Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Becoming Minor

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Becoming Minor

Article excerpt

How many styles or genres or literary movements, even very small ones, have only one single dream: to assume a major function in language, to offer themselves as a sort of state language, an official language [...]. Create the opposite dream: know how to create a becoming-minor. (Deleuze and Guattari, 1986: 27)

We dream of creating a becoming-minor. Twenty years ago, Cindi Katz called for an engaged, feminist, political geography that would emanate from the very place where feminist contributions had been erased, from the "space of betweenness" that remains a "no man's land" lodged in the midst of major theory (Katz, 1996: 498). This no man's land is the deterritorialized opening of the minor. The characteristics of this minor space are (1) its deterritorialization or subtraction from the dominant order, (2) the connection of its agents to political immediacy, and (3) the potential within it for taking up of whatever is at hand and creating new assemblages (Deleuze and Guattari, 1986). This essay is an attempt to subtract a minor space from the dominant order, to connect ourselves to an immanent politics, and to see what sorts of tools we might find in that space. We want to "write to the nth power, the n-1 power," to "write with slogans" without planting the seed of a manifesto; we're only growing offshoots (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 24). Drawing on theorists including Sara Ahmed, Walter Benjamin, Lauren Berlant, and Judith Halberstam, we take up Cindi Katz's call to enact a minor politics in what we see to be the totem of minor, flexible, immanent and elusive of spaces: the impasse. The impasse is both the condition and the aim of becoming minor. It is a space of betweenness, a no-man's land that requires special tools to hold open. The impasse is dangerous, uncertain, and prone to closure. Yet it offers much: the decomposition of structures, new configurations, new connections. It is a generative, creative space that offers us tools and politics for our slow plummet down the White Rabbit's hole. It is an affective politics beyond hope; one of apathetic solidarities and no future.

In the impasse

The impasse, the space of betweenness, is both the condition and the aim of becoming minor. It's a funny kind of space: it has no walls, no ground, no fixed dimensions. It is subterranean: we enter its tunnels of underground intensities "like a dog digging its hole, like a rat digging its burrows" (Deleuze and Guattari, 1986: 18). The hole we dig out is "a space of internal displacement" that "shatters the normal hierarchies, clarities, tyrannies, and confusions of compliance with autonomous individuality" (Berlant, 2011: 48). By entering an impasse and holding it open, by guarding "against every new closure, every new reconstitution" (Deleuze and Guattari, 1986: 14), we blast open the potentiality of the now and create the conditions for a different way of being in the world, a becoming-minor that resists the dream of becoming major.

The problem is, it's not easy to stay there, in the space of the impasse. You don't get welcomed at the door of an impasse. In fact, there's not even a door. It's more like a trapdoor you fall through to find yourself crumpled on the ground. The impasse space is parallel to the space you were passing through, but different. Unadorned, it does not cater to its guests with predictability or decorum. It is more savage. It is dark in the impasse; it is a space that requires heightened senses, because it makes no promises. In the impasse, adjustment style prevails over history and genealogy. This is an unholy space of flux, reconfiguring, and recoding of meaning. In the impasse, you can't move forward with any rapid clip. This doesn't mean that nothing is happening, though. In an impasse, an active passivity overtakes you, reconfiguring molecules and changing operations. As Berlant puts it, "An impasse is decompositional--in the unbound temporality of the stretch of time, it marks a delay that demands activity. …

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