Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Micropolitical Entanglements: Positioning and Matter

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Micropolitical Entanglements: Positioning and Matter

Article excerpt

How could one harness a 'micropolitical/minor ethics'? I take this question as an invitation to reflect on the ways micropolitics intersect with ethnographic endeavours inflated by an activist ethos. What I want to put into focus here is the nexus between Deleuzian-Guattarian metaphysic, ethnographic praxis and grass-root politics--a nexus that, I believe, was a primary concern for the two French thinkers and it definitely is as such in my current research. I will introduce my discussion by quoting two short passages from Deleuze and Guattari. The first reads:

'Molecular escapes and movements would be nothing if they did not return to the molar organizations to reshuffle their segments, their binary distributions of sexes, classes, and parties' (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 219).

The second, longer quote comes actually from Guattari only and it can be found in that powerful collection of essays called 'Soft Subversions'. In there we can read:

I believe that there is a collective, unformed search, from above and below, for another kind of politics. This is what I call 'micropolitics,' and 'molecular revolution.' It begins with very immediate, daily, individual preoccupations, yet remains connected to what happens at the social level, and even, why not, at the cosmic level. (Guattari, 2009: 138)

In these quotes, Deleuze and Guattari are inviting us to move from the molecular to the molar, and back again. (1) It is in this journey that I see the activation of a 'minor' politics. This is because to perform this journey means to re-shuffle things constantly, to link, de-link and re-link them. Such an oeuvre does not provide a once-and-for-all recipe for political action, but it invites by default, by the immanent act of doing and (re)doing things, to a minor politics characterised by a capacity to become, to articulate difference and to open new articulations that are not to be subsumed by 'a redundant majority' (Conley, 2010: 167). What really interests me is how we--as academics--can actively perform this journey from the molecular to the molar. Even more precisely, how can we ethically perform this kind of journey and the related minor politics?

One needs, first of all, to understand what kind of ethics we are confronting. Since I am constrained by space, and since much has already been written on this subject, I will define it clearly from the very beginning: without diminishing the importance of fundamental and universal rights, it is not in the light of these rights that we are moved ethically, but in the contextually based construction (and deconstruction) of these rights. Ethics is, in other words, always contextual--part of a 'context' understood as matter of processual unfoldings (Thrift, 2004), embodiment (Bignall, 2010), post-human entanglements (Braidotti, 2013) and eventful possibilities (Dewsbury, 2000). Although it is still related to certain standard norms--as any molecular thing is related to a molar one--the kind of ethics that fuels the work of Deleuze and Guattari is there first and foremost to challenge those norms starting from the 'micropolitics of the social field', the very specific social field in which we find ourselves plugged-in.

The ethics sketched in the above lines is characterised by two interlinked facets. First, there is the performative facet of ethics: ethical actions and blueprint to actions are always contextual, because they are understood as material and immaterial practices arising from the performed field rather than deriving from a universalising norm. Second, there is the normative facet, which states that ethics should be always attuned to a minor form of politics against the normalising forces that tend to control and reduce the potential of contextual becoming. On the basis of these two facets, a micropolitical/minor ethics is a matter of field performances and production of knowledge that are relevant to the context in question. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.