Nomadic thought and transversalism (research folder)

Research folder, expanding on this paragraph in Research dissertation:

Interested in contact implies a curiosity about the fabric that contributes to our articulations of corporeal selfhood (as author, subject and audience). At once immediate, sensorial and tactile it also asks wider questions concerning relationship and presence. These concerns around agency, voice and autonomy are informed by older materialisms (notably: a critical materialism of social praxis) and are curious about new materialisms and its rearticulations of the non/human subject (Marks 2002, Braidotti 2011, Springgay & Truman 2019, Hilevaara & Orley eds 2018).

(Helms, 2021, dissertation draft, 28 April 2021, Introduction)

(a) new materialism, non/human subjects: nomadism and transversalism.

In the draft I carry a different line around new materialisms and the human body with me for a while, Rosi Braidotti’s nomadism is dropped in but not explicated. It is the link to what before was the interest in hybridity (originating from that interdisciplinary conception of drawing), cyborgs and non/human agency.

For the dissertation text I am drawing the theory closer around Laura Marks and Stephanie Springgay and Sarah Truman, all else will largely go to research notes on here.

Nomadic subjects in Rosi Braidotti (2011) as a theory of subjectification for our times: feminist, materialist; furthermore, while informed by post-structuralism, she (and others) break with Lacan’s lack as key psycho-analytical feature but draw on Spinoza (via Deleuze/Guattari) to centre desire and the generative features arising thereof for such subjectification.

Figuration is key for Braidotti, there are also references to earlier publications by Laura Marks.

Here are a number of key points relevant for the dissertation (all Braidotti 2011, Nomadic Theory)

Key articulations of what nomadic thought/theory is concerned with:

“Conceptually, nomadic thought stresses the idea of embodiment and the embodied and embedded material structure of what we commonly call thinking. It is a materialism of the flesh that unifies mind and body in a new approach that blurs all boundaries. The embodiment of the mind and the embrainment of the body (Marks 1998) are a more apt formulation for nomadic thought than Cartesian or other forms of dualism. ” (Braidotti, 14)

“Nomadic thought rejects the psychoanalytic idea of repression and the negative definition of desire as lack inherited from Hegelian dialectics. It borrows instead from Spinoza a positive notion of desire as an ontological force of becoming. This achieves an important goal: it makes all thinking into an affirmative activity that aims at the production of concepts, precepts, and affects in the relational motion of approaching multiple others. Thinking is about tracing lines of flight and zigzagging patterns that undo dominant representations. Dynamic and outward bound, nomadic thought undoes the static authority of the past and redefines memory as the faculty that decodes residual traces of half-effaced presences; it retrieves archives of leftover sensations and accesses afterthoughts, flashbacks, and mnemonic traces.” (Braidotti, 15)

“Nomadic philosophy is the discursive practice with the highest degree of affinity to the mobility of intelligence: it is both physical, material, and yet speculative and ethereal. The dialogue itself is a movement of exchange between two consenting antagonists, such as friends, opponents, or traveling companions. ” (Braidotti, 16)

“It is particularly important not to confuse the process of nomadic subjectivity with individualism or particularity. Whereas identity is a bounded, ego-indexed habit of fixing and capitalizing on one’s selfhood, subjectivity is a socially mediated process of relations and negotiations with multiple others and with multilayered social structures.” (Braidotti, 17)

Nomadism in contrast to the flaneur’s gaze:

“Back in the metropolis, the ponderous yet lazy gaze of the nineteenth-century flaneurs theorized the art of walking as a leisurely literary stroll round town. This endowed the continental urban landscape with the mystery and seduction often reserved for faraway places—a domestic variation on the exotic. ” (Braidotti, 28)

Figuration is key for Braidotti, there are also references to earlier publications by Laura Marks.

“Figurations are ways of expressing different situated subject positions. A figuration renders the nonunitary image of a multilayered subject. Feminist theories since postmodernism demonstrated that the definition of identities takes place between the polarized duality of: nature/technology; male/ female; black/white—in the spaces that flow and connect in between. We live in permanent processes of transition, hybridization, and nomadization (…). And these in-between states and stages defy established modes of theoretical representation. The figuration of nomadic subjects, however, should never be taken as a new universal metaphor for the human or posthuman condition. As I argued in the companion volume, Nomadic Subjects (Braidotti, 2011), we need to provide, instead, accurate cartographies of the different politics of location for subjects-in-becoming.
A figuration is a living map, a transformative account of the self—it’s no metaphor. It fulfills the purpose of finding suitable situated locations to make the difference between different locations.” (Braidotti, 34f)

Tracing transversalism, which has been in my vocabulary for quite some time is a bit more difficult. The work from early 2000s+ by Gerald Raunig et al. sits closer towards institutional analysis, translation studies; and while informed by Deleuze/Guattari, it turns towards institutional critique rather than the subject, affect and non/human agency.

I have no access to my notes on Erin Manning’s Minor Gestures; nor Stefano Harney & Fred Moten’s Undercommons where much of this was explored and fed into my research/thinking around the Drawing 2 module.

Springgay & Truman’s Chapter 2 in Walking Methodology (2019) however assembles and outlines key lines and arguments: around trans theories and Braidotti’s (2006) transpositions that are ‘playing the positivity of difference’ (52), emphasising the non-linear and nomadic and that explore ‘regulated dissassociation’ of bond which are usually assumed cohesive.

<< these are the arguments that link to the BoW discussion around immersiveness vis-a-vis a notion of fragment, distance and detachment and a moving in and out of closeness and distance, i.e. how I draw on Marks’ erotic for the work).

So, for Springgay & Truman in this review of trans theories intensities and movements are key rather than fixed beings or things. They reference Abraham Weil (2017) on ‘entangled linkages, or transversality’ (53).

Furthermore, they mobilise Harney & Moten (2013) on ‘hapticality to think about how walking constitutes a politics-in-movement’ (12).

Chapter 2 in Springgay & Truman on Sensory inquiry & affective intensities in walking research thus provides not only the arguments around the use of nomadism and transversalism but also in doing so spells out the relevance of the sensorial and how this can be explored beyond notions of immersiveness.

(links to explore: Immersiveness, hapticality and the erotic, new materialism and register shifts (why I am not focusing all that much on matter after all))

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