common matrix but are immediately posited or reconstituted in a respective independence, in a division of labor that gives rise to relationships fo connection between them” (91).

Is the conclusion to take from this the notion that “there is a radical opposition between figures and concepts?” (91). I think so. Deleuze and Guattari argue that “disturbing affinities appear on what seems to be a common plane of immanence” (91)—so they may have similarities if not connections or relationships. However, correspondences between figures and concepts “do not rule out there being a boundary, however difficult it is to make out. This is because figures are projections on the plane, which implies something vertical or transcendent. Concepts, on the other hand, imply only neighborhoods and connections on the horizon” (91-92). “All that can be said is that figures tend toward concepts to the point of drawing infinitely near to them”—which suggests all the more reason to distinguish between them (92). The distinction between figures and concepts leads to the question of whether Christianity creates concepts, which is another way of wondering if there is a Christian philosophy, and despite the examples of Kierkegaard and Pascal, they suggest that it “only produces concepts . . . through its atheism,” because “[t]here is always an atheism to be extracted from a religion,” which they suggest is true in Jewish thought, in the work of Spinoza (92). (I don’t understand how atheism gets extracted from religion, but that doesn’t matter.) “And if it is true that figures tend towards concepts in this way,” they continue, 

the converse is equally true, and philosophical concepts reproduce figures whenever immanence is attributed to something. The three figures of philosophy are objectality of contemplation subject of reflection, and intersubjectivity of communication. It should be noted that religions do not arrive at the concept without denying themselves, just as philosophies do not arrive at the figure without betraying themselves. There is a difference of kind between figures and concepts, but every possible difference of degree also. (92)

In fact, they claim that religious philosophy is actually prephilosophical, because such “thinking takes place on a plane of immanence that can be populated by figures as much as by concepts” (93). 

There was no philosophy until the Greeks—although it was “brought by immigrants” (93):

The birth of philosophy required an encounter between the Greek milieu and the plane of immanence of thought. It required the conjunction of two very different movements of deterritorialization, the relative and the absolute, the first already at work in immanence. Absolute deterritorialization of the plane of thought had to be aligned or directly connected with the relative deterritorialization of Greek society. The encounter between friend and thought was needed. In short, philosophy does have a principle, but it is a synthetic and contingent principle—an encounter, a conjunction. It is not insufficient by itself but contingent in itself. Even in the concept, the principle depends upon a connection of components that could have been different, with different neighborhoods. The principle of reason such as it appears in philosophy is a principle of contingent reason and is put like this: there is no good reason but contingent reason; there is no universal history except of contingency. (93)

For this reason, “[p]hilosophy is a geophilosophy in precisely the same way that history is a geohistory”: the question of why philosophy arose in Greece is similar to the question of why capitalism arose in certain places and not others (95). “Geography wrests history from the cult of necessity in order to stress the irreducibility of contingency. It wrests it from the cult of origins in order to affirm the power of a ‘milieu’” (96).Geography also wrests history “from structures in order to trace the lines of flight that pass through the Greek world across the Mediterranean” (96). Finally, 

it wrests history from itself in order to discover becomings that do not belong to history even if they fall back into it: the history of philosophy in Greece must not hide the fact that in every case the Greeks had to become philosophers in the first place, just as philosophers had to become Greek. ‘Becoming’ does not belong to history. History today still designates only the set of conditions, however recent they may be, from which one turns away in order to become, that is to say, in order to create something new. (96)

However, they argue that 

[p]hilosophy cannot be reduced to its own history, because it continually wrests itself from this history in order to create new concepts that fall back into history but do not come from it. How could something come from history? Without history, becoming would remain indeterminate and unconditioned, but becoming is not historical. (96)

I think that argument comes from the idea that history is the realm of necessity: “[p]hilosophy appears in Greece as a result of contingency rather than necessity, as a result of an ambiance or milieu rather than an origin, of a becoming rather than a history, of a geography rather than a historiography, of a grace rather than a nature” (96-97). 

Philosophy and capitalism have parallel relationships to history, and capitalism involves deterritorializations and reterritorializations: “for always contingent reasons, capitalism leads Europe into a fantastic relative deterritorialization that is due first of all to city-towns and that itself takes place through immanence. Territorial produce is connected to an immanent form able to cross the seas,” and the two “principal components of capitalism,” labour and capital, are brought together and adjusted in the West: 

Only the West extends and propagates its centers of immanence. The social field no longer refers to an external limit that restricts it from above, as in the empires, but to immanent internal limits that constantly shift by extending the system, and that reconstitute themselves through displacement. External obstacles are not only technological, and only internal rivalries remain. A world market extends to the ends of the earth before passing into the galaxy: even the skies become horizontal. This is not a result of the Greek endeavor but a resumption, in another form and with other means, on a scale hitherto unknown, which nonetheless relaunches the combination for which the Greeks took the initiative: democratic imperialism, colonizing democracy. (97)

In other words, this combination consists of productive contradictions, since empire and democracy (in the terms in which they’ve discussed them), as vertical and horizontal, contradict each other. “Modern philosophy’s link with capitalism, therefore, is of the same kind as that of ancient philosophy with Greece: the connection of an absolute plane of immanence with a relative social milieu that also functions through immanence” (98).

There is a relationship between capitalism’s deterritorialization and the reterritorialization of the State: “The immense relative deterritorialization of world capitalism needs to be reterritorialized on the modern national State, which finds an outcome in democracy, the new society of ‘brother,’ the capitalist version of the society of friends” (98). What’s missing here, though, is a recognition that capitalism is overpowering those states as it becomes more and more powerful. “The man of capitalism is not Robinson”—Robinson Crusoe, that is—“but Ulysses, the cunning plebeian, some average man or other living in the big towns, Autochthonous Proletarians or foreign Migrants who throw themselves into infinite movement—revolution” (98). Capitalism, in this argument, is revolutionary, which is true, I suppose, if the word “revolution” is purged of positive teleological connotations and understood as meaning radical change.

There is also a connection between contemporary philosophy and capitalism: “the connection of ancient philosophy with the Greek city and the connection of modern philosophy with capitalism are not ideological and do not stop at pushing historical and social determinations to infinity so as to extract spiritual figures from them” (99). In addition, while “it may be tempting to see philosophy as an agreement commerce of the mind,” that idea would turn it into marketing or advertising: “What is most distressing is not this shameless appropriation but the conception of philosophy that made it possible in the first case” (99). “But what saves modern philosophy is that it is no more the friend of capitalism than ancient philosophy was the friend of the city,” they argue. “Philosophy takes the relative deterritorialization of capital to the absolute; it makes it pass over the plane of immanence as movement of the infinite and suppresses it as internal limit, turns it back against itself so as to summon forth a new earth, a new people. But in this way it arrives at the nonpropositional form of the concept in which communication, exchange, consensus, and opinion vanish entirely” (99). I wonder if by “philosophy” here they are talking about Marx, or if they are talking about themselves and other postmodern philosophers. I’m really not sure. What is clear, I think, is that  philosophy is utopian; that’s what links it to its own epoch (99). “In each case it is with utopia that philosophy becomes political and takes the criticism of its own time to its highest point” (99). And yet philosophy (like utopia) needs to be wary of the return of transcendence:

In utopia (as in philosophy) there is always the risk of a restoration, and sometimes a proud affirmation, of transcendence, so that we need to distinguish between authoritarian utopias, or utopias of transcendence, and immanent, revolutionary, libertarian utopias. But to say that revolution is itself utopia of immanence is not to say that it is a dream, something that is not realized or that is only realized by betraying itself. On the contrary, it is to posit revolution as plane of immanence, infinite movement and absolute survey, but to the extent that these features connect up with what is real here and now in the struggle against capitalism, relaunching new struggles whenever the earlier one is betrayed. The word utopia therefore designates that conjunction of philosophy, or of the concept, with the present milieu. (100)

Utopia and revolution are connected, despite the failures of historical examples: “That the two great modern revolutions, American and Soviet, have turned out so badly does not prevent the concept from pursuing its immanent path” (100). 

Revolution or utopia is closely connected to the concept, which is to say (I think) to philosophy:

The concept frees immanence from all the limits still imposed on it by capital (or that it imposed on itself in the form of capital appearing as something transcendent). However, it is not so much a case of a separation of the spectator from the actor in this enthusiasm as of a distinction within the action itself between historical factors and ‘unhistorical vapor,’ between a state of affairs and the event. As concept and as event, revolution is self-referential or enjoys a self-positing that enables it to be apprehended in an immanent enthusiasm without anything in states of affairs or lived experience being able to tone it down, not even the disappointments of reason. Revolution is absolute deterritorialization even to the point where this calls for a new earth, a new people. (100-01)

At this point, Deleuze and Guattari return to the relationship between deterritorialization and reterritorialization: “Absolute deterritorialization does not take place without reterritorialization. Philosophy is reterritorialized on the concept. The concept is not object but territory” (101). (I’m not sure what that distinction means.) However, because we are “misled” by “Christian transcendence,” “we lack a genuine plane” where we could put our concepts (101). 

“Philosophical reterritorialization therefore also has a present form,” they continue, but not in the modern democratic state and human rights, because they are not universal (102). We do have concepts, but “possession of the concept does not appear to coincide with revolution, the democratic State, and human rights” (103). “If there is no universal democratic State,” they write,

it is because the market is the only thing that is universal in capitalism. In contrast with the ancient empires that carried out transcendent overcodings, capitalism functions as an immanent axiomatic of decoded flows (of money, labor, products). National States are no longer paradigms of overcoding but constitute the ‘models of realization’ of this immanent axiomatic. (106)

“It is as if the deterritorialization of States tempered that of capital and provided it with compensatory reterritorializations,” they suggest (106). While the “models of realization” of States might be diverse and heterogenous, “they are nonetheless isomorphous with regard to the world market insofar as the latter not only presupposes but produces determinate inequalities of development” (106)—so it’s the market that’s dominant, it seems, even though that market is bound to result in unequal development.

According to Deleuze and Guattari, human rights are merely axioms—which is to say, I think, that they are not concepts:

Human rights are axioms. They can coexist on the market with many other axioms, notably those concerning the security of property, which are unaware of or suspend them even more than they contradict them. . . . Who but the police and armed forces that coexist with democracies can control and manage poverty and the deterritorialization-reterritorialization of shanty towns? What social democracy has not given the order to fire when the poor came out of their territory or ghetto? Rights save neither men nor a philosophy that is reterritorialized on the democratic State. Human rights will not make us bless capitalism. A great deal of innocence or cunning is needed by a philosophy of communication that claims to restore the society of friends, or even of wise men, by forming a universal opinion of “consensus” able to moralize nations, States, and the market. Human rights say nothing about the immanent modes of existence of people provided with rights. (107)

This is the case not only in the extreme situations (genocide) described by Primo Levi, but also “in insignificant conditions, before the meanness and vulgarity of existence that haunts democracies, before the propagation of these modes of existence and of thought-for-the-market, and before the values, ideals, and opinions of our time” (107). 

Here they start to think about shame, perhaps the kind of shame the unwilling colonizer might feel—I’m not entirely sure. “We do not feel ourselves outside of our time but continue to undergo shameful compromises with it,” they write:

This feeling of shame is one of philosophy’s most powerful motifs. We are not responsible for the victims but responsible before them. And there is no way to escape the ignoble but to play the part of the animal (to growl, burrow, snigger, distort ourselves): thought itself is sometimes closer to an animal that dies than to a living, even democratic, human being. (108)

What is required, they suggest, perhaps as a way of overcoming or sidestepping shame, is a resistance to the present, which will, it seems, inevitably lead to revolution or utopia: 

If philosophy is reterritorialized on the concept, it does not find the condition for this in the present form of the democratic State or in a cogito of communication that is even more dubious than that of reflection. We do not lack communication. On the contrary, we have too much of it. We lack creation. We lack resistance to the present. The creation of concepts in itself calls for a future form, for a new earth and people that do not yet exist. (108)

At this point, art-making makes a reappearance, as a potentially revolutionary act: “Art and philosophy converge at this point: the constitution of an earth and a people that are lacking as the correlate of creation” (108). However, there are limits to what art or philosophy can accomplish. They cannot create a people—by which I think they mean a nation:

The artist or the philosopher is quite incapable of creating a people, each can only summon it with all his strength. A people can only be created in abominable sufferings, and it cannot be concerned any more with art of philosophy. But books of philosophy and works of art also contain their sum of unimaginable sufferings that forewarn of the advent of a people. They have resistance in common—their resistance to death, to servitude, to the intolerable, to shame, and to the present. (110)

Works of art, like philosophy, are (or at least can be) acts of resistance, including to the shame of being complicit, and to the inequities in iniquities of the present.

Now Deleuze and Guattari return to deterritorialization and reterritorialization, which “meet in the double becoming” between “stranger” and “Autochthon”:

The Autochthon can hardly be distinguished from the stranger because the stranger becomes Authchthonous in the country of the other who is not, at the same time that the Autochthon becomes stranger to himself, his class, his nation, and his language: we speak the same language, and yet I do not understand you. Becoming stranger to oneself, to one’s language and nation, is this not the peculiarity of the philosopher and philosophy, their ‘style,’ or what is called a philosophical gobbledygook? (110)

Could “gobbledygook” be a self-reflective evaluation of their prose style?

In short,” they conclude, philosophy is reterritorialized three times: on the Greeks in the past, on the democratic State in the present, and on the new people and earth in the future. Greeks and democrats are strangely deformed in this mirror of the future” (110). That “mirror of the future” is, I think, a way of imagining what the present or past would look like from the vantage of a future utopia—although utopia is not “a good concept”:

Utopia is not a good concept because even when opposed to History it is still subject to it and lodged within it as an ideal or motivation. But becoming is the concept itself. It is born in History, and falls back into it, but is not of it. In itself it has neither beginning nor end but only a milieu. It is thus more geographical than historical. Such are revolutions and societies of friends, societies of resistance, because to create is to resist: pure becomings, pure events on a plane of immanence. What History grasps of the event is its effectuation in states of affairs or in lived experience, but the event in its becoming, in its specific consistency, in its self-positing as a concept, escapes History. (110)

History, as necessity, is not becoming or “coming about”: 

What is in the process of coming about is no more what ends than what begins. History is not experimentation, it is only the set of almost negative conditions that make possible the experimentation of something that escapes history. Without history experimentation would remain indeterminate and unconditioned, but experimentation is not historical. It is philosophical. (111)

What is the connection between experimentation and becoming, between experimentation and the concept, between experimentation and philosophy and art? Are philosophy and art forms of experimentation? Are they ways to potentially escape history? I don’t know. The text ends and I’m left feeling that I was on the brink of understanding something that didn’t quite materialize—or perhaps reterritorialize. In any case, after reading texts like Emma Battell Lowman’s and Adam J. Barker’s Settler and Clare Land’s Decolonizing Solidarity, both of which posit the possibility or indeed necessity of a revolution that will come out of political activism, it was in some ways helpful to read Deleuze’s and Guattari’s thinking about revolution and its connection to art and philosophy. Could art itself be a form of political resistance or activism? They seem to suggest that’s the case. That might be what’s useful about “Geophilosophy,” although to be honest, I’m left thinking that it was a mistake to include it on my reading list. I’m also left with the realization that it’s not enough to pull one essay out of a book like What Is Philosophy? because the ideas are developed throughout the book. On the other hand, I’m on a deadline, and reading all of What is Philosophy? might take more time than it’s worth, particularly since it seems to be somewhat outside my research. I’m also left with the realization (once again) that I’m going to have to tackle Anti-Oedipus, and that a shorter text like “Geophilosophy” isn’t going to be sufficient. Somehow, then, I’m going to have to find the time to read that notoriously difficult work.

Works Cited

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. “Conceptual Personae.” What is Philosophy?, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, Columbia University Press, 1994, pp. 61-83.

——. “Geophilosophy.” What is Philosophy?, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, Columbia University Press, 1994, pp. 85-113.

Land, Clare. Decolonizing Solidarity: Dilemmas and Directions for Supporters of Indigenous Struggles, Zed, 2015.

Lowman, Emma Battell, and Adam J. Barker. Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada. Fernwood, 2015.

Santo, Carolina E. Geoscenography. Scenography from the milieu of Development-Forced Displacement and Resettlement (DRDR). PhD dissertation, University of Vienna, 2018.