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  • Information Trading and Symbiotic Micropolitics
  • Luciana Parisi (bio)

Physics and biology present us with reverse causalities that are without finality but testify nonetheless to an action of the future on the present, or of the present on the past, for example, the convergent wave and the anticipated potential, which imply an inversion of time. More than breaks or zigzags, it is these reverse causalities that shatter evolution.

—Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

In the age of cybernetic capitalism, the impact of information sciences and technologies on the understanding of the body, sex, and reproduction points to a new relationship between nature, technology, and feminine desire.1 In this article, I engage with this relationship by drawing on the feminist intervention against the sex-gender system of identification based on the nature-culture, mind-body binarism. In particular, the emphasis on sexual difference and feminine desire in feminist cultural criticism has entailed a politics of disentanglement of sex from sexual reproduction, of desire from the economy of charge and discharge, and of femininity from organic nature. Yet, in this article, the notion of feminine desire further engages with the notion of nature. In particular, my critique of theories of evolution based on the centrality of sexual reproduction to ensure the complexification of life not only questions the assimilation of nature and women but more fundamentally challenges the teleological metaphysics of nature on which this assimilation depends.

As I show, nature is regulated by neither a principle of descent ensured by sexual filiation nor a gradual accumulation of variations preserved through the mother and the father. Rather, processes of nonlinear transmission contribute to define a nonpurposive nature, in which dynamics of organization bypass the dualism between organic and inorganic, death and life, progression and regression, simple and complex.2 The materialist construction of a nonpurposive nature contributes to redefine feminine desire as primarily related to becoming, to potential emergences rather than already formed possibilities—biological, cultural, or technological. In other words, feminine desire no longer corresponds to the realm of possibilities or actualities, in which femininity matches with identity—a given essence, such as a biological sex, or a cultural construction, such as a gendered sex. Rather, feminine desire coincides with its virtual potentials, [End Page 25] which, as Henri Bergson argues, are real insofar as they define the inexhaustible heterogeneity of matter in its dynamics of actualization.3 The virtual does not define a set of possibilities or actualities, whose forms and functions have already become visible. Quite the contrary, the virtual only maps a field of potentials out of which actuals emerge. The virtual is never completely actualized, and actuals are never completely virtualized. Rather, the virtual-actual circuit entails a continual yet partial feedback between two mutual yet nonidentical planes of becoming. There is no dualistic opposition between the virtual and the actual. All dynamics entail a virtual-actual circuit of individuation, which is an open process occurring in the middle: on the fissure or crack disclosing between adjacent surfaces.

Drawing on Bergson's notion of the virtual-actual, I want to reengineer the notion of feminine desire and move beyond the critical impasse between biological essentialism and cultural constructivism. Although this notion has historically been at the forefront of feminist cultural criticism, my argument engages with Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's notion of molecular desire, to highlight the micropolitical importance of the notions of feminine desire and sex in cybernetic culture.

From this standpoint, feminine desire cannot cease to engage with the micropolitics of "becoming-woman": a crucial practice in the interruption of the economy of sex, which lays out the oedipalization of the body, building on the biological order of sexual reproduction or the biological stratification of sex.4 Feminine desire is not in women or in men but entails a micropolitics of becoming, which is not quick to dismiss femininity as a given essence or a cultural construction. Questioning the metaphysical teleology of nature also entails challenging the metaphysical tradition of essence in which matter remains inert, animated by a form or essence. In critical studies, such a challenge has corresponded to a cultural intervention, in which matter is created by human culture...


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pp. 25-49
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2005
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