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Tamsin Lorraine Deleuze and Guattari’s Immanent Ethics: Theory, Subjectivity, and Duration
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What is at stake in an immanent ethics is this: it allows us to see ourselves as integral members of the global community of humanity and the world rather than separate (that is, transcendent) individuals, species, or tribes set against a world to be mastered and controlled. When we not only “see” (as in “recognize”) ourselves but also experience ourselves in an ongoing connection to what is around us, new ways of dealing with human and nonhuman identities and otherness unfold. Unimagined capacities and novel ways of relating may develop. Of course, such a change of perspective is highly relevant to the feminist project of supporting fledgling forms of humanity, especially in relating to alternative or transgressive ways of being gendered, sexed, or sexual. In her book, Tamsin Lorraine expertly maps out the Deleuze-Guattarian ontological and conceptual landscape that opens up such new vistas and possibilities for being and thinking. Along the way, she points out those locales (or plateaus) where feminism would benefit from an alliance with a Deleuze-Guattarian approach. In short, Lorraine is here offering an immanent feminist ethics intent on modulating itself on the complex physical, emotional, and social realities that traditional theorizing usually tries to force into preexisting patriarchal paradigms.

Lorraine rightly locates the root difference between Deleuze and Guattari’s ontology and the transcendental (patriarchal) tradition in their response to Bergsonism. Instead of understanding each state of affairs as a static state from which the next state of affairs can be deduced, we need to understand each event not only in terms of what is overtly manifest (or actual) in them, but also in terms of the implicit tendencies or capacities of the bodies involved. While these tendencies may never materialize, they have a dynamic impact on what occurs, and they inhere in whatever actualizes. These flows constitute the body’s or the event’s virtual terrain.

From this perspective, we can see how bodies, identities, experience, and our theorizing about them may be mutually affected. For example, it becomes clear that self-other dichotomies obscure the physiological, social, and cultural flows I share with others. As Lorraine shows, transsexual people such as Susan Stryker, who speaks out publicly about her situation, defy erasure of the range of continuous variation (tendencies, or flows) manifest in particular actualizations of humanity. Quoting Linda Alcoff, Lorraine suggests that we need to conceive identity not merely as a category into which one fits, but rather as an interpretive horizon shared with certain others that affects what and how one perceives. Lorraine concludes that this coheres with the Deleuze-Guattarian emphasis on prepersonal singularities and the genetic process through which the subject comes to be what it is. While their view encourages us to see ourselves as momentary waves in a flux of biological and social flows, says Lorraine, it does not preclude those waves being experienced by us, in keeping with our pragmatic needs and concerns, as relatively stable.

Throughout her book, Lorraine’s strategy thus consists in two flows. First, she gives a fairly concise account of the conceptual formations proposed by Deleuze and Guattari (especially as these formulations appear in the three volumes that they co-authored, namely Anti-Oedipus, A 1000 Plateaus, and What is Philosophy?). Lorraine not only sheds light on such idiosyncratic concepts as “deterritorialization,” “refrain,” “faciality,” and “minoritarian subjectivity,” but she also traces the precise connections between these concepts, both explaining them and showing how they can be put to work. Those new to Deleuze and Guattari will be thankful for this. Those more familiar with them may get bored at times, but will find provocative insights and helpful clarifications here. Personally, I was most interested in the bridges Lorraine lays down between the Deleuze-Guattarian perspective and feminism.

Contemporary feminist scholarship is the second flow that Lorraine follows, or intensifies. This intensification increases as the book unfolds, and as it does, so does Lorraine’s original contribution to the field. For example, chapter 5, entitled “Ethics, Trauma, and Counter-Memory,” offers an impressive coverage of Deleuze’s books co-authored with Guattari, with illuminating forays into Deleuze’s own readings of Spinoza, Nietzsche, and the cinema—and a translation/instantiation...

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