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  • The Sense of Space: On the Specificity of Affect in Deleuze and Guattari
  • Claire Colebrook

While Deleuze is frequently critical of the spatialization of time, such that one of duration’s effects—man—produces a homogenized and metric time, he is also concerned with the ways in which spatial milieux allow for the thought of time in general. Certain affects and images, including the face of Western man, create transcendent planes that organize life from a single point of view, but the thought of affect as such also allows for the intuition of the plane of immanence—the spatial lines emanating from one enduring life. —cc

The relation between mathematics and man may thus be conceived in a new way: the question is not that of quantifying or measuring human properties, but rather, on the one hand, that of problematizing human events, and, on the other, that of developing as various human events the conditions of a problem.

—Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense 55.

As early as 1969, in The Logic of Sense, Deleuze was already taking the possibility of structuralism, as a distribution of singularities, beyond the death of man to the specifically human event. Whereas the mathematical had already been targeted by Heidegger in What is a Thing? as that which determined Being in advance as the measuring of beings, Deleuze suggests another realization of mathematical potential. Not only can the human be situated in a field of singularities; one can also extend a singularity as human. That is, one can think or develop a singular potential or event in life to the point where human thought extends itself beyond any already constituted image of “man.” In this paper I want to argue for the ways in which Deleuze’s project extends, and describes, two dimensions: on the one hand, Deleuze describes a space that unfolds from points effected through differentiation and is thus critical of any simple structuralism that would reduce a field to a single (or differentiated) space (Difference 206). On the other hand, Deleuze argues that once spaces have been actualized (say, in a closed system), this then allows for a thought—or extension of human potential—to spatiality in general. Indeed it is sense, a potential of language or the proposition, which opens a surface or plane that is fully neutral (Logic 31). Thus one may move from this or that constituted sense or term within a structure, to sense as such, a surface that is liberated from any denoted being. For Deleuze, then, the human or the potential of the brain is always more than a constituted image within sense; it is also that image that allows us to think the potential of imaging as such (Negotiations 42). I will argue that we need to add a deterritorialized humanity to Deleuze’s criticisms of man. Just as Foucault’s genealogy of man was accompanied by an affirmation of the self as that which can turn back upon itself, problematize itself, and thereby open new ways of thought, so Deleuze will affirm Foucault’s “superman” who no longer turns back upon himself but opens out to forces that will “free life” from “within himself” (Foucault 132).

The possibility that the “man,” whose being seems so self-evident and whose nature provides the object of modern knowledge and the human sciences, will one day be erased as a figure in thought is precisely what Foucault’s genealogy of the human sciences in The Order of Things sets out to entertain. Will we be able to imagine a power or thought that no longer emanates from a grounding life, that no longer signifies a receding sense whose order we can neither fully read nor definitively flee? For Foucault, such a possibility is tied to a re-imagining of space. Rather than a presumed surface across which the terms of our knowledge are inscribed, we might examine the ways in which various desires to know are produced by (and produce) a prior plane, table or “a priori” within which we think. Indeed, as Deleuze notes in his work on Foucault, to think requires moving beyond formations of knowledge and dispersed visibilities to the “non-place...