I know, you know, we all know, don’t we?

There’s one strand of CDS or CDA, whatever label you wish to use, or an approach to it that I particularly like. Sigfried Jäger and Florentine Maier present what they refer to as the analysis of discourses and dispositives in ‘Analysing Discourse and Dispositives: A Foucauldian Approach to Theory and Methodology’, as included as a book chapter in the third edition of ‘Methods of Critical Discourse Studies’ published in 2016, as edited by Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer.

In short, I like what Jäger and Maier present because they take issues seriously rather than simply looking at serious issues, to explain this in how Alastair Pennycook (132) puts it in his 1994 article ‘Incommensurable Discourses’ published in the journal ‘Applied Linguistics’. That said, I think it’s worth acknowledging that what Jäger and Maier cover in this book chapter is going to be only an introduction to this, because there’s only so much you can include in a book chapter, as they (120) go on to point out midway through the chapter. I try to expand on what they cover, but I do it in a way that suits me, so if you want their take, consult the books they recommend.

Jäger and Maier (110) summarize what differentiates their approach from other CDS or CDA approaches to discourse by noting that instead of looking at what’s true or false in order to get to the truth, one needs to take a step back and assess what’s considered truth here and now and/or at another time and/or in another place, how does it get and/or did it get to be so, what kinds of effects it has and/or has had on people and the society. So, in other words, while the questions that pertain to what is are interesting, the how, why and who type of questions are far more interesting. Now, as a spoiler alert, one, of course, has to work with one has at his or her disposal, what is, in order to work one’s way back, to look at those other types of questions, to address what Michel Foucault (28) calls the conditions of existence in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ (1972 translation by Alan Sheridan).

What’s central to Jäger and Maier is what Foucault calls knowledge, which they (110) define as:

“By knowledge we understand all elements of thinking and feeling in human minds, or in other words, all contents that make up human consciousness.”

They (110) add to this (I altered the emphasis from bold to italics and I’ll keep doing this where applicable) that knowledge is derived by people from their discursive surroundings, whatever circumstances that people find themselves in. It’s worth emphasizing here that, as they (110) point out, people are born into their discursive surroundings, that is to say that they don’t get to have a choice in this to begin with. Okay, people may wish to change their surroundings and many people do, but that doesn’t mean that they escape anything, except the certain conditions of existence which are then substituted for some other conditions of existence, to explain this in strictly Foucauldian parlance. As Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari keep stating in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ (1987 translation by Brian Massumi), you can’t escape milieu as you are, quite literally, always in the middle of things.

Jäger and Maier (110) add that, in terms of analysis, the task is to “identify the knowledges contained in discourse and dispositives, and how these knowledges are connected to power relations in power/knowledge complexes.” This can be any kind of knowledge, ranging from “common knowledge transmitted through everyday communication, scientific knowledge, knowledge transmitted by the media, by schools etc.”, as they (110) point out. In other words, as I’d put it, discourse analysis knows no bounds.

To be rigorous, they (111) continue providing concise definitions, this time referring to Jürgen Link’s definition of discourse:

“By discourse we understand an ‘institutionalized way of talking [and, we may add: non-linguistically performed acting] that regulates and reinforces action and thereby exerts power’.”

Now, I think this matches Foucault’s definition quite well, considering that discourse is understood as a matter of practice, which is not just about acting or performing, the act or the performance of this and/or that, but about saying or doing something systematically, regardless of the semiotic mode involved in the process. I think it’s highly important to point this out, that discourse is not whimsical. It’s systematic because, as they (111) put it, it’s institutionalized. You don’t really get to just act this or that way, the way you feel like. It’s rather that your choice is always regulated, that is to say constricted, by the prevailing systematic practices. In fact, we can go as far as to say that, as a subject, you are an effect of knowledge/power complexes, not just a subject of, but also a subject to, as they (114) go on to summarize this later on. Highly importantly, this also means that:

“Thereby [people] learn the conventions of assigned meanings, which helps them to interpret reality in the way it has previously been interpreted by others.”

I could not agree more with Jäger and Maier (114) on this. When we encounter something, whatever it may be, we don’t find the meaning contained in it, inherent to it, waiting for us to discover it, nor do we simply get to choose what we make of it. It’s certainly tempting to think that this and/or that have/has some objective meaning. Wouldn’t that just be nice? Well, no, because then everything would be fixed. There’d be no room for creativity. You wouldn’t be able to invent anything. Right, so if that’s not the case, then what is? I’d say that it’s also tempting to think that it’s all subjective then, but, well, I’m going to say no to this as well. Firstly, if everything was just subjective, we would not be able to make sense of one another. You’d still have to sneak in something a priori through the backdoor, something that comes before the subject so that all the subjective meanings could be relayed to others so that this or that unique view makes sense to them. Secondly, you’d be flattering yourself quite a bit by claiming that your views are uniquely your views. Deleuze (15) explains this particularly well in his explication of Marcel Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’, ‘Proust and Signs: The Complete Text’ (2000 translation by Richard Howard):

Who is in search of truth? And what does the man who says ‘I want the truth’ mean? Proust does not believe that man, nor even a supposedly pure mind, has by nature a desire for truth, a will-to-truth. We search for truth only when we are determined to do so in terms of a concrete situation, when we undergo a kind of violence that impels us to such a search.”

To make sense of this, we always will or desire (to use the Schopenhauerian/Nietzschean or Deleuzo-Guattarian terms) something, for example truth, what it is that this is or what it means, not because we have chosen to do so, but because there is something other beyond us that forces us to do so. Anyway, Deleuze (15) adds that:

“There is always the violence of a sign that forces us into the search, that robs us of peace.”

And (16):

“[T]ruth is never the product of a prior disposition but the result of a violence in thought. The explicit and conventional significations are never profound; the only profound meaning is the one that is enveloped, implicated in an external sign.”

Simply put (16):

“Truth depends on an encounter with something that forces us to think and seek the truth. … [I]t is the sign that constitutes the object of an encounter and works this violence upon us. It is the accident of the encounter that guarantees the necessity of what is thought.”

Therefore, for Deleuze (17):

“To seek the truth is to interpret, decipher, explicate.”

He (17) adds to this that what is sought, truth, is never fixed, but always tied to the encounter:

“[T]he Search is always temporal, and the truth always a truth of time.”

This is because, for him (4):

“Signs are the object of a temporal apprenticeship, not of an abstract knowledge. To learn is first of all to consider a substance, an object, a being as if it emitted signs to be deciphered, interpreted.”

He (4) exemplifies this everyday ‘Egyptology’ with how carpenters learn how to read the wood in order to work it or how physicians learn how to read different signs of disease, that is to say symptoms, in order to provide treatment. To be clear, as he (5) points out, without signs all of it just nonsensical:

“The worlds are unified by their formation of sign systems emitted by persons, objects, substances; we discover no truth, we learn nothing except by deciphering and interpreting.”

Now, to get back on track here, to address the objective and the subjective, he (26-27) states that deciphering, interpreting or explicating has its perils. There is a general tendency, a habit, among people to attribute meaning as inherent to the object, as he (27) clearly points out:

“The first of these is to attribute to the object the signs it bears.”

So, for example, when we deal with other people, we are tempted to think that we get to the bottom of things, to seek meaning in the person him- or herself, as if that was possessed or contained in the person we deal with, as he (27-28) goes on to point out. To use his (28) words, this results in a avowal, an “homage to the object”. For (29) him, this tendency or a habit has to do with intelligence, how we’ve come to think of the world as consisting of discrete entities, that is to say objects, and how, instead recalling signs, we recall things when we rely on our voluntary memory:

“The intelligence dreams of objective content, of explicit objective significations that it is able, of its own accord, to discover or to receive or to communicate. The intelligence is thus objectivist, as much as perception. It is at the same moment that perception assigns itself the task of apprehending the sensuous object, and intelligence the task of apprehending objective significations. For perception supposes that reality is to be seen, observed; but intelligence supposes that truth is to be spoken, formulated.”

Simply put, there is this facile dream of an intelligible world that can be seen and then discussed with others, as he (29-30) goes on to clarify. The problem with this is that it’s based on a presupposition that makes this possible, as he (30) points out. It fails to explain how it is that we come to see what we see, the way we see it. It also fails to explain how it is that we come think of whatever it is that we think of and the way we think of it. The aforementioned force that impels us to do all that is not addressed at all.

Now, once you get it, that meaning is not tied to the object, it’s only likely that you’ll feel a bit queasy. You may feel tempted to reject what’s been just pointed out. He (32) acknowledges this:

“How difficult it is … to renounce this belief in an external reality. The … signs lay a trap for us and invite us to seek their meaning in the object that bears or emits them, so that the possibility of failure, the abandonment of interpretation, is like the worm in the fruit.”

He (32) adds to this that once you do get beyond this objectivist illusion, there’s still this temptation to seek meaning in whatever it is that we are dealing with. I guess it’s because it seems to offer an easy way out. Be as it may, it’s also rather disappointing, which leads him (34) to address what tends to take place when one manages to dispel the objectivist illusion is subjective compensation for the objective disappointment. In his (36) words:

“We proceed from one to the other; we leap from one to the other; we overcome the disappointment of the object by a compensation of the subject.”

Simply put, because we can not, no longer, find meaning in the object, whatever it is that we are dealing with, we seek to find it in the subject, that is to say in us as individuals. As I already pointed out, to make this work, you need to do some serious mental gymnastics when, to use his (36) words, “objective, intelligible values” are substituted for “a subjective association of ideas” because, for this to be associated with that, whatever one and the other are, there has to be something that nonetheless makes it intelligible to others. To use his (36) example, if a gesture reminds us of another gesture, like it only likely does, how do we make sense of the gesture it reminds us of? Now, to be clear, the problem is not association or reminiscence, but rather how it is used. We come think that way all the time, which, I guess, is why it ends up being used as the subjective compensation for the objective disappointment. It’s fascinating how that happens, as he (36-37) also points out, but it doesn’t explain why it happens and, more importantly, it doesn’t give us any actual answers, just an infinite regress of resemblance.

There’s more to Deleuze’s book on Proust and I highly recommend it, but I think I’ve said enough about objectivity and subjectivity to let Jäger and Maier explain the rest, what the solution to this is. The terminology may differ, but, oddly enough, you’ll end up in the same place by reading Deleuze or Jäger and Maier.

Right, what differentiates Jäger and Maier’s (111) take on discourse from many others, let’s go as far as to say the vast majority of takes on discourse, is their extension of the discussion of the discursive to the non-discursive. This is why they keep mentioning dispositive, which I’ll get to shortly. They (111) explain the rationale for extending the discussion of discursive to include the non-discursive:

“Unlike disciplines such as the natural sciences that view material reality as an objective given, discourse and dispositive analysis examine how reality is brought into being by human beings assigning meanings. Only by being assigned a meaning does reality come into existence for actors.”

Indeed, as strange as that may seem, material reality, that is to say the non-discursive, appears to be there, no doubt about it, yet, oddly enough, you can’t really talk about it, make sense of it, without recourse to the discursive. So, in other words, “[d]iscourses thus do not merely reflect reality”, as opposed to shaping and enabling it to appear to us the way it does, this and/or that way, as they (112) go on to specify. I fully agree with Jäger and Maier, but I think they (112) could have explained the following bit a bit better, how “[d]iscourses are fully valid material realities among others”, considering that, perhaps, equally strangely, you cannot have the discursive without the non-discursive as discourse requires it. To say or do anything, you do need the material reality, the vibrations of air when we speak etc. Then again, to speak of this and/or that, of the material reality, of the non-discursive, is just not enough. Simply put, the discursive and the non-discursive are in reciprocal presupposition.

Anyway, what they (112) want to emphasize is that there is only one reality and discourse is part and parcel of it. This is a highly important point, not only for them but also for me, because, as they (112) put it, “discourse cannot be reduced to a notion of ‘false consciousness’ or ‘distorted view of reality’, as in some orthodox Marxist approaches to ‘ideology critique’.” They (112) want to be very clear about this, considering that they state that:

“Contrary to a common misconception, probably based on the fact that discourse analysis deals with language, discourse theory is not an idealist theory. In other words, discourse theory deals with material realities, not with ‘mere’ ideas. Discourses may be conceptualized as societal means of production. Discourses are not ‘mere ideology’; they produce subjects and reality.”

Well put. I don’t think you could put that more simply or bluntly. This is pretty much how I see this as well, how the discursive and the non-discursive are in a reciprocal presupposition. They (112) move on to address what they mean by subjects:

“By subjects we mean social constructions of individuals or collectives (e.g. organizations, nations) that feel, think and act in certain ways. An overlapping concept is the one of actors.”

I think I would define subject in this way, but then again, I see what they are doing here, extending it from humans to non-humans or, at least to collectives of humans, which shifts things quite a bit, nonetheless. I’m fine with this definition. I can dig it. They (112) further specify their understanding of subject which happens to match mine: one is not only a subject of, but also a subject to, both at the same time. They (112) also further specify what they mean by actor, adding that, in contrast to subject, it emphasizes agency. So, for them (112), actor puts more emphasis on activity, being active, having the capacity to act, whereas subject puts more emphasis on passivity. They (112) also point out that actor leaves more room for non-human actors than subject, hence their reference to Bruno Latour’s work. The third concept here, perhaps better than actor would be actant, which, if my memory serves me correctly, is the relevant concept that extends agency from human actors to non-human actants.

Be as it may, regardless of what concept you use to define agency, be it subject, actor, actant or something else, what’s important is that while discourses do determine reality, that is to say bring it forth in a certain creative way, and the people, being subject to discourses, people, nonetheless, have agency, in the sense that they are also subjects of discourses, “co-producers and co-agents of discourses”, as they (112) go on to point out. I think they explain this particularly well when they (112) state that while it may appear to us that people are mere products or effects of discourse, you know, like what people call objects, and, in a certain way they most certainly are, they are, nonetheless, able to take part in the production of discourses because “they are entangled into discourse and therefore have knowledge at their disposal.” The Tardean sociologist in me can only approve this message. Anyway, this also means that while discourse analysis always looks back at the conditions of existence, it is never merely about looking back, a “retrospective analysis of allocations of meaning”, but also doing it here and now, which is also here and now in the future, whenever that is, in the future of/from now, an “analysis of the on-going production of reality through discourse, conveyed by active subjects”, as they (112) go on to add.

Moving on, they (113) finally provide a definition for dispositive:

“By dispositive …, we mean a constantly evolving synthesis of knowledge that is built into linguistically performed practices (i.e. thinking, speaking, writing), non-linguistically performed practices (vulgo ‘doing things’) and materializations (i.e. natural and produced things).”

I think it’s only apt to point out here that in addition to speaking and writing, they also consider thinking as a linguistically performed practice. I agree. I won’t get go on a tangent on that point, considering that I covered this in the previous essay. I recommend taking a closer look at Valentin Vološinov’s ‘Marxism and the Philosophy of Language’ (1973 translation by Ladislav Matejka and I.R. Titunik) if this interests you. I reckon he does a better job at explaining this than I do.

Anyway, so, their (113) definition of dispositive seeks to take into account the discursive and the non-discursive, words and things, not only statically, but also dynamically, as a matter of doing things, be it linguistically or in some other semiotic mode. I think it’s worth pointing out that while they (113-114) do refer to linguistically and non-linguistically performed practices, they are not asserting that non-linguistically performed practices or, more simply put, non-linguistic practices, are somehow simply non-discursive. I think this is a tricky point, but I think they are right when they (114) state that Foucault usually wasn’t very clear on this, how he delineates between the discursive and the non-discursive, and how he, quite ironically, couldn’t see how something non-linguistic could be discursive. I do have to point out, however, that this aspect is covered in ‘The Confession of the Flesh’, a transcribed interview between Foucault and a number of psychoanalysts, as included in‘Power/Knowledge: Select Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977’ edited by Colin Gordon (1980 translations Gordon, Leo Marshall, John Mepham and Kate Soper). That said, perhaps, he is still a bit too keen on language, inadvertently giving it centrality, despite clearly stating in that interview that he (198) isn’t interested in linguistic problems. Anyway, I’ll let him explain his position regarding this.

In this interview one of his interlocuters, Alain Grosrichard (196), asks him to clarify how dispositive differs from episteme, whether he is just giving the same thing a new name or replacing one for the other. Foucault (196-197) answers him, first going on a tangent about dispositive, followed by pointing out that, for him, at this time, in 1977, he considers dispositive to be more general than episteme and, to be more specific about the definitions, episteme to be a specifically discursive dispositive. Foucault’s (197) wording is not super clear here, but I reckon he is saying that episteme is a markedly discursive dispositive as opposed to saying that it has nothing non-discursive about it, considering that he uses the word specifically, which, to my understanding doesn’t rule out other factors. For example, if I say that I’m specifically interested in this or that thing, it doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in other things as well. It just means that my interest in whatever is at stake is heightened. Of course it could be that the heightened interest is at the expense of interest in other things, but it doesn’t rule out the other interests. Sure, it could be taken as mutually exclusive, but, strictly speaking, it isn’t. He (197) also says that dispositive is much more heterogeneous than episteme, not that dispositive is heterogeneous and episteme is not, nor that episteme is, conversely, homogeneous.

Anyway, the way I grasp this is that episteme is indeed a specific type of dispositive, apt when discussing knowledge and discursive formations, as he does in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’, as acknowledge by his interlocutor, Alain Grosrichard (298), but not very apt when going beyond that, as Foucault (196-197) points out in reference to that book and another book, ‘The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences’ (unspecified 1970 translation), which flirt with non-discursive but skirt around it. Episteme is therefore tied to what one might call his archaeological method, whereas dispositive is tied to his subsequent works that employ what one might call his genealogical method. It’s not simply a change of terms, as Alain Grosrichard (196) suggests as one of the options, but rather addressing the limitations of his earlier works that don’t take into account power relations and what else come with them, as Foucault (196) does point out before comparing the two concepts as requested by Grosrichard.

To get to the point about how Foucault stumbles, or, well appears to stumble, with his own conceptions, another interlocutor of his, Jacques-Alain Miller (198), objects to him when he (198) defines institution as any behavior, conduct or performance that is learned and functions as a constraint of a certain degree. I guess one would these days call this internalized or embodied, in the sense that we might say a person is, in him- or herself, an institution, the embodiment of this and/or that, just like the education system or the military are institutions. Dictionary definitions (OED, s.v. “institution”, n.) confirm his statement:

“The action of instituting or establishing; setting on foot or in operation; foundation; ordainment; the fact of being instituted.”

This, of course, is derived from the verb ‘institute’ (OED, s.v. “institute”, v.):

“To set up, establish, found, ordain; to introduce, bring into use or practice.”

Other definitions of institution also include (OED, s.v. “institution”, n.):

“The giving of form or order to a thing; orderly arrangement; regulation.”

And (OED, s.v. “institution”, n.):

“The established order by which anything is regulated; system; constitution.”

As well as (OED, s.v. “institution”, n.):

“An established law, custom, usage, practice, organization, or other element in the political or social life of a people; a regulative principle or convention subservient to the needs of an organized community or the general ends of civilization.”

Plus (OED, s.v. “institution”, n.):

“Something having the fixity or importance of a social institution; a well-established or familiar practice or object.”

And (OED, s.v. “institution”, n.), like I pointed out in reference to systems of education and military:

“An establishment, organization, or association, instituted for the promotion of some object, esp. one of public or general utility, religious, charitable, educational, etc., e.g. a church, school, college, hospital, asylum, reformatory, mission, or the like; as a literary and philosophical institution, a deaf and dumb institution, the Royal National Life-boat Institution, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (instituted 1798), the Railway Benevolent Institution, etc. The name is often popularly applied to the building appropriated to the work of a benevolent or educational institution.”

Which, in turn, is related to how the word gets used as synonymous to institute (OED, s.v. “institution”, n., “institute”, n.).

Now, as you can see, Foucault (198) is saying that institutions are non-discursive because the act of instituting something has to do with establishing it as this or that, constituting it, giving it form as such, not whimsically, but systematically, which, in turn, requires certain regulation, hence the constraints he (198) mentions. As a side note, I’m not particularly fond of using the word institution when discussing the non-discursive because comes across as too concrete and too limited. It makes me think of this or that specific establishment, like an education system or the military, as opposed to how something is established as such in the first place and how that comes to play a role in our everyday life. It risks ignoring how any non-discursive formation is an institution, at least according to his own definition. It gets pretty confusing, which is, at times, evident even in his own writing. Then again, that’s just me, my take on this, so feel free to think otherwise.

Anyway, I think Miller (197) does have a point when he argues that institution is of course discursive. Then again, I think Foucault actually acknowledges this when he (198) replies to Miller that it can be understood as such, sure, but it is beside the point because, in the context of disposive, it is of little importance to delineate or, rather, I guess, to keep delineating between what is discursive and what is non-discursive. Now, that said, I don’t think he is suggesting that one then just collapses the two into one, under a single term. It may appear that he is suggesting such by introducing dispositive, but he isn’t. He (198) exemplifies with the architectural plans of the French military school, the École Militaire, designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, and the building itself. It’s obvious the former is discursive and the latter is non-discursive, sure, but, as he (198) goes on to point, defining them as this or that, either as discursive or non-discursive, becomes problematic because you cannot define something discursive or non-discursive without taking both into account at the same time. For example, to make sense of a military school, which is clearly an institution, that is to say a non-discursive formation, you also need to have knowledge of military and architecture, which are clearly discursive formations. On top of needing to know all that, you probably need to know a whole lot more, for example, what roles military and architecture play in a given society and what else they are connected to, be they discursive or non-discursive formations. Sure you can disentangle all that, if that is of interest to you, as he points out when he (198) states that the distinction between the discursive and the non-discursive only matters to him if there is a mismatch between the two, if the non-discursive does not conform to the discursive.

Deleuze clarifies this play of the discursive and the non-discursive, what he also refers to as statements and visibilities, in his seminars on Foucault. You can find these online, which is why I won’t be giving you any page numbers. In the first session, dated October 22, 1985 (transcribed by Annabelle Dufourcq and translated by Mary Beth Mader), Deleuze begins these seminars by stating that Foucault is concerned with these two already in his early work, way before ‘Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison’ (1977 translation by Alan Sheridan), which is markedly genealogical rather than archaeological, as already pointed out, even if the former could be understood as an extension of the latter, considering that it’s not like his later work isn’t similar to his earlier work. Anyway, during this first session, Deleuze goes on to specify that Foucault isn’t simply interested in speaking as a matter of expressing one’s thoughts, nor seeing as a matter of behavior, but as conditions for expression and behavior. So, he is not asserting that speaking isn’t about expression, because it is, nor that seeing is about behavior, because it is, but rather that his interest lies in assessing the historical conditions for them, what conditions them. In other words, Foucault takes one step back, looking at the conditions of apparition of whatever it is that one is dealing with rather than taking what already is or appears to be as granted. This is also what I’m interested in. It’s not that I’m not interested in this or that, including people and their behavior, because I am. It’s rather that I’m much more interested in their apparition, their conditions of existence. Simply put, I’m interested in how the given is given or, rather, how what is considered to be given gets to be considered given.

To get to the point, Deleuze refers to these conditions of existence as historical regimes of saying and seeing. They condition what can be said and seen. As a side note, I guess it would make sense to be more inclusive or expansive about this, so that rather than talking about seeing it would be about sensing and what conditions it in a given time period, but I’m just going with what he is saying. Anyway, he reminds the people attending the session that these two should not be confused, that they are indeed distinct. He exemplifies this in reference to Foucault’s ‘This is Not a Pipe’ (1983 translation by James Harkness), pointing out that the pipe in René Magritte’s 1929 painting known as ‘The Treachery of Images’ is not a pipe but a mere representation or, to avoid invoking dualism, a depiction or an illustration of a pipe. As another side note, in a previous essay I referred to it as a representation, just as Magritte did, although, I guess, that’s strictly speaking not accurate. Anyway, you should be able to get the point he is making, regardless of whether it is or isn’t a representation. So, yeah, there is this temptation to say that it is indeed a pipe, but it isn’t, which is the point Magritte wants to make with the painting, because, as Deleuze puts it, saying isn’t seeing and, conversely, seeing isn’t saying. That said, while the two are distinct, they are connected to one another, the discursive being the one that has primacy over the non-discursive, as he goes on to add. Primacy should not, however, be understood as resulting in the non-discursive being reducible to the discursive as that would mean that they are isomorphic, that is to say not distinct from one another, as aptly noted by him. Then again, oddly enough, this connection results in what he calls capture, involving incursions or incisions from one to the other, going both ways, from the discursive to the non-discursive and from the non-discursive to the discursive. He summarizes this by stating that a historical formation is an arrangement, an assemblage (agencement), that captures or combines heterogeneous elements, both statements and visibilities, never merely one or the other. In addition, the elements or should I say parts of these arrangements do not combine or get captured with just about any other element. In other words, some captures or combinations rule out the inclusion of certain other elements. This does not mean that this may not change, but rather that not all elements can get captured or combined at the same time as that would mean that one would be reducible to the other, as he stresses it in this seminar session.

It’s for this reason that in the second seminar session, dated October 29, 1985 (same transcriber and translator), Deleuze refers to the statable and the visible as historical a prioris that condition the apparition of statements and visibities, what gets stated and what gets to be seen. To be clear, they are what is before or independent of experience, thus what conditions experience, but they are not fixed conditions, as he goes on to clarify. They are stable, but they are not stable forever as that would prevent change. If they were stable forever, that is to say fixed, they would not be historical a priori, just a priori. I’d call them metastable. Anyway, this is also why Deleuze likens Foucault’s historical formations, his archaeology, with geological strata in the second session. He points out that both archaeologists and geologist go through layers of ground or earth. They dig and dig, only to realize that there is no original stratum, no original layer, only strata upon strata, layer upon layer. That may seem disappointing, but that’s because people have been taught to go through layers, to uncover what lies beneath them, rather than looking at the layers themselves.

Right, this leads us back to the dispositive, the term used by Foucault, which, according Deleuze, as he explains in the first seminar session, is what defines this arrangement of statements and visibilities of a certain historical formation, of what is statable and visible at a given time period, and, I might add, in a certain spatial context, considering that the arrangements may differ geographically. This also helps us to understand how knowledge is connected to statements and visibilities. Deleuze clarifies this point by noting that what is statable and visible are what make up knowledge and therefore to know something, whatever it is, involves producing the connection between statements and visibilities, the statable and the visible, speaking and seeing, that captures or combines elements from both. This also means that there is no truth nor origin beyond knowledge, which, in itself, is always produced, as he points out.

In ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’, Foucault (46) refers to these connections between the discursive and the non-discursive as discursive relations. They are not internal to discourse itself, so they don’t “connect concepts or words with one another”, nor do they “establish a deductive or rhetorical structure between propositions and sentences”, as he (46) goes on to clarify. That said, they are not external to discourse either, in the sense that these restrictions would “limit it, or impose certain forms upon it, or force it, in certain circumstances, to state certain things”, as he (46) adds to this. Simply put, the connection, what Deleuze calls a disjunctive relation or a non-relation in his first seminar session on Foucault, is not within discourse, because that would mean that it only has to do with discourse, its internals, or so to speak, but not without discourse either, because that would result in explaining discourse through something otherworldly, like, say a structure that transcends it. Instead, for Foucault (46) these relations are at the margins of discourse, “at the limit of discourse”, so that “they offer it objects of which it can speak, or rather … they determine the group of relations that discourse must establish in order to speak of this or that object, in order to deal with them, name them, classify them, explain them, etc.” It’s worth noting that he (46) qualifies the second part by noting that it’s too hasty or reductive to say that discursive relations merely offer discourse objects, as he (46) points out initially, because that risks coming across as presupposing “that objects are formed independently of discourse”, which, of course, they are not. This puts emphasis on discourse as practice, as something historical, not something that works on givens, on a prioris, such as language and objects out there, as he (46) goes on to add. Therefore, as Jäger and Maier (115) explain it:

“An object that is not assigned any meaning is not an object. It is totally nondescript, invisible, even non-existent. I don’t see it because I overlook it.”

They (115) exemplify this with how back in the day people used to gather fallen tree branches in parks for firewood, because, well, at that time people considered them to be firewood, whereas these days people basically don’t even notice the branches on the ground, because knowledge-wise it’s not relevant to see them. Of course we could stop people and ask them what they think about fallen tree branches in this or that park, point to them, but at that point we are altering the what Jäger and Maier (114) call the “common power/knowledge complex.” This is exactly why I prefer not engaging with people in my own work. If were to engage with them, like in that tree branch example, I would make them see and speak the way I do, as informed by the wealth of knowledge that I have about this and/or that, instead of how they do. The focus is not on what this and/or that is, nor on what people say or see, but rather on how this and/or that comes to be, how is the world arranged so that people come to say or see whatever it is that they come say or see. It’s all about apparition, all about the conditions of existence of whatever it is that we are dealing with.

Deleuze clarifies this issue in his second seminar session on Foucault, noting that the combinations or captures he spoke of during the first session allow people to state something and see something, whatever it is that someone speaks of or sees out there, wherever it is that they happen to be. In plain terms, to avoid speaking of the discursive and the non-discursive, so that even a random person attending his seminar can understand it, knowledge has to do with what comes to make sense to people, what can be stated and/or seen, as he points out to his audience. This means that when we speak of something, let’s say delinquency, to use a Foucauldian topic, we are not speaking of something that has an independent existence, something that isn’t socially formed by us for us to speak about it. This also means that when we see something, let’s say a criminal, to stay on Foucault, we do not see him or her, as such, as having an independent existence, as something that isn’t socially formed by us for us to speak about it, as such. To reiterate an earlier point, this is why there is no truth, as such, only knowledge which conditions what can be said and what can be seen, as Deleuze summarizes this issue. This is also why Jäger and Maier (114) state that “linguistically and non-linguistically performed practices and materializations are connected by knowledge”, which is, in turn, discursive, albeit never merely reducible to discourse, as Deleuze points out during his seminar sessions. Of course, we also need to remember that knowledge is in turn tied to us, not having an existence without us, which means it is constituted within a network of power relations, as Jäger and Maier (114) remind us. Therefore knowledge is never neutral. It’s always connected to exercises of power and therefore when we analyze something we should take into account who gets to produce knowledge as it is knowledge that comes to define the statable and the visible, what can be said and what can be seen.

Jäger and Maier (115) further comment on knowledge, noting that to make sense of how it is central to what’s been discussed so far, it’s useful to further differentiate between explicit and implicit/tacit knowledge. The former is clearly expressed, made apparent to people through some semiotic mode(s), such as language. For example, various street signs function this way. Okay, sure, you do need to know what, for example, a stop sign is, no doubt about it, but their point is that the knowledge is presented to people, rather than simply assumed to be shared by people, like it is in the case when there is no stop sign, nor yield sign. It is simply assumed that the vehicle to your right always has the right of way. If traffic flows on the left, as it does in some countries, this is then reversed. Nothing about this is, of course, universal, after all, cars are a relatively recent invention. Anyway, the point is that people simply assume that that’s the case. This can, of course, be even more mundane. Their (115) example pertains to how it is considered rude to stare at people, the point being that it isn’t actually explicitly regulated, considered illegal or something, yet people do tend to avoid staring others.

Now, to get on with this essay, Jäger and Maier (113) exemplify dispositives with a figure that involves linguistic and non-linguistic discursive practices, as well as materialized discourse, that is to say both the discursive and the non-discursive. The figure contains a street sign near what appears to be park bench. The street sign tells its reader that loitering is not allowed and that violation of this order is considered an offense. A person is or appears to be, nonetheless, loitering where loitering is not allowed and will lead to prosecution. Police come and take the person away for this violation. Now, their point is that what’s written on the street sign, “No loitering[,] Violators will be prosecuted”, functions as what Deleuze and Guattari (84) call an order-word in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, even in the absence of whoever, what institution, it is that came up with that. It produces an order of things, to, once again, explain this in reference to one of Foucault’s book titles. This is then backed up by the enforcement of this order-word, so it also involves disciple and punish, to explain this in reference to another Foucault’s book title. In words used by Jäger and Maier (116):

“To assign meaning is not a noncommittal, ‘merely symbolic’ act. To assign meaning is to animate whatever one comes across, to re-shape and change.”

Now, of course, their (113) example would remain merely discursive if this didn’t involve materialized discourses, that is to say the non-discursive, which, conversely, cannot be understood without to the discursive. The street sign or what I take to be a depiction of a street sign (in the book it’s just just a rectangular gray box with writing on it) needs an actual context for it to make sense, to be enforceable, unless loitering is considered a punishable offense in general (which I don’t think Jäger and Maier are trying to point out here).

This figure presented by Jäger and Maier to exemplify a dispositive is what Deleuze (34) and Foucault (171) call a diagram in ‘Foucault’ (1988 translation by Sean Hand) and ‘Discipline and Punish: The birth of the prison’ (1995 translation by Alan Sheridan). It’s just another label for dispositive or dispositif, as explained by Deleuze in ‘What is a dispositif’, as contained in ‘Michel Foucault: Philosopher’ published in 1992 (edited and translated by T. J. Armstrong). It’s also what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as the abstract machine in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. I prefer diagram and abstract machine over dispositif or dispotive, but I don’t really care what label gets used as I know what’s what.

Now, what’s presented in the figure presented by Jäger and Maier (113) is intended to exemplify just one dispositive, diagram or abstract machine, but, of course, it’s evident that one cannot make sense of it without knowing a whole host of other things, involving both the discursive and the non-discursive. To be more specific, you need to know what loitering is, why it is or might be prohibited, in general or in specific contexts, who is responsible for the enforcement, how they can be identified, what they can and cannot do, what’s a park, what’s a park bench. Summarizing the example provided by Jäger and Maier (113), it’s impossible to address anything in isolation, be it discursive or non-discursive. You always need to take the specific context into account, which means that to understand one dispositive, you also need to understand other dispositives as it’s all connected, to the extent that it is, of course.

Jäger and Maier (114) move on to point out that Foucault wasn’t really explicit about how one might analyze dispositives (that is to say apparatuses, diagrams or abstract machines, but I’ll revert back to their preferred term). For them (114) this was because Foucault focused mainly on the discursive side, with particular emphasis on linguistically performed practices, namely speech and writing, thus ignoring other semiotic modes, possibly because, like everyone else, Foucault was, of course, a product of his time and place that put emphasis on language. I agree with their view on this, and so does Foucault himself, as he (196-197) points out in the interview. This is exactly why I consider the works of Deleuze and Guattari to be more fruitful for my own purposes, extending the analyses from one semiotic mode to other modes as well. It’s not that language isn’t important because it most certainly is, as I explained in the previous essay. It’s rather that there is, perhaps, too much emphasis on language, which is, of course, very telling of the underlying systematic practices, as Jäger and Maier (114) point out.

Jäger and Maier (116) move on from discourse and knowledge to power, in order to explain how one always needs to pay attention to power relations and exercises of power in discourse and dispositive analysis. This shifts the focus from the simple question of what and the more complex question of how to the not necessarily more complex but certainly more interesting questions of who and why, as I pointed out already in the second paragraph of this essay. I’ve already pointed out that, following Foucault, power is always something that is exercised, from one point to another, for example between this and that person, which is why power is always relational and hence the emphasis on power relations, so I won’t go into detail with this. Of course, this pertains to the question of how, because power explains how discourses and knowledge are produced, as noted by Jäger and Maier (116). That said, it also directs us to who gets to have a say and who doesn’t, as well as why that might be the case. This is the critical aspect that makes Foucauldian discourse analysis and, by extension, dispositive analysis, far superior to the (neo-)Marxist discourse analyses discussed in the previous essay. What’s particularly important about it, and what makes it so great, is the relationality.

When power is relational, something that is exercised, there are no easy answers, no oppressor/oppressed, no good/evil dualities. This means that one needs to address things case by case. The oppressor, the one superior in a particular power relation, may well be also be oppressed, the inferior in another power relation. A bully may also be bullied by someone else, which does not, however, mean that the bully only bullies someone because he is bullied, like in a chain of command, but rather that the bully may bully someone else in a certain context, only to be bullied by someone else, a third party, in another context. It is, of course, possible that there is a hierarchy, a chain of command, like there is in the military, which results in a superior commanding an inferior, which, in turn, results in that inferior commanding his or her inferiors, but that’s because the relations of power happen to be organized that way in that context. Foucault (198) explains this well in the interview:

“[P]ower means relations, a more-or-less organised, hierarchical, co-ordinated cluster of relations.”

Note how he does acknowledge that power can be hierarchical and coordinated, but only more or less so. This means that there is no fixed organization of power, from where power emanates, as he (198) points out in the previous sentence. That said, what’s already in place, how things are organized can well be very hierarchical, which results in top-down exercises of power, as acknowledged by him (200-201):

“In so far as power relations are an unequal and relatively stable relation of forces, it’s clear that this implies an above and a below, a difference of potentials.”

Indeed, but nothing about this is given or fixed, as already pointed out. They may appear as given or fixed, but they aren’t, as he (199) goes on to add:

“Generally speaking I think one needs to look rather at how the great strategies of power encrust themselves and depend for their conditions of exercise on the level of the micro-relations of power.”

Anyway, back to Jäger and Maier (117) who specify the connection between discourse and power:

“As flows of knowledge through time and space, discourses determine the way in which a society interprets reality and organizes further linguistically and non-linguistically performed discursive practices[.]”

I think that’s very well put. I think it’s also worth emphasizing that this applies not only to objects, but also to subjects, as already discussed by the two (112) and reiterated here (117) particularly aptly:

“[I]t is thus not the subject who makes the discourses, but the discourses that make the subject[.]”

Now, to comment on this, this is what makes people go nuts and why, I think, many of those who’ve read my article manuscripts have acted like total a-holes in response to what they’ve read. I really like how Jäger and Maier (117) have the audacity point this out:

“[W]hich may be irritating for those attached to the idea of the uniqueness of the individual[.]”

Oh, burn! It’s exactly this! People go nuts when you point out that, well, they are not unique autonomous subjects. It’s like a switch that gets flipped when I point out that what they think, say, do, see or sense is not of great importance to me, except as effects, as products of discourses. What’s funny about such hissyfits is that people who are attached to the idea of a unique autonomous subject tend to fail to understand that this is not a denial of agency. It’s rather that the focus is on “the constitution of the subject in its historical and social context”, as they (118) go on to point out. They (118) aptly summarize this position on the subject:

“In a nutshell, Foucauldian discourse theory contests the existence of an autonomous subject, but that does not mean that it is against the subject. The active individual is fully involved when it comes to realizing power relations in practice. The individual thinks, plans, constitutes, interacts and fabricates. Individuals also face the problem of having to prevail, to assert themselves, to find their place in society.”

Simply put, a subject is constituted, a product of discourses, but it also plays a role in the constitution of subjects, others, as well as him- or herself, and objects through discourse. This simply means that one is what one is, what one happens to be at any given moment, not what one thinks one is or someone else thinks one is. One is certainly free to do, say, think or see whatever, but only from that position, which is always already conditioned.

On top of this apparent lack of autonomy and individuality, Foucault (94–95) states in the first volume of ‘The History of Sexuality’ (1978 translation by Robert Hurley) that “[p]ower relations are both intentional and nonsubjective”, which means that power is always exercised as having “series of aims and objectives”, yet “this does not mean that it results from the choice or decision of an individual subject” as “it is often the case that no one is there to have invented them, and few who can be said to have formulated them.” He (95) summarizes this by noting that the entire network of power can be characterized as having this “implicit characteristic of the great anonymous.” In ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ he (27) refers to this as “silent murmuring”. Simply put, “discourses are supra-individual”, as Jäger and Maier (118) express it. Sure, they are co-produced by people and thus change all the time, to the extent that they do, of course, but the point is that “no single individual or group controls discourse or has precisely intended its final result”, as they (118) go on to add. Then again, as they (118) specify this, some do have more influence than others, as an effect, as part of the order of things, but no one has full control over discourse. For example, it’s evident that scientists and scholars have a lot of influence over various discourses, but they cannot fully control it, except, perhaps, within their own field. Once something exits their field or discipline, they are impotent with regards to what happens to their work. This is even more evident when that something exits all the fields or disciplines, for example when media reports on their work. This could also be said about how the state operates. There may be a lot of concentrated effort to make sure that people behave in a certain way, but, for some reason, people don’t end up behaving that way. Conversely, some outsider, some random person, may end up having considerable influence over something, even though he or she didn’t really intend it to balloon that way, to become a thing, if you will, as also acknowledged by them (118-119). This is why they (118) choose to quote Foucault as having said that to Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinov in personal communication, as mentioned (187) in their 1982 book ‘Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics’:

“‘People know what they do; they frequently know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does[.]’”

It’s beside the point to attempt to indicate who, in particular, is in position to define and alter discourses and who is not, as well as to calculate the level of their influence. The point Foucault wants to make is that while a system can be highly rigid and thus resistant to any change, it’s not impossible to change. All pipes leak eventually, or so to say. That said, changing something that is highly rigid, possibly highly hierarchical and meritocratic, is, of course very difficult if you do not have what it takes to change the system from within. In other words, as noted by Jäger and Maier (118-119), it’s probably no coincidence that among those who are not on top, only the well educated ones tend to be able drive change. In Bourdieusard terms, outside the elite, they are the ones who have the necessary relevant capital to do so, whereas most people don’t. You need to know the inner workings of the system, it’s weaknesses, in order to poke holes in it, to make it leak.

All this is well and good, but how do you actually do discourse analysis or dispositive analysis? Well, I’d say there’s no one way of doing it, but I’ll cover what they have to say about this in their book chapter. To give you their (119) short answer, you do it by “disentangling the giant milling mass of discourse”, which, I’d say, is a tedious task. To given you the long answer, they (119) indicate that it involves “charting what is said in a given society, in a particular time and place”, focusing on what is said and how it is said, as well as “uncovering the techniques through which discursive limits are extended or narrowed down.” Simply put, you start with somewhere. It doesn’t really matter where you start, because you just have to start and see where that takes you as the process of disentangling various discourses from one another will lead you to all kinds of places. So, yeah, it’s going to be arduous and tedious. You start by taking a close look at what is said and how it is said, while paying attention to how the limits of what’s statable and seeable are produced. This somewhat simple yet time consuming process is followed by “subjecting these workings of power/knowledge to critique”, which, according to them (119) is not a matter of judging the material, stating that this and/or that discourse is good or bad. I’d say that this doesn’t mean that something cannot be good or bad, but you have to indicate to whom it is good or bad. It’s worth keeping in mind that there’s no universality in discourse analysis, only posing as universality, which is exactly what they (119) indicate as what people should be focusing on in discourse analysis:

“It means to expose the evaluations that are inherent in a discourse … and the means by which a discourse makes particular statements, actions and things seem rational and beyond doubt, even though they are only valid at a certain time and place.”

In other words, it’s highly tempting to argue for something, with recourse to some a priori, even though there are no a prioris, only historical a prioris. Your task as a discourse analyst is going through this and/or that discourse, disentangle it or them from others or one another and indicate what this or that discourse deals with and what its role is in a given society, how it plays a role in the creation of a certain order of things. Now, I’d say that this also includes assessing who is involved, but not in the sense that it’s this or that person who said this or that, because that’s rather superficial. Sure, we can point out that it was this or that person who came with up with this or that and expressed it, but that doesn’t address how that person came to come up with it and express it in that time and space and why it came to be held as valid in that time and space. To reiterate an earlier point, this is exactly why I’m not really interested in this or that person, that is to say the subject, what he or she says or sees and, conversely, doesn’t say or see, because what interests me, as a discourse analyst, is how that person comes to be that person, say and see this and/or that. Addressing agency, the who, is therefore really impersonal. I’m therefore more interested in the subject positions, that is to say who gets to be in a position that permits them to say or see this and/or that and who doesn’t get to be in a such position. Now, of course, to work that way, you have to address those positions as well, and how they are formed, yes, through discourse!

For example, in a school environment you have teachers and students, as well as some administrative staff and, perhaps, some maintenance staff, unless they are contractors (which leads us to another path, to another discourse that could be disentangled and evaluated on its own). What’s interesting here is not this or that particular student, teacher, principal or janitor, but what the position affords them and what it doesn’t afford them. You find a similar arrangement in the military, where you have the officers, including the non-commissioned officers who typically rank lower than the commissioned officers, and the troops, those who have no power over anyone, some administrative officers, namely those above a certain rank and medical staff who are given certain rank for their services, and maintenance staff that work as civilian contractors (this also involves a discourse of its own, but let’s not get tangled up with that). Again, what’s interesting here is not this or that soldier, regardless of his or her rank, but what his or her rank affords him or her in the service. These two arrangements are highly rigid, meaning that you are set as this or that, which, in turn, leaves little room for individual maneuvering. This does not, however, mean that there’s isn’t more room for such in other contexts, so that someone may gain more informal or de facto position that makes it possible for him or her to exercise power over others, but rather that in these contexts the positions are fixed and access to them is highly regulated. This also doesn’t mean that people’s opinions over this and that don’t matter, for them, but rather that they don’t matter, to me, inasmuch I’m engaged in discourse analysis as the focus is not on them. I’ve been called out on this aspect, multiple times, but what can I say in response to such (not that I can, because review is typically just a one way street, involving a subordinate/superordinate power relation where I’m the subordinate) except that you’ve chosen to address my work, which consists of what some prefer to call mediated discourse analysis, what Jäger and Maier refer to as dispositive analysis, but, oddly enough, you clearly can’t comprehend it, what it deals with, and thus end up insisting that I should focus on what people have to say about this or that, even though that’s not what discourse analysis is about. It’s only apt that Jäger and Maier (117) cite Foucault (117) has to say about this in a interview with Alessandro Fontana and Pasquale Pasquino, known as ‘Truth and Power’, as also included in ‘Power/Knowledge: Select Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977’:

“One has to dispense with the constituent subject, to get rid of the subject itself, that’s to say, to arrive at an analysis which can account for the constitution of the subject within a historical framework.”

Oh, no, Michel, Michel, did you just say fuck the subject? Yes, you did, you did indeed. So, yeah, remember this, the next time you criticize a discourse analyst for not caring about people’s opinions, Again, this doesn’t mean that people’s opinions aren’t important. They are, for themselves, but that’s not what we are dealing with in discourse analysis, as clearly pointed out by Foucault (117), who goes on to further specify it:

“And this is what I would call genealogy, that is, a form of history which can account for the constitution of knowledges, discourses, domains of objects etc., without having to make reference to a subject is either transcendental in relation to the field of events or runs in its empty sameness throughout the course of history.”

To give some more context to this, he (116-117) is responding to questions pertaining to Marxism and phenomenology, because, as the interviewer or interviewers (117-118) point out (it’s unspecified whether this was asked by Fontana or Pasquino), both “have clearly acted as a screen and an obstacle” for Foucault to overcome in his work. It is also in this context that Foucault (118) addresses why he isn’t fond of ideology:

“[Firstly,] it always stands in virtual opposition to something else which is supposed to count as truth.”

He (118) further specifies this gripe by adding that:

“[T]he problem does not consist in drawing the line between that in a discourse which falls under the category of scientificity or truth, and that which comes under some other category, but in seeing historically how effects of truth are produced within discourses which in themselves are neither true nor false.”

In other words, he isn’t buying this true/false dichotomy, because, for him, that’s already an effect of discourse, of discursive practices that are neither true or false themselves. He (118) also doesn’t like how it functions with recourse to subject:

“[Secondly,] the concept of ideology refers, I think necessarily, to something of the order of a subject.”

Simply put, to have that true/false debate, you need to have the subject in place, which he (117) isn’t buying, as already mentioned. To him (118) it also relies not only on the subject, but also on what might be called the infrastructure, what I believe is typically called the base in Marxist terms:

“Thirdly, ideology stands in a secondary position relative to something which functions as its infrastructure, as its material, economic determinant, etc.”

So, to make more sense of this, he isn’t keen on ideology because it’s an abstraction and he’d rather focus on the what it is abstracted of, staying on the level of the base or infrastructure, to explain that in the Marxist terms, here and now, as opposed to going through it because, I believe, it involves producing a dualism, treating ideology as transcendent or otherworldly, as an a priori. In summary, he isn’t saying yes or no to whether this and/or that is true or false, because, I’d say, for him, this involves a poorly formulated question, a misguided approach, because it relies on a certain presupposition that has not been made evident and addressed. It’s the same with the subject. It relies on a certain presupposition that, at least, would have to be explained prior to making use of it, which, of course, would risk undermining those who rely on it and use it as a starting point. Just imagine that, the hilarity of it, first explaining how the subject, that is to say everyone of us, is a product of discourses, as already pointed out a number of times, and, at best, a co-producer of these discourses, depending on the circumstances, of course, as not everyone gets to have equal input, only to conduct a study where the starting point is, nonetheless, the subject. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t work. Okay, sure you can skip the first part and start from the subject, that is to say not explaining it, but then Foucault is going to Foucault you.

Anyway, back to Jäger and Maier (119) who note that the analyst is not outside discourse. This reiterates the point that we are all products of discourses, regardless of how unique and autonomous we like to think we are. Simply put, the analyst participates in discourse by engaging in discourse analysis, as they (119) point out. What makes the discourse analyst critical is the position or the role of a parrhesiast, someone who expresses his or her views, whatever they may be and whatever they may concern, as a product of various discourses that have made him or her critical to the discursive construction of reality, as loudly and clearly as possible and, most importantly, even when it is inconvenient to others, not only when it is convenient for oneself, and therefore comes with a considerably personal risk, as they (119) go on to characterize it. I agree with their view (119-120) on what the role of the analyst should be:

“Critical discourse analysts should, in our opinion, adopt a democratic attitude, meaning that researchers, audiences, and other actors exchange ideas on equal footing, try to understand each other and are open to modifying their position based on sound arguments.”

The tricky thing with this is, of course, that it’s not that people aren’t capable of this, that they can’t try to understand one another, nor that they can’t modify their views, but rather that people typically aren’t willing to do so, inasmuch as it contradicts their immediate interests. It’s just not desirable to them. That’s exactly what differentiates the parrhesiast, the one who speaks fearlessly, from others, from those who do not speak fearlessly, as further elaborated by Foucault in ‘Fearless Speech’ (published posthumously in 2001, as edited from his lectures by Joseph Pearson).

In terms of methods, well, there aren’t any specific methods that you must or should subscribe to in discourse analysis, nor in dispositive analysis. It’s basically just selecting whatever tools are appropriate for the task. You ask certain questions, whatever they may be, and answer them. The tools are there to help you to achieve that. There’s not right or wrong tool for this and/or that, as such, which means that different tools can be used to achieve the same goal. Some tools may be more useful or easy to use than others, but it all really depends what you are dealing with. For example, when working with nuts and bolts, you probably go for wrenches, because, well, they are made for that task. There are all kinds of wrenches, open- and closed ended ones, as well as adjustable wrenches. They can all get the job done. You could, of course, also do the same with other tools, for example with pliers, or with any makeshift solutions, if you don’t have a wrench or your wrench is the wrong size and non-adjustable, or if you are just adventurous. What matters is that you get the job done.

Before wrapping things up, Jäger and Maier (120-126) dedicate the last part of their book chapter to certain concepts or, should I say specifications, in order to better explain what the analysis often (but not always) looks like. In this part they broaden the terminology to include: special discourses, interdiscourse, discursive limits, discourse strands, discourse fragments, discursive knots, collective symbols, discourse planes, discourse sectors, discursive events, discursive context and discourse positions. They also address all this in terms of space and time, as well as how they form a whole, which is, as you might guess, not an original or final whole, before moving on to give the reader a step by step guide on how to analyze something the way they do.

Anyway, to briefly explain the concepts they (120-126) cover, interdiscourse is just about how discourses never exist in a vacuum, unconnected to one another, even though not all discourses are directly connected to other discourses. Special discourses are also fairly easy to comprehend, consider that, for them, they have to do with the regulation of knowledge in this or that discourse plane, which, in turn, has to do with the social location or situation where and when those discourses come to being, what one could also call genres. Discourse strands are particular flows of discourse that share a common topic and, I’d say, like strands of hair, they can be further divided into a number of subtopics or groups of subtopics. To be clear, for them, a discourse strand has more to do with the actual performance of discourse, the concrete utterances, thus being more textual than discourse, which, in contrast, is more of an abstract concept, dealing with how the constitution of meaning. Discursive limits are also rather easy to grasp, considering that they simply mark the limits of what can and cannot be said, as already mentioned earlier on. Discourse fragments are the textual aspect of discourse strands, what most people would simply call texts or parts of texts pertaining to this and/or that topic. By referring to them as discourse fragments, rather than texts, they want emphasize how, in actuality, the topics and subtopics of various discourse strands are often fragmented, to be found in where you might expect to find them, rather intuitively, but also in where you might not expect them. In other words, each strand of discourse consist of a multitude of fragments. Discourse knots also fairly self-explanatory. They deal with how various discourse strands are connected to one another, how they intersect, forming a nexus or a knot by being entangled with one another at this and/or that point, to this or that degree or level of intensity. Collective symbols pertain to the imagery shared by those are part of the same society, the same collective or discourse community. They are used to make sense of things, to interpret the world by us and/or for us. They can also solidify the connection between knowledge and power through catachresis, by linking different images to one another, for example by connecting immigration with flooding, by presenting immigrants as a wave or a flood, to use their (123) specific example. As you can see, we are no longer merely dealing with discourse. To be clear, a wave is not, in itself, positive or negative, nor is a flood, except when it is understood as involving the risk of drowning or losing ground to being submerged in water, which, in turn, do require actual water and experience of how it functions, how it can indeed result in drowning or losing ground. In fact, a wave can be a positive, despite the potential risks involved. There’s no surfing if there are no waves. This would also be interesting to address in terms of how light is a wave (or is it a particle … and now we are in the quantum realm), but let’s not get carried away here. A flood can also be highly beneficial. Flood plains tend to be highly fertile for agriculture. Anyway, the point here is that how we understand something can be quite fluid (I’m sorry, I just had to go with that, considering all the water examples), connecting this and/or that with this and/or that, in this and/or that sense of it, which extends the discussion from the discursive to the non-discursive, but without making it simply non-discursive either. To me, it’s that partial capture Deleuze mentions in those seminar sessions. Discourse sectors are the sectors of a discourse plane. For example, what they (123) call the mass media plane can be understood as consisting of a number of sectors, such as television, newspapers and the internet, or, alternatively, old media and social media, depending on how one wants to define the sectors. Discursive events pertain to how all events are always discursive, regardless of what events we are dealing with, with particular emphasis on the intensity and the extensity of the events. In other words, yes, all events indeed discursive, there’s no way around that, so, you might as well speak of events and thus reserve what they call discursive events to these specific events marked by how they come to shape discourse in the future. They (124) exemplify this with nuclear accidents, of which the Tree Mile Island accident didn’t come to shape discourse, whereas the Chernonyl and Fukushima accidents did. Discursive context has to do with what discourse strands this and/or that discursive event is linked to, as, I guess, opposed to the actual or non-discursive context in which the discursive event took place. Similarly to the context, discourse positions have to do with one’s participation in discourse, what one’s role is in relation to the (re)production of discourses, as, I guess, opposed to the actual or non-discursive positions that one occupies, as their (125) emphasis appears to be on how one is positioned and positions oneself in relation to knowledge about this and/or that rather than indicating one’s position in a society, having this and/or that occupation, or the like.

With regard to the overall aspect, they (125) note that “[a]ll the entangled strands in a society together form the overall societal discourse” which is never fully homogeneous, but involve homogenizing tendencies. To reiterate their earlier point, they (125) add that one is dealing with a complex network, a net of discourse, which makes only sense, if you think of it, how discourse has these strands, which connect to one another in certain points, thus forming a net if we do not simply focus on just one intersection, just one discursive knot of discourse strands. The task of a discourse analysis is to look at this net, start from somewhere, from some strand, and see how whatever strand you are dealing with is connected to others strands, and so on and so on. Of course, this is easier said than done as presenting it as a net or a network (as in how the strands are worked into a net) may make it appear as a neat arrangement of strands that meet in certain places, knotting, and form a uniform mesh, you know, like a fishing net. This may make you think of it as something rather simple, two dimensional, if you will, when, I think, it would be more apt to think of it as three dimensional, which is why I prefer to think of it as something complex, as a rhizome or as a multiplicity, to explain this in Deleuzo-Guattarian parlance. This is not to say that Jäger and Maier are wrong to call it a net or a network, but rather that regardless of what one calls it, it should not be understood as defined in terms of a pre-existing structure that defines how the strands come to meet one another in knots.

To put this in other words, there’s nothing easy, nothing neat about discourse analysis. You deal with the mess that’s reality or rather the construction of reality, one strand at a time, which means that on top of it not being easy, nor neat, it’s really time consuming. It’s all slowly but nonetheless constantly evolving, so the analysis is basically a never ending task. There are no cookie cutter templates to work with and you can only do so much. There are always more strands to examine and more fragments to take into account. In addition, what you come up with and the way you come up with it may prove to be unpopular, as judged by others who may find it highly inconvenient that you do what you, the way do it, like a parrhesiast. That said, once you get it, once you come to terms with what’s been discussed so far, it’s not actually that difficult. It’s actually fairly easy, quite intuitive really. So, I’d say that the toughest part is getting used to it, coming to terms with it all, not applying it only in your work, that is to say at work, but at all times, regardless of the context, all day, everyday, non-stop, never ceasing to wonder about the conditions of existence. Okay, okay, you are allowed to enjoy life as well, but then again, I don’t see being attentive as being a burden. Those two are not mutually exclusive. As I pointed out, it’s becomes really intuitive, so it’s not like a grind, at all. Sure, it can be inconvenient because there’s no on/off switch, no good/evil dichotomies, just constant open-ended becoming. You replace being this OR that with an arrangement of this/that AND this/that, AND this/that, AND this/that, and so on, and so forth, as Deleuze and Guattari (98) explain this in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. This emphasizes your responsibility, for yourself, for others, for everything really, but, then again, while that may appear to be quite the burden, you eliminate all kinds of burdens that you’ve probably subjected yourself to, like, pride and shame, to name something off the top of my head. To explain this in terms used by Deleuze and Guattari (130), this liberates you from being both the master and the slave at the same time.

Jäger and Maier (118, 126) specify that it is possible to conduct discourse analysis synchronically or cross-sectionally, looking at whatever it is that one is dealing with, here and now or in whatever period of time one wishes to focus on, or diachronically or longitudinally, addressing how and to what extent that has changed over time. The former is, to my understanding, the archaeological approach, whereas the latter is the genealogical approach. Now, you might object to the former because it would appear to be pointless to address anything if everything changes, as acknowledged in the latter approach, but that’s not the case, nor should the these two approaches seen as mutually exclusive. It’s obvious that everything changes, granted, but, as they (126) point out, while “[d]iscourses may change, … normally they do not vanish totally and suddenly”, which means that “discourse analysis allows prognoses.” You get an idea of how things are and how they’ll likely are in the future or, to be more precise, how things come to be the way they appear to us and how they’ll likely come to appear as such also in the future.

In my view, this also applies to dispositive analysis, considering that the focus is not so much on this and/or that discursive formation, nor on this and/or that non-discursive formation, but rather how they come together, forming a whole that is not an original whole, nor a final whole, but the whole of those particular parts, as Deleuze and Guattari (42) define it in the ‘Anti-Oedipus’ (1983 translation by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen Lane). One deals with this and/or that order of things, which can and does change, but, to be honest, not much changes, considering how rigid and bureaucratic societies tend to be. This is why it is possibly for me to do what I do, the way I do it, without merely creating static slices that only pertain to this time or that time and place, as my detractors would like to explain it, as I’m not really even interested in this and/or that place, the people there, nor the arrangement of it all, the order of things, but on the conditions of existence of both the discursive and the non-discursive, as well as their interplay, how one captures the other, resulting in particular arrangements or orders of things.

Jäger and Maier (126) also comment on whether discourse analysis is qualitative or quantitative, arguing that it is primarily qualitative, or, at least typically qualitative, they do not pit one against the other, acknowledging that both serve a different purpose. While they (126) do emphasize how working with fairly little material is sufficient in discourse analysis, considering that the discursive limits tend to be fairly restrictive in any social situation, regardless of the spatial and temporal context that it takes place, they also acknowledge how addressing the frequency of this or that statement can be highly beneficial because it helps us to understand how rigid the system is, considering that a frequently occurring statement “has sustained effects and strongly solidifies a particular knowledge.” This has to do with what Deleuze and Guattari (292-293) refer to as “[t]he constitution of a ‘majority’ as redundancy”, how repeating the same thing reinforces it, despite being, as the term suggests, redundant, containing only what it contains and nothing else in order to get the message across. Claire Parnet (22) explains this well in the first part of ‘Dialogues’ with Deleuze (1987 translation by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam):

“The schema of informatics begins from a presumed maximal theoretical information; at the other end, it puts noise as interference, anti-information and, between the two, redundancy, which diminishes theoretical information but also enables it to overcome noise.”

Simply put, redundancy is like a fail-safe mechanism. For example, if you have data on a drive, it’s exists on that drive and possibly nowhere else. If that drive gets damaged, that data may be lost. That may or may not be a problem, depending on how much of that data exists elsewhere. If the data exists elsewhere, you can simply get a new drive and copy that data to it. The word processor I’m using to write this can, for example, be installed to that new drive without much of a hassle because copies of it exist elsewhere. It’s a different thing when you are dealing with data that does not exist elsewhere, for example, when you take photos. It’s very likely that you are shit out of luck if your camera memory card fails and you don’t have redundancy. This is exactly why you may want to choose a camera that has an extra memory card slot and allows saving the data to both cards simultaneously. You could utilize the extra slot for extra storage, so that you don’t have to swap cards at some point, but then you do not have that redundancy, which could be crucial. I’ve encountered this only once with one of my cameras, but I was lucky that time because that failure didn’t occur during a paid assignment. Had it occurred during a paid assignment, it would have been a problem because I would not have been able to provide what I had promised to provide. Anyway, to get back on track with this, the point is that the more you have redundancy, the more likely it is you achieve what you set out to do. At the same time, the more redundancy you have, the more constraints you impose because you just get more of the same that you might not even need. Deleuze and Guattari (79) provide a good example of this in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

“Newspapers, news, proceed by redundancy, in that they tell us what we ‘must’ thin, retain, expect, etc.”

The point they (79) are making, however, is that redundancy of frequency is not simply about communicating information, relaying this and/or that statement from here to there, from this person to that person and so on and so on, but rather about making sure that what is stated, the communicated information, is what you get and nothing else. So, for example, a newspaper has a certain number of pages of certain physical dimensions, meaning that it can only contain this or that much content. If it’s just more of the same, then that’s what you’ll get. The thing is that you’ll learn to expect it, to get more of the same, and they’ll happily give you more of the same because it appears that it’s what you desire. In other words, one is no longer merely dealing with the redundancy of frequency which wards people from escaping the existing discursive limits, negating such attempts to expand them, but what they (79, 132-133) call the redundancy of resonance or subjective resonance, how the subject comes to think of him- or herself as this or that, to identify as this and/or that, not in his or her own terms but in the terms provided to him or her. On top of that, the resonance is not limited to each person, as subjects come to resonate with one another, together, reinforcing one another, as they (133) point out. This only makes sense, considering that people are co-producers of discourse, as already discussed. This also explains why people tend to act as the master and the slave, at the same time, in case you were wondering what I meant by that. Anyway, Jäger and Maier (126) also make this point about how redundancy functions to reinforce the existing states of affairs, although they don’t go on and on about it, like I do in this essay.

To wrap things up, I won’t go into detail and thus barely summarize the bits I find interesting in the last ten or so pages of their (127-137) book chapter. I’m sure you can read their guides to discourse analysis and dispositive analysis yourself, if they interest you, so I won’t cover them here. Right, there isn’t much left to say, considering that what they cover in the final part of the book chapter deals with just that, how one might engage in discourse analysis and dispositive analysis, except, perhaps, that I agree with their take on how you simply have to start from somewhere, by coming up with a research question to which you’ll select the tools that you find to be apt for the purpose of answering that question. It’s as simple as that, really. Now, they are not saying this, I am, but, as there isn’t a right or wrong way of doing it, as such, you are free to do whatever you want, really. If some other people don’t like what you are doing, the way you are doing it, it’s worth reminding them that it’s not their project, so they don’t get to have say in what you are doing and the way you are doing it, inasmuch it is indeed your project, not their project, nor someone else’s project in which you have to do as those who run and/or fund the project say you must do. Jäger and Maier put more emphasis on justifying all this, which does make sense, fair enough, but, then again, it also make sense to point out what I just pointed out. If it’s your project, you get to do whatever the fuck you want, the way you want, and the detractors can just fuck off. There are people who do understand this, that if you do something, the way you do it, it’s not up to them to tell you that you are looking at the wrong thing or looking at it the wrong way. If it was up to them, then, well, why aren’t they doing it themselves? Why would they get to choose what you do and the way you do it? Why would you live someone else’s life?

I’ll finish this by commenting on a couple of the points they (131-133) make about dispositive analysis, considering it is what lead me to write about this book chapter in the first place. This may seem rather simplistic, but, well, be as it may, the upside of focusing also on the non-discursive, that is to say the materialization of discourses, in addition to the discursive, is that it makes practice very concrete, regardless of the modes of semiotization involved. That said, it is in many ways like discourse analysis, because it is not conducted at the expense of the discursive. It doesn’t mean that you can simple waltz somewhere, make some notes and tell others which objects you saw. Instead, it means that you need to have a lot of knowledge. Because it is through knowledge that you can say experience something, regardless of whether it has to do with statements or visibilities, as Deleuze explains this in his second seminar session on Foucault. So, as Jäger and Maier (131-133) point out, when we examine dispositives, we end up reconstructing knowledge by identifying the materialized discourses, which, itself involves knowing. In other words, you cannot identify this and/or that materialized discourse, unless you know what discourses are involved. They (133) express this very clearly:

“To analyze materializations, the researcher has to rely on his [or her] own and his [or her] fellow researcher’s background knowledge.”

That’s it! That’s it! That’s all you need. Now, of course, as no one is born with knowledge, you need gain it, which means that you need to consult “pertinent literature” and/or ask “users, producers and other persons who are experts on the activities and materialization in question”, as they (133) go on to specify this. What literature you should check and which experts should you consult really depends on what you are dealing with. The same applies to what extend you should read about this and/or that and how much time you should spend consulting with experts. Simply put, if you already are an expert in what you are dealing with, then you simply already have that relevant background knowledge. Conversely, if you don’t know much, then either you should, perhaps, focus on something that you do know, you know, to save your own time, or go through the effort, familiarizing yourself with the relevant discourses, on your own, or by involving people who do know. That said, as they (133) go on to add, having knowledge does not mean that it will stay valid forever once you have it because the knowledge involved is always subject to change. For example, monuments may have been built or erected to honor someone, but, later on they have ended up being taken down because people no longer see them the same way, in the same light as they used to, and they no longer see them the same way, in the same light, because the underlying knowledge has changed, as further discussed in one of my previous essays not long ago. On top of that, as they (133) also point out, it’s worth keeping in mind that knowledge is not truth. Knowledge is not pre-existing structure that gets uncovered. It is is constructed. So, while members of different groups or collectives may share certain knowledge with other groups or collectives, they may also have exclusive knowledge that may not only be exclusive but also mutually exclusive with the exclusive knowledge of some other groups or collectives. For example, it’s only likely that a member of the communist party is happy to see a statue of Lenin, whereas someone who isn’t a member of the communist party may not be too happy about it. That said, they may both share knowledge about the statue, for example when it was put there, who sculpted it, what materials were used etc. Then again, they might not know the details that someone else, like a stone mason or a geologist might know about the materials used. None of this means that they can’t know such, but rather that they’d have to gain that relevant knowledge, by, for example, reading about what materials are used in statues and how one identifies those materials or consulting someone who knows, like a stone mason or a geologist because they know about stone, assuming that we are dealing with statues made out of stone and not, let’s say, some metal.

I think this is enough, for now. I think I’ve covered all there is to know about this, for now. I’ll let you know if I’ll come to know something that I think is worth knowing.

The artist formerly known as CDA

In the last round of review of my article it was recommended that I’d look into discourse and practice, for example by taking a closer look at the work of Theo van Leeuwen, rather than building my own, I’d say, perhaps, at least seemingly, eclectic mix of a bit of this and a bit of that. Now, I have nothing against van Leeuwen, nor his work, and I am aware of what he has done, even though I wouldn’t say that I subscribe to his approach. There are some bits that I agree on and then there are bits that I don’t agree on, which is why I go my own way instead, but not out of disrespect to him, nor to his work, nor to anyone else, nor to the work of anyone else, for that matter. I realize that I may at times come across as disrespectful when I don’t agree with something but, I’d say, that I usually do try to point out what I agree with and what I find useful in other people’s work. My point of contention is rather that I really don’t see why anyone would just adopt someone else’s views, wholesale, and the apply them uncritically, rather than trying to find their own way, to think for themselves. And yes, yes, I’m exactly the kind of guy who, instead of just reading and taking cues from others, reads what other have read and, possibly, what they have read, and so on and so on.

Anyway, so, for some reason, perhaps because the manuscript ought to come out of review, again, soon-ish (not that I know that, considering how things are at the moment), I took a look at the book that was recommended, which then led me to look up something more recent (not that the date of publication is really telling of anything, in itself, except how time works). I landed on ‘The Routledge Handbook of Critical Discourse Studies’ edited by John Flowerdew and John Richardson and published in 2018. As you might expect, it’s sort of a potpourri of a bit of this and a bit of that lumped under the moniker Critical Discourse Studies (CDS) or, as it is better known as, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), which, according to the editors (1) “aims to advance our understanding of how discourse figures in social processes, social structures and social change”, drawing “heavily on social theories” and seeking “to develop a critically contextualized approach to linguistics which identifies issues of ideology, power and inequality as central to our field of studies.”

The editors (1) specify that while CDS is not strictly speaking limited to the empirical or analytical analysis of language, that is to say all things linguistic, it, nonetheless, puts emphasis on language or, rather, language use, and text tends to be the main unit of analysis. In other words, as they (1) point out, “CDS practitioners are united in seeing language as a form of social practice and that its proper focus is in its contexts of use.” So, if you ask me, CDS is basically another label for pragmatics, considering that the editors (1) state that it “is inspired by the work of Austin… and Wittgenstein…” who both emphasize “language as always doing something.” I’d say that I agree with this view. This would make me a practitioner of CDS, not that I care about labels, really, as they are often just territorial pissings.

The editors (1) also emphasize that “CDS is problem-driven (as opposed to theory-driven) and aims to uncover hidden features of language use and debunk their claims to authority”, by making “the implicit explicit in language use.” Now, I’d say that I also agree with this, which would qualify me as a practitioner of CDS, but I agree with this only partially. My own approach is certainly problem-driven or, to put in Bergsonist terms, problematic, rather than theory-driven or theorematic, considering that, for me, theory is really just another word for practice as all knowledge is rooted in practice. The problem for me with theory, or rather using the word theory, is that it tends to assume that by analyzing the world, by examining some empirical particulars, it is possible to uncover how things really are, so that what is called theory is not just a theory, among other theories, but the theory, without any qualification needed to call it that, which, in turn, gets used to explain just about anything. Simply put, my beef with theory is people tend to think of it as separate from practice, when it is not.

I’ve explained this issue pertaining to theory and practice in some of my previous essays, but I’ll do it again, because it is only fitting here. Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze explain this issue well in their recorded conversation that took place on March 4, 1972, as subsequently published in a French journal and, later on, included in, for example, ‘Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews’, an edited volume of Foucault’s work (1977, edited and translated by Donald Bouchard), under the title ‘Intellectuals and Power’. If you ask me, anyone doing CDS, pragmatics, discourse analysis, sociolinguistics or social semiotics, whatever you want to call it for some territorial reasons, should read this (as actually acknowledged by Crispin Thurlow, 338, later on in this handbook), not because they should bow down to some supposedly almighty icons, such as Foucault and Deleuze, but because these two happen to manage to explain this issue so well. Anyway, Deleuze (205) points out that:

“At one time, practice was considered an application of theory, a consequence; at other times, it had an opposite sense and it was thought to inspire theory, to be indispensable for the creation of future theoretical forms. In any event, their relationship was understood in terms of a process of totalization.”

So, this is not the case for Deleuze (205), nor is for Foucault, as he (205) also points out. Foucault (207-208) steers the conversation more towards the role of the intellectual, following Deleuze’s (206) point about how “[a] theorising intellectual, for us, is no longer a subject, a representing or representative consciousness”, which also means that “[r]epresentation no longer exists; there’s only action – theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and form networks.” Foucault (207) agrees with Deleuze and points out, perhaps more clearly than Deleuze, that, contemporarily, the intellectuals are just as in the middle of things as anyone else, “themselves agents of this system of power – the idea of their responsibility for ‘consciousness’ and discourse forms part of the system.” In other words, for Foucault (207-208), the intellectual, or the academic, is not, no longer, in the position to speak for others, to do things for them, but rather “to struggle against the forms of power that transform him [or her] into its object and instrument in the sphere of ‘knowledge,’ ‘truth,’ ‘consciousness,’ and ‘discourse.’” This leads Foucault (208) to state that “[i]n this sense theory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice.” I agree with Foucault on this. Theory is practice. That said, if that’s the case, then what’s the point with using the word theory? Well, Deleuze (208), in agreement with Foucault, states that instead of thinking theory as informed by practice or informing/applying practice, “[a] ‘theory’ is exactly like a box of tools”, simply useful, functional, and, importantly, not for itself, nor for the theoretician, but in general. So, yeah, theory is just something that we do, you know, practice, and it helps people do just that, to practice whatever it is that practice pertains to.

This discussion of theory and practice is also linked to language. Valentin Vološinov (37-38) addresses this in ‘Marxism and the Philosophy of Language’ (1973 translation by Ladislav Matejka and I.R. Titunik) in his discussion of inner speech, how the way we think is not at all unlike speech, in general. For him (14), what makes us humans humans is the use of words, which, highly importantly, operates as “the primary medium of the individual consciousness”, functioning in the role of “the semiotic of inner life”, in short, inner speech. In addition, he (14) also makes note of how words or, well, language, doesn’t require anything except our own bodies and thus it is available to us at all times, hence its centrality in “inner employment”. In fact, in his (15) view, whatever we say or do, in whatever way, that is so say regardless of the semiotic modes in question, is always “bathed by” inner speech, that is to say conditioned by it. This does not, however, mean that, for him (15), you can just jump from one semiotic mode to another, simply substituting one with another. As he (15) points out, “[i]t is ultimately impossible to convey a musical composition or pictorial image adequately in words.” What’s important about this is that one is always acting through language, regardless of how one expresses oneself.

What’s even more important is how, for him (38), the point is that when we think or, for example, speak (by ourselves, out loud) or read, engage in anything, supposedly, solitary, we aren’t acting in a solitary manner, like enacting a monologue, but rather a dialogue. He (93) further specifies this, noting that speech, that is to say speaking out loud, is merely an “outwardly actualized utterance”, “an island rising from the boundless sea of inner speech”. Of course, the problem with inner speech is that, unlike outwardly actualized speech, you can’t research it the way you do it in linguistics because, well, you don’t have anything to record it with and others can’t access your inner speech either, as he (26) does point out.

What I want to take from this, how Vološinov explains this issue, is that words are important but not for the reasons people think they are. As argued by Deleuze, alongside Félix Guattari in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ (1987 translation by Brian Massumi), language is not about communicating information between people. For Deleuze and Guattari (75-77), it is, of course, obvious that communication is involved, as is information, as otherwise there is no transmission, no connection between people, nor anything to transmit to others. This is the point where their (77-78) views converge with CDS or CDA, in the sense that language consist of speech acts or, more broadly speaking, language is about acting, doing things with words, to use J. L. Austin’s formulation. Simply put, as they (76) express it, “[w]ords are not tools”, not because we don’t do things with words, but because, as also explained by Vološinov (14) words are part and parcel of consciousness, how it is that we make sense of anything, regardless of the semiotic modes involved. In other words, to really hammer this home, speech does not involve using language because speech is not something external to language, as summarized by Deleuze and Guattari (78). So, in short, when I say something, or write something, I’m not picking up language, like a tool, to express something that I’ve thought prior to the expression. Instead, I’m simply doing, acting, performing, with my body, as it is. I’m also doing that when I’m just thinking, even though I cannot make that apparent to anyone else because they don’t have access to my inner speech. It’s same if I touch something with my hand. I’m not using my hand, as if it was external to me. I don’t tell my hand to do that, nor do I operate my hand. I just do.

Anyway, following this tangent on theory, it’s time to get back to the introduction by Flowerdew and Richardson. Right, I covered the bit on CDS or CDA being problem-driven rather than theory-driven, problematic rather than theorematic, as also explained in Bergsonist terms by Deleuze and Guattari (362), but not their (1) bits on the goals of CDS or CDA, “to uncover hidden features of language use”, as well as to debunk claims to authority through language use. Now, as I just explained, I don’t agree fully with these aspects of CDS or CDA, not because I don’t agree with those goals, but because in this formulation language is defined as external to people, something that is used, rather than being a matter of performance, something that people act or perform. I also don’t think these are hidden features of language, as such. I’d say that it’s rather that people don’t think about language in this way. For the many language just is, neutral, a matter of using language to communicate information. In this conceptualization of language, it may, of course, appear to them that some features of language use are indeed hidden, but that has to do with that presupposition. So, for me, it’s not so much that language has hidden features but rather that some of its features are hiding in plain sight. They are there, in the open, but you just don’t pay attention to them because they are part and parcel with it. With regard to authority, or, rather how language and authority are connected, I think this would require a bit more clarification as to what it is that this is supposed to mean. The editors (1) do indicate that the goal is “to make the implicit explicit in language use” but that’s still rather vague to me. I’d put the emphasis on the context, rather than language, who it is that is expressing something and to whom it is expressed, what positions people occupy in relation to one another.

So, in summary, thus far, I both agree and disagree with what the editors, Flowerdew and Richardson, define as CDS or CDA. I guess you could say that my disagreements are rather minor, but I’d say they are, nonetheless, rather substantial, consider that my conception of language is (even more) radically performative (, immanent and contingent) in comparison to CDS or CDA, at least inasmuch it is contrasted with the broad definition provided by the editors (1). I think it’s also worth pointing that their definition should not be understood as a definitive definition of CDS or CDA, considering that different people hold different views and they are, I believe, only summarizing these views. I think it’s only likely that some of the people mentioned in the introduction might not agree with their definition or that they’d agree with it, but only to a certain point. Not that it matters that much, but, as a side note, they (2) point out that they came to prefer CDS over CDA as, for them, perhaps, CDA puts too much emphasis on analysis, whereas CDS leaves more room for discussion, including but not limited to “philosophical, theoretical, methodological and practical developments.” That said, much of what is considered CDS is, of course, what is also known as CDA as the name change is a rather recent thing, as the editors (2) point out.

What I’ve found problematic with CDA is apparent in the summary of CDS provided by the editors (2). Firstly, CDS is explained in relation to a number of concepts:

“We study society through discourse, and contextualise (and understand) discourse through an analysis of its historical, sociopolitical and cultural foundations.”

So far, we have ‘society’, ‘discourse’, ‘context’, ‘history’, ‘politics’ and ‘culture’ mentioned, in some shape or form. Anyway, they (2) continue:

“Discourse and language are seen in a dialectical relationship, with social structures affecting discourse and discourse affecting social structure.”

That adds ‘language’, ‘dialectics’ and ‘structure’ to the list. They (2) continue:

“In the former process, while individuals may exercise discursive agency, this is done within the constraints imposed by social conventions, ideologies and power relations.”

This adds ‘agency’, ‘ideology’ and ‘power’ to the mix. They (2) go on:

“In the latter process, rather than merely representing social reality, discourse(s) actually (re)create social worlds and relations[.]”

That’s ‘representation’ and ‘reality’ that gets added to the mix. They (2) have this to add:

“At the same time, discourse is seen as an essential component in the creation of knowledge and meaning.”

So, also ‘knowledge’ and ‘meaning’ get a mention. Now, of course, there are some others, like ‘world’, which might get counted for ‘reality’. Some of these also get mentioned a number of times. For example, discourse is mentioned seven times. Discursive also gets a mention, so that’s eight times that whatever is meant by discourse is mentioned in a single paragraph that, nonetheless, does not include a definition for it. Sure, it’s there, implied, but, then again, wasn’t the task of CDS or CDA to make the implicit explicit? Okay, perhaps I’m getting ahead of things, considering that the editors are, in fact, just summarizing CDS or CDA, but this is, in my view, still somewhat contradictory to the goals of CDS or CDA. How so? Well, if you want to go against inequality, don’t put yourself on a pedestal. This is supposed to be a handbook. It’s not written for fellow practitioners of CDS or CDA, so what’s with the jargon?

I know that’s harshly put, but, as discussed by Foucault and Deleuze in the aforementioned recorded conversation, the way I see it, the task of the intellectual, the academic, the researcher, the analyst, whatever it is that you want to call yourself, is not to speak for the people, but provide them tools to make sense of things on their own. So, instead of providing a list of concepts, explain the concepts and why they are relevant to what it is that you seek to accomplish. I mean CDS or CDA is at least supposedly problem-driven, not theory-driven, as already discussed, so just explain the problem, then the concepts, i.e. the tools that you find most useful for solving the problem, so that the problem can be solved, not only by you, the expert, but by everyone.

The editors (2) do go on to point out that CDS or CDA is indeed like a potpourri, so it’s going to be difficult to pin down what it is that this or that person subscribes to and/or how they explain it all in their work. To get to the point, to repeat the gripe I already mentioned, what, I guess, is my main gripe with CDS or CDA, I just don’t like how all these concepts are presented, not only by the editors (whose job it is just summarize it all) but also by the CDS or CDA practitioners themselves. To be blunt, I’m not fond of explaining discourse as involving a dialectical relationship or as a matter of representation. In my view these don’t mesh that well. That said, I’m not saying you can’t do that, go that route, fine by me, but rather that I’m not for it.

Before I explain what the problem with mixing discourse with dialectics and/or representation, I have to point out the obvious. At this stage, I’m yet to be presented a definition of discourse, which makes it hard for me to assess whether even mentioning it alongside dialectics and/or representation makes sense to me. Alastair Pennycook does everyone a favor by explaining this issue particularly well in his 1994 article ‘Incommensurable Discourses’, published in the journal ‘Applied Linguistics’. While this article was published over 25 years ago and things have certainly changed in the meanwhile, you have to acknowledge that, I’m struck by how things haven’t actually changed that much, by how timely it still is when read it in 2020. Anyway, to summarize this article, he covers three distinct views of discourse. Firstly, in applied linguistics discourse is typically used to explain language use, how language works beyond the sentence level or, to be more specific, how sentences are connected to one another, as a matter of coherence, as he (116-117) points out. It’s worth emphasizing that this definition is very narrow, but also widely adopted, as he (117) goes on to add. I won’t get into the details as I’m sure you can do yourself a favor and read this article yourself, but I’m summarize his (118) main gripe about this definition as having to do with how context is decontextualized even when it is taken into account. What he (119) means by this is how time and place may well be taken into account, but “[t]he language-using subject is seen as a more-or-less autonomous actor who establishes meanings by intention and inference.” Simply put, in this view of discourse context is a mere space-time container which influences the use of language, but not those who are considered to be using it.

Secondly, in response to these limitations, CDS or CDA typically defines discourse as social practice, which, in his (121) view, retains the notion that there is language and then there is language use, but expands it by relating it to other social practices. In other words, the context is no longer decontextualized as the act of using language is seen as a social act and the actor, the person using language, is not cut of from the society, as he (121) goes on to specify this view. In my view, this second view (CDS/CDA) is already a major improvement over the first view (applied linguistics). That said, while this second view remedies the problems undermining the first view, namely the ideal “free-willed subject”, it introduces its own problems that come to define people as mere puppets of society, duped by ideology, as he (126) points out. To be more specific, he (125-126) considers this view to be too deterministic and reductionist. There is emphasis on power relations, how inequality affects who can and can’t do this and/or that, but, in his (215) view, and I agree, it ends up explaining this through “an over-simplified version of society whereby a ‘dominant group’ has power while the ‘oppressed’ do not, and become too deterministic in ascribing causality to socio-economic relations.” This results in “a problematically static view of both language and society” in which what takes place at the micro level, whatever it is that people do, is determined by the macro level, the social structures; “socio-economic relations determine power, power determines ideology, ideology determines orders of discourse, and orders of discourse determine discourse”, as he (126) goes on to summarize the issue. Simply put, as the macro determines the micro, the micro ends up being a mere matter of reproducing the macro, which explains his (126) criticism of the underlying determinism. Now, I’d say that it’s not that there isn’t a tendency for things to remain more or less the same, because I think there is this tendency, but I think this view is far too simplistic, as he (125) also points out. In addition, as he (125) point outs, this view posits “a ‘real’ world that is obfuscated by ideology” and the task of the discourse analyst is then “to help to remove this veil of obscurity and help people to see the ‘truth’”, that is to say to reveal to them that they’ve been duped. In other words, as he (126) goes on to clarify, this view builds on the presuppositions that “there is the real world as opposed to the unreal world”, which is “the real world misrepresented through ideology), and that “there is ideological representation as opposed, presumably, to non-ideological representation”, that is to say that it is possible to represent reality without it being tainted by ideology. This also provides us a definition of ideology, which echoes how Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (96) define it in ‘The German Ideology’ (1970 unspecified translation, 1974 second edition, edited by C. J. Arthur) as pertaining to being “able to distinguish between what somebody professes to be and what he [or she] really is.”

Thirdly, it is possible to follow Foucault in his definition discourse as pertaining to the “practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak”, as he defined by him in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ (1972 translation by Alan Sheridan). But why would you opt for this view? Well, because it “allows for critical analysis while avoiding the reductions and totalizations of more Marxist-based analysis”, as aptly summarized by Pennycook (126). Now, to be fair, not all CDS or CDA practitioners engage in Marxist analyses. In fact, as also acknowledged by Pennycook (126-127), some of the practitioners “explicitly draw on Foucault’s work”. That said, as he (126-17) also points out, at the risk of coming across like some prude purist, those who do draw on Foucault’s work tend to do so at their own peril. For him (127) CDS or CDA practitioners tend to prefer to define “discourse still as a linguistic phenomenon, albeit socially embedded”, determined by ideology, serving the interest of those who have power, and pertaining to “the delimitation and regulation of can be said”. This is in contradiction with Foucault’s definition of discourse which is clearly productive, in the sense that it is concerned with “the production of what can be said.” This may appear like a minor distinction, a matter of emphasis, but it is arguably much more than that. For Pennycook (127) the issue is that CDS or CDA practitioners tend to treat linguistics separate from social sciences, so that it involves linguistic analysis but the social or socio-economic framework is bolted to it, like a side-car. This is not how Foucault defines discourse as his definition treats everything as embedded in discourse, as Pennycook (127-128) also points out. The notion of ideology is also rendered useless by Foucault’s conception of discourse (albeit he does mention it, time to time in his earlier work). As summarized by Pennycook (127), the problem with ideology, vis-à-vis discourse, is that it carries the notion of falsity or falsehood, what is considered to be presented underhandedly to conceal what’s ‘real’ or the ‘truth’ in order to dupe people into acting against their own interests. Foucault’s definition of discourse doesn’t suffer from this because discourse is always a matter of production and what is produced is not defined in these terms, as true or false, but as claims to truth, as Pennycook (128) goes on to point out.

Pennycook (131) summarizes how Foucauldian discourse analysis differs from how it is done in applied linguistics and CDS/CDA:

“It is not concerned with how discourses … reflect social reality, but how discourses produce social realities; it does not look for relationships between discourse and society/politics, but rather theorizes discourse as always/already political; it does not seek out an ultimate cause or basis for power and inequality, but rather focuses on the multiplicity of sites through which power operates; and it does not posit a reality outside discourse, but rather looks to the discursive production of truth.”

Well put, well put. So, yeah, language and discourse are always/already imbued with politics and power. That said, I’d like to point out that this should not be understood as positing that there is no reality in itself, that language and/or discourse is all there is. No, it’s rather that you are always stuck in language and discourse, in the sense that the way we understand reality, what we considered to be real or true, is always defined in relation to what Pennycook (131) calls “the discursive production of truth.”

To get back on track here, to be clear, it’s not that I don’t consider representation to be important, because I think it is. It’s rather that representation is important because it’s part of the dominant way of thinking (dualism, representationalism, essentialism) that Foucauldian discourse analysis seeks to undermine. I don’t know about others but at least I think the task of a discourse analyst is not to just address representations, one after another, to judge whether they are true or false, that is to say to dispel falsehoods or illusions, in order to get to the bottom of things, to reveal the ‘truth’, but to indicate how what people think are representations (of something otherworldly, like ideas or essences) are mere human fabrications (hence the focus on discourse), which can be changed if people think that it’s the best course of action.

Then again, I guess it’s not that uncommon to define discourse in terms of representation. For example, Stuart Hall (72) states that Foucault didn’t study language but “discourse as a system of representation” (bolded in the original) in ‘Foucault: Power, Knowledge and Discourse’, as included in ‘Discourse Theory and Practice: A Reader’ edited by Margaret Wetherell, Stephanie Taylor and Simeon Yates and published in 2001, despite the keen observations that for Foucault discourse is not just about “passages of connected writing or speech” and that it “defines and produces the objects of our knowledge.” No, no, no. Hell no. He did not define it as a system of representation. Foucault is clear on this when he (49) defines discourses in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ as:

“[P]ractices that systematically form the objects of which they speak.”

So, if discourses have to do with the practices which indeed, according to his definition, form the objects, let’s say this table that I’m sitting next to, or, rather, what is meant by table, in general, what on earth do the objects represent, that is to say re-present? To be clear, there are no eternal ideas or essences for Foucault, no things in themselves, so what do the objects represent, that is to say re-present, present again, refer to or stand in for? Now, while I think that Hall (73) is correct about how, for Foucault, there are physical things, what I’d call the non-discursive, and that they are only meaningful to us as objects of knowledge, that is to say discursively, I don’t agree with how “statements about ‘madness’, ‘punishment’ or ‘sexuality’ … give us a certain kind of knowledge about these things” when, “these things” are themselves matters of discourse, that is to say formed through discourse, through certain systematic practices. To be clear, my beef is not with his summary of Foucault’s work, but with how I think he is missing the point. To me, statements can’t give us knowledge of anything, that is to say of any thing, because those things, for example this table or, rather tableness, are themselves our discursive creations. It’s not that they don’t have existence outside language, because they do, but rather that they don’t make sense to us outside language, as Hall (73) does point out. Instead of using a silly example like tableness, Foucault (32) explains this issue in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ in reference to madness:

“[S]tatements belonging to psychopathology all seem to refer to an object that emerges in various ways in individual or social experience and which may be called madness.”

That said, he (32) adds that:

“But I soon realized that the unity of the object ‘madness’ does not enable one to individualize a group of statements, and to establish between them a relation that is both constant and describable.”

In other words, there is no ‘madness’ in itself, just as there’s no ‘tableness’ in itself. He (32) gives two reasons for this:

“It would certainly be a mistake to try to discover what could have been said of madness at a particular time by interrogating the being of madness itself, its secret content, its silent, self-enclosed truth[.]”

Why? Well, he (32) does give us an answer:

“[M]ental illness was constituted by all that was said in all the statements that named it, divided it up, described it, explained it, traced its developments, indicated its various correlations, judged it, and possibly gave it speech by articulating, in its name, discourses that were to be taken as its own.”

So, in short, the object madness or mental illness, materialized as mad people or mentally ill people, is constituted through discourse, by various systematic practices. Following this first reason, he (32) specifies the second reason by adding that:

“Moreover, this group of statements is far from referring to a single object, formed once and for all, and to preserving it indefinitely as its horizon of inexhaustible ideality[.]”

In other words, the formation of objects is not permanent nor localizable to just this or that place. He (32) clarifies this by giving some examples:

“[T]he object presented as their correlative by medical statements of the seventeenth or eighteenth century is not identical with the object that emerges in legal sentences or police action[.]”

So, long story short, discourses are specific to time and place, that is to say to the actual contexts. He (32) further specifies this:

“[S]imilarly, all the objects of psychopathological discourses were modified from Pinel or Esquirol to Bleuler: it is not the same illnesses that are at issue in each of these cases; we are not dealing with the same madmen.”

Indeed, something like ‘madness’ is very broad, as is ‘mental illness’, as is ‘mad people’ or ‘mentally ill people’, and even such broad brush strokes are subject to change, as he points out. Taking all this into consideration, I’m not sure how you could say that for Foucault discourse is a system of representation. What does ‘madness’ or ‘tableness’ refer to? What do they represent? My answer is nothing. So, I’d carefully rephrase Hall’s (73) formulation, so that “statements about ‘madness’, ‘punishment’ or ‘sexuality’” do not to “give us a certain kind of knowledge about these things”, as if there were “these things” that, on their own, made any sense outside discourse, but rather produce what is known as “‘madness’, punishment or ‘sexuality’”, which then come to inform “the rules which prescribe certain ways of talking about these topics and exclude other ways”, thus “govern[ing] what is ‘sayable or ‘thinkable’ about [them], at a particular” spatiotemporal context.

Anyway, back to the introduction. Right, to me, it’s just patently absurd to mix discourse and representation. It’s not only that it doesn’t make any sense to me, being contradictory, but also that it’s just counterproductive. It takes you back to the start. It re-introduces the problem Foucault seeks to solve. So, to be candid, when I see dialectics, be it Platonic or Hegelian dialectics, mentioned alongside discourse, I’m like what in the actual fuck now? No, no, and once more no. It’s the same when people happily mix Marxist concepts with Foucauldian concepts. Now, this does not mean that you can’t or shouldn’t explain things in different terms. You sure can and it can even be really helpful to some readers. I can also appreciate someone who goes all out, like, for example, as a hardcore Marxist. I’ll most likely disagree with such, but I can appreciate such dedication. I particularly appreciate people who examine their own presuppositions, what they build on and why they find it apt to go that route.

I’m just against picking this and/or that concept and just going with it, without explaining how it is that they work alongside one another. I’d say that in many cases they don’t work that well together or they’d need a lot of reworking, a lot of explaining, which is something that you rarely encounter in academic texts, partly because people can’t be arsed to do that, it’s just easier not to, and partly because, apparently, in the digital era, when page count doesn’t count, somehow, page count still counts! Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that you can’t or shouldn’t combine things and/or do your thing, as you see fit. Feel free to reappropriate, pick and mix, be creative, but it’d be great if it was explained what’s from where and how they are used and/or reconceptualized.

To be fair, the editors (2-3) do provide some definitions to some (but not all of the concepts) mentioned earlier. Only the ones that they consider central to CDS or CDA are covered. They (2) state that discourse can be understood as just language, how it is used, in general, or as referring “to a specific set of meanings expressed through particular forms and uses which give expression to particular institutions or social groups”, how language is used in particular, by this and/or that group. In the latter sense, the various discourses of various institutions or social groups, are “recognisable in terms of the ideologies they convey and the linguistic and other semiotic structures through which they are expressed” and they can be expressed in any semiotic mode, not just through language, as they (3) go on to clarify. Okay, okay, I can kind of dig the initial definition of discourse, how it pertains to social groups, how it is that they make sense of this and that, but I’m not fond of how it is then explained with recourse to ideology and (linguistic and semiotic) structure(s). Sure, you can go through that route, but I don’t know why you would, considering that Foucault (49) gives us an apt definition of discourse and discourse analysis in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’:

“[Discourse analysis] consists of not – of no longer – treating discourses as a group of signs (signifying elements referring to contents or representations) but as practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak.”

Sure, it does have to do with language, with words, with signs, but that’s beside the point, as he (49) goes on to point out:

“Of course, discourses are composed of signs; but what they do is more than use these signs to designate things. It is this more that renders them irreducible to the language (langue) and to speech [(parole)]. It is this ‘more’ that we must reveal and describe.”

Indeed, there’s more to discourse than just language as an abstract system or the use of language, the concrete instances of language in use, to put this in Saussurean terms, and, as you can see, Foucault (49) isn’t interested in either of these two, but in something completely different. He (49) is interested in the formation of objects through discursive practices, how it is that language comes to produce this and/or that order of things, to explain this through one his book titles.

Right, back to the introduction. While I can appreciate how the editors (3) explain what they mean by ideology, as “sets of beliefs and values belonging to particular social groups” that underpin discourses and come to affect, if not determine or define, how people engage with one another and the discourses they also engage with, I don’t know why you need to do this, considering that in the Foucauldian sense discourse is already a matter of practice, of interaction, of dialogue rather than dialectics.

To the editors’ credit, the pitfalls of ideology or, rather relying on that concept, are explained in this introduction, albeit more implicitly than explicitly. Following a fairly apt definition of ideology as, well, just good old bullshit, saying one thing instead of another in order to promote or secure one’s interests, commonly known as lying, they (3) make note of how this, supposedly, results in the creation of falsehoods that are against people’s best interests. I guess one should explain alienation, false consciousness and reification here, to properly unpack this, but I’ll let them continue. So, as they (3) put it, the problem with ideology, as it is often defined as, is that the creation of falsity is simply thought of as caused by the existing economic social relations. Simply put, this is far too simplistic. It’s not entirely inaccurate, considering that economic social relations do play a role, no doubt about it, but it’s just too simplistic. Saying that it’s against or contrary to people’s interests is also too simplistic. I reckon that it would be more apt to say that ideology has to do with the interest of some, which, may, of course, be against the interests of others, but that’s not necessarily the case, even if it is often the case. It’s more of a self interested thing, for me, as opposed to against them. I think they also put it well when they (3) state that ideology is superficial falsity rather than genuine falsity, a matter of impressions, how something comes across, hence the bullshit artistry involved. To reiterate an earlier point, I think Marx and Engels (96) explain this really well in ‘The German Ideology’ when they state that it has to do with being “able to distinguish between what somebody professes to be and what he [or she] really is.” Of course, it’s not that people always know what’s what, from what’s being said, but rather that people do know, from experience, that it is possible to say one thing and then do another thing, for rather obvious reasons, because it is or at least appears to be in their interest to do so. For example, people may say nice things to you, not because they like you, but because, for them, it involves the least effort. It might be that they are nice to you not because they want you to like them, to appreciate them, to speak highly of you or something, but because that way they have to spend the least amount of their time, their precious time, dealing with you. It’s nothing against you, as such. It’s just that it’s all about them. Of course, those two things are not, in themselves, mutually exclusive. Again, it’s just whatever benefits them. It’s fine if it benefits you as well, inasmuch it doesn’t take away from them or it doesn’t take away more from them than something else would under some other configuration, for example in the case of dealing with other people instead of you. That’s min/maxing for you.

To get back on track here, I think the problem with ideology is that it doesn’t get you anywhere. You can always point out the obvious when someone is claiming that this and/or that is ideological or a matter of ideology, that is to say an illusion to be dispelled by stating that what they hold to be true, the truth, is, in fact, a mere illusion, something that is said to promote certain interests. I think Foucault handles this issue much better as he turns our attention to the conditions of knowledge, to what counts as true or the truth under what circumstances and who gets to define that. This is exactly why in the conversation with Deleuze he (207-208) points out that the intellectuals, him and Deleuze included, play certain roles in all this, wittingly or unwittingly, whether they want it or not. You can no longer simply oppose something, to struggle against it, without having to acknowledge your own position. You can still act against something, sure, but you can no longer claim to be one of the ‘good guys’, that you are doing it for the greater good or the like. I think this makes you far more responsible because it’s now your neck on the line, not someone else’s. Now you can’t bullshit your way out of it.

The editors (4) also cover hegemony, a concept typically attributed to Antonio Gramsci. Again, in my opinion, like ideology, this concept is unpacked fairly well to the reader by the editors. That said, I’m not overly fond of mixing Marxist concepts with discourse, because, well, to me, it just doesn’t mesh that well it. Foucault offers a very good tool kit that deals with discourse and power (and a plethora of other things), so I’m a bit puzzled why you wouldn’t use those tools from his tool kit. It’s the same with Deleuze and Guattari, in their solo work and in their cooperative work. They offer plenty of good tools to work with. Again, this is not to say that you can’t mix a bit of this with a bit of that or acknowledge that in this or that person’s parlance, this can be explained like this or that, alongside your own explanation. For example, while I’m aware that different conceptual frameworks do not translate, one to one, I can make use of Foucault’s tool kit to explain things, only to point out that someone else would explain this in a similar manner, without mixing the two. In some cases certain concepts transfer and/or translate from one framework to another quite well, without needing reworking, but it’s rarely the case that multiple concepts transfer from one framework or plane, to use the Deleuzo-Guattarian parlance, to another framework or plane without a hitch, because the underlying presuppositions of different frameworks or planes are just different. With regard to hegemony, I actually quite like the concept, but I’d, nonetheless, define it slightly differently, but I’ll get back to it in a bit.

I’m not sure why, for example, someone would discuss discursive power as something separate from the exercise of power, from one point to another, as mentioned by the editors (4) in summary of certain approaches in CDS. Again, in my view, Foucault defines power much better and his definition subsumes any type of exercise of power, be it discursive or not. To be clear, he (94) defines power in ‘The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction’ (1978 translation by Robert Hurley), stating that:

“Power is not something that is acquired, seized, or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away; power is exercised from innumerable points, in the interplay of nonegalitarian and mobile relations.”

In other words, power is, first and foremost, always something that is exercised, from one point to another, which means that it’s relational. He (94) adds that:

“Relations of power are not in a position of exteriority with respect to other types of relationships (economic processes, knowledge relationships, sexual relations), but are immanent in the latter.”

In short, relations of power are immanent, already there, here and now, ready to be exercised from one point to another. He (94) further specifies this:

“[Relations of power] are the immediate effects of the divisions, inequalities, and disequilibriums which occur in the [other types of relationships], and conversely they are the internal conditions of these differentiations.”

So, you can’t separate relations of power from other relations because they are immanent to all relations, here and now. Each exercise of power is depends on the relations of power, the existing conditions relevant to this and/or that situation where the power is exercised. For example, familial relationships come with certain relations of power included in them. The parents are in a superior position in relation to their children and therefore they can exercise power over their children. To make more sense of why that is would require one address “economic processes and knowledge relationships”, that is to say how the adults work to make money while the children are dependent on the adults to provide for them, as assumed to be the correct way of handling things in many societies. As you can see, if you would want to actually examine how that is, you would have to analyze how the system works and what kind of discourses are at play. In other words, as exercises of power are tied to discourses, I don’t really understand why one would speak of discursive power instead of just power.

Foucault’s (94) definition of power also indicates why it is not a matter of ideology:

“[R]elations of power are not in superstructural positions, with merely a role of prohibition or accompaniment; they have a directly productive role, wherever they come into play.”

In other words, power is never negative or destructive. It is always productive. It may, of course, be understood as negative, but only in the sense that one creates or produces destruction or prohibition. He (94) further specifies how power is relational:

“Power comes from below; that is, there is no binary and all-encompassing opposition between rulers and ruled at the root of power relations, and serving as a general matrix-no such duality extending from the top down and reacting on more and more limited groups to the very depths of the social body.”

Now, as he (94) goes on to add, this does not mean that one may not have or end up with certain effects of power that “bring about redistributions, realignments, homogenizations, serial arrangements, and convergences of the force relations”, which, in turn come to play a large role in defining how power can be exercised, which points are deemed superior or inferior in relation to other points. He (94) also specifies that hegemony is a major domination, an effect of numerous exercises of power that sustain it. The point he (94) is making here is that hegemony is never something that is already there. The system isn’t rigged from the start. You may of course have such major dominations but they are effects, sustained by a multitude of power relations and exercises of power. In relation to discourse and discursive formations, another way of explaining this without using the term hegemony, is to speak of what Foucault (191) calls epistemes in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’:

“[E]pisteme may be suspected of being something like a world-view, a slice of history common to all branches of knowledge, which imposes on each one the same norms and postulates, a general stage of reason, a certain structure of thought that the men of a particular period cannot escape – a great body of legislation written once and for all by some anonymous hand.”

And (191):

“By episteme, we mean, in fact, the total set of relations that unite, at a given period, the discursive practices that give rise to epistemological figures, sciences, and possibly formalized systems[.]”

Now, it’s evident from Foucault’s definitions that the emphasis is on the production of knowledge, namely within the sciences or, more broadly speaking, by academics. While I think this is a useful concept, I’d say that it has a limited purchase. It’s useful when we are focusing on the production of knowledge and role of intellectuals or academics in defining our views of the world, which I’ll cover in a moment, but it’s not as useful when addressing discourse in a broader context, for example, in relation to a society and/or its various institutions. So, I’ve come to prefer what he (131) calls a régime of truth in ‘Truth and Power’, an interview conducted by Alessandro Fontana and Pasquale Pasquino, which appears in ‘Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977’, published in 1980 (translated by Colin Gordon, who is also the editor, Leo Marshall, John Mepham and Kate Soper):

“Each society has its régime of truth, its ‘general politics’ of truth: that is, the types of discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true.”

For example, I can say something like the English language doesn’t exist and that’d be true and false at the same time. How so? Well, there’s really no English language, as such, as an eternal otherworldly idea or as an essence, yet people most certainly think that English language exists, so, in a way it actually does exist, but only because people have come to think that it does. Now, it’s worth noting that this is not a matter of choice. People don’t choose to think that the English language exists. It just does. As indicated by Foucault in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ (191) and elaborated in ‘The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction’ (94-95), “power relations are both intentional and nonsubjective.” What he (95) means by this is that “there is no power that is exercised without a series of aims and objectives”, yet, “this does not mean that it results from the choice or decision of an individual subject”. He (94-95) points out that while it is possible to address how this and/or that effect of prior exercise of power has an effect on that calculation, when one extends that assessment well beyond the immediate, here and now, to the entire network of power relations, it is no longer possibly to say that this or that person, group of people or institution is behind that calculation. In other words, the local tactics are easy to figure out and address, but the strategies that coordinate them bear “an implicit characteristic of the great anonymous”, which he (191) also mentions in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ as the “anonymous hand” that is responsible for having written “a great body of legislation”.

Foucault (131-132) specifies in ‘Truth and Power’ that régimes of truth have certain important traits, which I’ll summarize here. Echoing what he covers in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’, contemporarily a régime of truth is based on scientific discourse and the various institutions that produce it. Simply put, people with degrees, scientists and scholars, led by professors, are responsible for the production of what counts as truth. That said, these people, me included (I’ll return to this later on), take part in a system known as academics and typically work in some institution, namely in a university or some research institute. What they do is subject to what Foucault (131) calls “the demand for truth” and “constant economic and political incitement”. In simple terms, scientists and scholars are not supposed to focus on what they find interesting but on what those who give money to pay their salaries or give them grant funding consider to be not interesting but productive, useful in “economic production” and “political power”, as Foucault (131) points out. This is exactly what people who go through job or grant applications want from the applicants, that the production of knowledge has utility. Now, it’s not that research shouldn’t have utility, as that would mean that you’d be choosing to research something on the basis of it having no utility. If it is of utility, then it is. Great. It’s rather that the production of knowledge is conditioned by it. In other words, you only get hired or you get grant money if the outcome of it will have utility. Now, if you didn’t figure this out yourself, this is kind of tricky to comply with, considering that it requires you to indicate the utility of an outcome, which, of course, can’t know in advance. I’ll return to this discussion in a bit.

Before I move on to address resistance, it’s worth adding that, for Foucault (133), a régime of truth is not “ideological or superstructural”. Simply put, while it is clear that it involves major dominations, hegemonic discourses or hegemonies, these are effects, sustained by a multitude of power relations and exercises of power, as I already pointed out.

Moving on. With regard to resistance, according to Foucault (95) in ‘The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction’:

“Where there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power.”

In other words, it might be helpful to think of resistance like you think of it as when applying a force. So, for example, if I run my hand on this table, rubbing my fingers or my wrist against it, my hand does move on its surface, but it also resists it. I can’t even explain what that is, running a hand on a table without there being the table that resists it. I can run my fingernails on the surface, to scratch the table. The table does not wholly prevent or negate the act. It resists it to this and/or that degree. My table happens to be made out of wood, so it’s fairly resistant to scratching but it’s not impervious to it. Some other material might resist it better. Now you might object to this, perhaps by stating that it is possible to move one’s hand about even in the absence of surfaces. Sure, sure. If a wave my hand or swing my arm around, there’s still all that air that resists that act (air resistance), hence the sensation of a gust of air that you can feel around your hand when you quickly move it. You don’t have that sensation unless you have that air. Anyway, my point is that resistance is built into an exercise of power, so that it’s a condition of it. In his (95) words:

“[The] existence [of power relationships] depends on a multiplicity of points of resistance: these play the role of adversary, target, support, or handle in power relations. These points of resistance are present everywhere in the power network.”

Again, you have these points from which power is exercised. They form a network. I realize that this is getting borderline repetitive, but, I guess it’s worth repeating all this for the sake of emphasis. Right so, this why for Foucault (95-96) there is no simple binary when it comes to power, no ruler/ruled, dominator/dominated:

“Hence there is no single locus of great Refusal, no soul of revolt, source of all rebellions, or pure law of the revolutionary. Instead there is a plurality of resistances, each of them a special case: resistances that are possible, necessary, improbable; others that are spontaneous, savage, solitary, concerted, rampant, or violent; still others that are quick to compromise, interested, or sacrificial; by definition, they can only exist in the strategic field of power relations.”

So, like I just pointed out, resistance is tied to the exercise of power in question and the conditions do vary, often quite considerably. This is why he (96) states that:

“[Resistances] are the odd term in relations of power; they are inscribed in the latter as an irreducible opposite.”

Yes, indeed. You can’t have one without the other. So, for example, as I pointed out, I can’t explain scratching a surface without the surface. It doesn’t make sense without it. If move my hand where a table might be but isn’t, I’m not scratching anything, I’m not doing what people would consider to be scratching. Sure, someone could say that I’m then scratching air, but I don’t think people would agree with that, that it’s possible to scratch air. They might say that it’s fair to say that I’m acting out the act of scratching, but I’m not actually scratching anything because air isn’t considered something that can be scratched. So, in a way the force or the exercise of power only makes sense in relation to another force or exercise of power that acts as its opposite, but, importantly, doesn’t negate it. Okay, it could be negated, like if, instead of scratching a table, let’s say, I’d attempt to punch through it. The table would trump my fist, unless the force applied would be great enough. Then again, maybe I just need to punch harder, wear a gauntlet…

So, to return to the introduction, the editors’ (4) discussion of discursive power makes little sense to me if one defines power as Foucault does. They (4) summarize that discursive power can be exercised in three ways, in discourse, over discourse and of discourse. In the first case, in discourse, the exercise of power pertains to the struggle over meaning. In the second case, over discourse, the exercise of power pertains to the struggle over participation in a discourse. In the third case, of discourse, the exercise of power pertains to how discourse plays a role in the exercise of power. To me, while certainly illustrative of how discourse is not separate from power, how knowledge and power are connected to one another, in a reciprocal presupposition, if you will, this is all already contained in Foucault’s (94-96) definition of power. Now, I’m not blaming the editors here, considering that they are simply summarizing the work of other CDS or CDA practitioners. In this case it’s more apt to say that I’m not buying into Anna Holzscheiter’s definition of discursive power, as the definition discussed by the editors is attributed to her. To be fair to her, I can’t really say much about this, considering I’m relying on a second hand, if not third hand account of her definition, considering I’m dealing with a summary of something that is presented in someone else’s work.

As I’m not a total a-hole, dismissive of others, for the sake of it, I opted take a look at Holzscheiter’s 2011 book chapter, ‘The Power of Discourse and the Discourse of Power’, co-written with José Antonio Flores Farfán and included in the ‘The SAGE Handbook of Sociolinguistics’ edited by Ruth Wodak, Barbara Johnstone and Paul Kerswill. Here, in this book chapter, Flores Farfán and Holzscheiter (140) indicate that, for them, the power of discourse has to do with how discourse plays a role in defining power relations, which affects how power can be exercised, which points come to be defined as superior or inferior in relation to another another. This confirms the earlier (of discourse) definition. Their (140-141) power in discourse definition deals with a more localized struggle, how people exercise power over others in interaction. This confirms the earlier (in discourse) definition but this book chapter clarifies how this has to do with studies focusing on interaction. I’d say that it emphasizes the importance of speech acts, what is done in or through language, and the discourses that set the limits, what can and can’t be said and in what ways it can and can’t be said in interaction with others.

Right, moving on, from hegemony and discursive power, to identity. The editors, Flowerdew and Richardson (4), indicate that identity is a central concept in CDS or CDA. As this is a summary, they (4) don’t offer a clear cut definition of it. Instead, they (4) state that, one one hand, identity can be understood as a construct, one that is subject to spatiotemporal change, and, on the other, it is possible to have multiple identities. They (4) also point out that, on one hand, identity can be understood as a manifestation of practice, what it is that people do or act, and, on the other hand, it can be constructed for people, considering that identity is a construct. In other words, it is possible to define identity as whatever it is that you are, at any given time, what you happen to be, without recourse to anything besides what you’ve become, as inspected in that point in time. That’s how I think of it, as a matter of singularity that needs no explanation. It is what it is. I am what I am. Alternatively, identity can be understood as something fixed, either pre-existing or created. In the former sense, identity is truly fixed, an eternal idea or an essence, whereas in the latter sense, it is a construct and thus a matter of discourse. That said, I’d say that people tend to think that identities are eternal or essential and that they represent this and/or that identity. This discrepancy allows identities to be projected on to people, as the editors (4) point out. That’s marketing for you. That’s how you subscribe to identities that are provided for you. To put this in contemporary parlance, that’s how Instagram works.

Following the apt discussion of the conceptual centrality of identity in CDS or CDA, the editors (4) move on to emphasize the importance of critique among the practitioners of CDS or CDA:

“The common goal is to challenge inequitable distribution of power in society through the analysis of discourse which demonstrate such discursive inequalities through an analysis of their texts[.]”

I also think that this is the task of discourse analysis. The way I see it is that it’s pretty much built into it, regardless of whether you dub it as ‘critical’ or not. That said, I don’t agree with what they (4) add to this:

“In this way, specific problems of communication may be resolved, resulting in improved communication.”

What do you mean by “problems of communication” and resolving them? What do you mean by “improved communication”? It’d be great if this was explained. I guess they mean that problems pertaining to language or, rather, language use, as it is at times referred to in this introductory chapter, have to do with a perceived lack of communication or interference in communication. I just don’t buy this view that language is just a matter of successful transmission of information from between people. I also don’t agree with what they (4-5) add to this:

“Following Hegel, however, criticism is not simply a negative judgment, but has a positive emancipatory function. CD[S] thus has a specific agenda in bringing about social change, or at least supporting struggle against inequality[.]”

What if I don’t agree with Hegel? What if I disagree with his dialectics? Also, as discussed by Foucault and Deleuze, in that recorded conversation, what if I don’t agree that the intellectual or the academic should speak for the people? To reiterate the earlier point, the problem with promoting social change is that you risk ending up speaking for the people. On top of that, people tend to assume that intellectuals or academics know better than they do and that they can be trusted. That gives them authority. Now, to be fair, that might work. That might not be a problem. That said, as pointed out by Foucault (207-208) in that recorded conversation with Deleuze, there’s no guarantee that the intellectual or the academic is not a pawn for someone else. Why were you hired? Why wasn’t someone else hired? Who pays your salary? Who gave you that grant money? Why was that grant money given to you, your project or the project you are part of? Why were you, your project or the project you are part of chosen and not someone else or someone else’s project? These are the type of questions that tend to remain unanswered and rarely even asked. As Tim Ingold (385, 391) points out in ‘That’s enough about ethnography!’, as published in ‘HAU: The Journal of Ethnographic Theory’ in 2014, academics are happy to study just about anything, except what goes in the academic world. Pierre Bourdieu addresses this in more detail in his book ‘Homo Academicus’ (1988 translation by Pierre Collier). Similarly to Foucault, Bourdieu (xvii-xviii) points out how academics occupy certain positions in the system, just like anyone else, while emphasizing their prominent position of authority:

“[I]t is not, as it is usually thought, political stances which determine people’s stances on things academic, but their positions in the academic field which informs the stances that they adopt on political issues in general as well as on academic problems.”

To be more specific, he (xviii) adds that:

“The margin of autonomy which ultimately devolves to the specifically political sources of the production of opinions then varies according to the degree to which the interests directly associated with their position in the academic field are directly concerned or, in the case of the dominant agents, threatened.”

Indeed! He (xviii) further specifies this, noting that this also extends to academic publication. He (xviii) points out that academic norms tends to correspond to the positions of academics. Simply put, those in high positions get published but those aren’t in high positions don’t get published. To be more specific, unless you are a household name, you better subscribe to household names, to their ideas and their works. This is why, for Bourdieu (xvii-xviii) academics is a matter of conformity. He (xviii-xix) exemplifies this with how people “like Althusser, Barthes, Deleuze, Derrida and Foucault” were in fact considered heretics, if not heresiarchs, within the academic world and confined to the margins of academia, like barbarians, despite their prominence in the academic circles. What is striking about his (xvii-xix) assessment of the academic world is how those who occupy high positions, typically professors, are the ones who set the terms of what is considered the academic norm, which, in turn, affects who gets hired and in what positions, as well who gains entry to the universities, who gets to supervise students, who gets to sit in the various councils that decide on these things, and who gets to publish in outlets that are considered as proving merit among the possible candidates for this and/or that position. As he (xviii) points out, those deemed heretics or heresiarchs were only given “positions in the university system which often disqualified them from officially directing research” and “were … not allowed to direct” doctoral theses because either they failed to meet the criteria set for a responsible task, either by not having written a thesis (albeit, I guess, they were otherwise highly productive, having written multiple books by that time) or by having written a thesis that was not considered to be written in the canon academic form. How convenient! Now, you don’t need a degree of any kind to figure out the real reason why they were not allowed to do such. I mean, it’s rather obvious that if they get to have a say or supervise students, that heresy will only spread and, well, that ain’t so great for those who occupy the high positions. Surely we can’t have students learn just about anything! That’ll lead to them disagreeing with us and the more there are, the more ground they’ll gain! Heresy! Vile heresy!

To connect this to what I’ve experienced, this is exactly how the academics work. Kowtow your way forward. To connect this to CDS or CDA, as that’s what I’m supposed to be covering in this essay, the reviewer’s suggestion, that I should pick something pre-existing, something like one the frameworks of CDA, is a good example of this. Now, I’m not blaming CDS or CDA practitioners here, considering that I can’t know if the reviewer is a CDS or CDA practitioner or not. It’s rather that even CDS or CDA risks becoming canon, the right way to do research that focuses on both language and society. I realize that it might be easier to just pick something, pay tribute to this and/or that author, some established name or names in the field or discipline, but that’s the kind of attitude and practice that I vehemently oppose. That’s what I call being critical!

Now, of course, I acknowledge that you might point out that I’m in the habit of paying tribute to well known authors, including the aforementioned heretics or heresiarchs, namely Deleuze, Derrida and Foucault, which I most certainly am in the habit of doing, and thus doing the same. Well, there is a difference here. It doesn’t do me or anyone else any good to pay respect to these guys, not only because they are all dead, but also because they don’t hold any actual sway in the academic circles, because they don’t have loyal followers in high positions. Why? Well, as Bourdieu points out in ‘Homo Academicus’, they weren’t allowed to have followers or disciples because that would run the risk of changing the system, leading to those followers being given more and more prominent positions. I’d also say that they didn’t really even want to have their own disciples. Deleuze certainly hated the idea of having his own school of thought because it would only create zealous disciples who’d be even more dogmatic than the founder of the school, as Claire Parnet (26) points out in the section of attributed to her in ‘Dialogues’ (1987 translation by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam). I love how she (26) points out, in passing, that disciples are sterile and deserve to be so! Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t advocate for sterilization. I think it’s just highly apt to state that disciples are sterile because they are, indeed, unable to give birth to anything new. How so? Well, now, if you have a child with someone, the child is certainly in some ways like you, just as the child is, in some ways, like the other parent, but, nonetheless unlike you or the other parent. If you are sterilize, you literally cannot create something new. Clever!

Anyway, I most certainly haven’t benefited from citing Deleuze, Derrida and Foucault, not to mention other heretics or heresiarchs of equal fame. That’s easy to prove. My record for getting salaried positions and grant money is so piss poor that it’s evident that I’m considered one of the dangerous heretics, if not a potential heresiarch, and a barbarian who should be left to his own devices in the margins, to roam among the beasts. I’d say that I’m being tolerated. Why? Well, the university does get money from anything that I publish and from my doctorate, while I see none of that money. To my knowledge, here the university nets about 100k per doctorate in state funding, plus whatever they get from the published articles contributed by the candidate, minus anything they’ve spent on the candidate, so, in my case the university will bank about 85k from me. That’s about 85 000 reasons why. If I manage to do this, on my own, the system still gains from it by getting money out of it, which they can then allocate to some disciple of some school of thought. That’s why. As they say, it’s about making bank bro!

I like the way Foucault (133) explains this in ‘Truth and Power’:

“The essential political problem for the intellectual is not to criticise the ideological contents supposedly linked to science, or to ensure that his own scientific practice is accompanied by a correct ideology, but that of ascertaining the possibility of constituting a new politics of truth.”

Yes, as already discussed, this is the problem with addressing this issue as a matter of ideology. If you claim that you seek to dispel falsehoods, the illusions of ideology, that people are simply not aware of, and promote truth, anyone can do the same to you, to claim that you a mere idealogue. It’s an endless battle over truth, involving someone who points out that he or she knows that what is held as the truth is not the truth and that he or she knows what’s really the truth. That’s dualism for you. This is why Foucault (133) argues that:

“The problem is not changing people’s consciousnesses – or what’s in their heads – but the political, economic, institutional régime of the production of truth.”

Exactly. It’s not about making people aware that they are screwed over. They already know that. Instead, what needs to be addressed are the régimes of truth, how it is that truth is constructed: who are involved, who gets to have a say and why they get to have say. It’s not about who is right or wrong, nor about making sure that no one meddles with truth, tainting it with their desires or beliefs. In his (133) words:

“It’s not a matter of emancipating truth from every system of power (which would be a chimera, for truth is already power) but of detaching the power of truth from the forms of hegemony, social, economic and cultural, within which it operates at the present time.”

Simply put, truth is a power function and, I’d say contrary to popular opinion, it holds too much sway in contemporary societies. This is, of course, something that intellectuals or academics don’t want to address because, as already discussed, no one wants to lose their sweet gigs. In other words, no one involved with something to lose wants to address this issue because the results of studies probing the inner workings of the academic world might make them look bad, complicit and complacent, involved in politics rather than in some noble quest for the truth for the benefit of everyone.

I think it’s worth pointing out that Foucault is not merely suggesting that academics should be reflexive about their position and their background in relation to what they study and what kind of knowledge they produce, but also that they should be critical of the very system they are part of. They should examine how it is that they get to study what they study and to produce knowledge. CDS or CDA is well known for the former but I’d say it’s not known for the latter (not that this distinguishes it from any other field or discipline though). Now, I would go as far as to say that CDS or CDA is run by some clique, as also pointed out by Flowerdew in his (1093) article ‘Description and interpretation in critical discourse analysis’ published in ‘Journal of Pragmatics’ in 1999, in response to such criticism by Hugh Tyrwitt-Drake. I wouldn’t say that people like Norman Fairclough, Teun van Dijk and Ruth Wodak have formed a school of thought. That said, as I pointed out earlier on, it’s not typically big names in the field themselves but those who follow them, the disciples, that come to establish a school of thought, which then results in dogmatism and zealotry. Again, it’s worth emphasizing that this is not something that applies to CDS or CDA any more than it does to any other field or discipline.

To get back on track here, the definitions of discourse, ideology, hegemony, identity and critique provided by Flowerdew and Richardson summarize how these concepts are used in CDS. It’s not entirely clear if these definitions are defined solely by the editors or if others had a say as well. I have a feeling that these are their definitions, considering that dialectics keeps being mentioned and I’m sure not everyone agrees on that, but I can’t say for sure. To be fair, I need to look at their own work to see how they define them. Luckily both have their own chapters in the same book.

Flowerdew’s book chapter, ‘Critical discourse studies and context’, is contained in the ‘Analytical methods’. In the introduction section of his book chapter, he (165) states that “CDS sees discourse as both socially constituted and constitutive”. He (165) clarifies what he means by this by paraphrasing it as involving “a dialectical relation between social context and text.” I’m fine with the initial formulation but not with how it’s then reformulated. Discourse and dialectics. No thanks. Now, I’d be fine if this was formulated in a way that indicates that this is case for him, that this is the way he defines it, instead of presenting it as a given, that that’s the way it is.

While I don’t agree with Flowerdew’s definition, for the reasons stated above, I do like the discussion of context, which is the main topic of his book chapter, as also indicated in the chapter title. I also agree with what he (170-171) states about Occupy, in this case the event that took place Hong Kong in 2014, as a discourse, in the Foucauldian sense of it, or, more broadly as a social practice, given that Foucault (49) does define discourses as “practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak” in the ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’. In this case, the practices discussed by Flowerdew are those systematic practices and Occupy, the event, and the Occupiers, the people taking part in Occupy, are what is formed in the process, in that event. It’s also important to emphasize that he is indeed examining an event, which, according to Foucault can never fully explained, as he (28) points out in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’. In other words, no matter how you try, you can’t explain its meaning, even though, oddly enough, it most certainly involves writing and speech, including what takes place, what has taken place before it and what will take place after it, as Foucault (28) goes on to specify. That said, event does carry a sense or, rather is, itself, the sense. Deleuze (20, 337) explains this well in ‘The Logic of Sense’ (1990 translation by Mark Lester, with Charles Stivale) by exemplifying it with what is known as a Möbius strip. The thing with a Möbius strip is that you can attempt to explain how something that only has one side appears to us as having two sides, like a twisted loop, but actually doesn’t, only to fail at it. The best way to make sense of it, to grasp what’s a Möbius strip, is to literally grasp it, to run your fingers on it, to place it between your fingers, which, oddly enough, technically grasp the same side, while appearing to grasp the opposite sides, so that your fingers are actually next to one another, albeit a considerable distance, and thus not opposite of one another. This can also be explained this in plain terms, for example with a piece of paper with some words on it. That piece of paper could be a poem, but it could also be a recipe, shopping list, or just a note to oneself. How do we know which one it is? What does it mean? If you write down the items you think you need to buy, you end up with, let’ say, five words on that piece of paper, but none of them include ‘shopping list’ or ‘recipe’, how do you know that it’s a shopping list or a recipe? Is it the paper? Well, no. You could replace the paper with something else and it would make sense even to an outsider that this is a shopping list or a recipe. It’s not sum of those words either, because what you get is just a number of words. But how do you know? You just do, yet, you can’t explain how it is that you do.

This was already implied, in reference to the past, but yeah, I also agree with Flowerdew’s take that this discourse doesn’t just pop out of nowhere. Foucault explains this well in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’, when he (28) points out that we must not only focus on this or that statement, what it is, but we must also “grasp the statement in the exact specificity of its occurrence; determine its conditions of existence, fix at least its limits, establish its correlations with other statements that may be connected with it, and show what other forms of statement it excludes.” In other words, putting emphasis on the conditions of existence, “we must show why it could not be other than it was, in what respect it is exclusive of any other, how it assumes, in the midst of others and in relation to them, a place that no other could occupy”, as elaborated by Foucault (28). Simply put, to make sense of something like the Hong Kong Occupy of 2014 and what made people Occupiers, it’s not enough to explain what took place, there and then, and who were involved. To understand something, to make sense of it, it’s necessary to address the conditions of existence. Deleuze and Guattari (194) explain this task well in A Thousand Plateaus’ by positing it in the form of a question: “[w]hatever could have happened for things to have come to this?” This is exactly what Flowerdew (171) is advocating for when he points out that to understand an event like Occupy, one needs to put it into context, not only spatially but also temporally. In that specific case, Occupy is not only about it happening in Hong Kong in 2014. As he (171-173) points out, to understand it and how it came to happen, you also need to look at prior events, which means going through some archive materials, such as pieces of legislation and documents pertain to the process of drafting them, and similar events that have taken place elsewhere, considering that the Hong Kong Occupy is not the only Occupy, nor the only protest, nor are the Occupiers the only protest movement. Much of the Hong Kong Occupy has to do with the history of Hong Kong but the Occupiers’ actions can be understood as containing intertextual or interdiscursive features, such as “slogans, placards, songs, etc.” that refer to prior events that have taken place in Hong Kong and outside Hong Kong, as he (173) goes on to specify. As Deleuze and Guattari (84) explain this, there’s always redundancy at play, which “is why every statement of a collective assemblage of enunciation”, what they also call a form of expression and what Foucault calls a discursive formation, “belongs to indirect discourse”, which, in turn has to do with “the presence of a reported statement within the reporting statement, the presence of an order-word within the word.” In short, as they (84) put it, contrary to popular belief, indirect discourse does not suppose direct discourse. It’s the other way around, so that what we think of as direct discourse is merely an isolated case that is extracted from indirect discourse, as they (84) point out. I think they explain this quite neatly when they (84) state that:

“[T]he collective assemblage is always like the murmur from which I take my proper name, the constellation of voices, concordant or not, from which I draw my voice.”

In other words, it’s not that we pick what we say but rather that what we say picks us. The world speaks through us, so that we are “[s]peaking in tongues”, so that “direct discourse is still the free indirect discourse running through [us], coming from other worlds or other planets”, as they (84) go on to add. I also like how they (84) further explain this:

“To write is perhaps to bring this assemblage of the unconscious to the light of day, to select the whispering voices, to gather the tribes and secret idioms from which I extract something I call my Self … I is an order-word.”

Now, to clarify things, what they mean by order-word, is, for them (76), the elementary unit of language, which is why it is a function present in all words, as they (76, 84) also point out. This function is what is best known as speech act, as they (79) go on to specify, so that each word or statement, whatever you want to call the elementary unit, is a “‘word of order’, in the double sense of a word or phrase constituting a command and a word or phrase creative of order”, as specified by Massumi (523), the translator, in the notes section of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. In short, language creates an order of things, as I pointed out earlier, or, as Deleuze and Guattari (87) point out, “[i]t is the illocutionary that constitutes the nondiscursive or implicit presuppositions.” It is also in this context that they (79) state that:

“The only possible definition of language is the set of all order-words, implicit presuppositions, or speech acts current in a language at a given moment.”

To link this back to the previous bit, even ‘I’ is an order-word, something which redundantly expresses consciousness, as they (84) go on to specify. It appears to be direct discourse, but, it is, fact, indirect discourse, as made apparent by people who experience themselves though an imaginary other and claim to hear voices, such as “‘I heard voices say: he is conscious of life”, as specified by the two (84, 525). Therefore, “performative itself is explained by the illocutionary, not the opposite … [a]nd the illocutionary is in turn explained by collective assemblages of enunciation”, as they (87) explain this in other words. In summary, this means that language is first and foremost social. The individual, the ‘I’, the ‘Self’, the subject, is never the starting point. As Guattari (89) explains this in ‘The Machinic Unconscious’ (2011 translation by Taylor Adkins), there is are no given subjects and objects, no given alterity, only continuous processes of subjectification, objectification and alterification “that stem from particular contexts and micropolitics.”

In his own book, ‘Critical Discourse Analysis in Historiography: The Case of Hong Kong’s Political Identity’ published in 2012, Flowerdew explains his own view of CDS or CDA more thoroughly than what has been mentioned in the editorial introduction with Richardson and in his own book chapter. He (7) points out that “[d]iscourses vary from person to person, because people’s views of the world and relations with it vary, depending upon their individual circumstances.” I agree with this, in the sense that people do differ from one another and so do their views, but only because are members of different social groups or collectives, which, in turn, pushes to them engage in different discursive practices. In other words, I don’t agree with Flowerdew’s (7) points about how “discursive practices reflect subjective understandings of the world” and how “[d]iscourses may present subjective versions of reality” because, as explained by Vološinov (85-89) in ‘Marxism and the Philosophy of Language’, the subject, the ‘I’, the ‘Self’ or the individual, whatever you want to call it, and subjective experience or “individualistic self-experience” always stem from the social groups that one is part of and from the collective “we-experience.” So, as already pointed out, contrary to popular belief, what makes us individual, that is to say different from one another is never given, but the result of individualization or differentiation, as specified by Vološinov (88). Therefore, paradoxically, “[t]he stronger, the more organized, the more diffentiated the collective in which an individual orients himself, the more vivid and complex his [or her] inner world will be.” Edward Sapir (287) exemplifies this well in his 1932 essay ‘Cultural Anthorpology and Psychiatry’, as contained, for example, in volume 3 of ‘The Collected Works of Edward Sapir’ (edited by Regna Darnell, Judith Irvine and Richard Handler) when by indicating that experience is patterned according to, for example, one’s occupation. He (287) isn’t saying that people who have different backgrounds, for example different jobs, can’t understand each other, at all, but that they see the world differently and therefore struggle to understand one another to a certain extent. Other good examples include one’s position within a group, whether one has higher or lower standing, be it, for example, at work or within a family, as pointed out by Vološinov (85). I realize that this may come across as rather pedantic, which, I guess, it is, but I think it’s worth emphasizing that discourse is never subjective (nor objective, for that matter) but rather collective.

Moving on to the next issue, I wouldn’t discuss ideology in the context of discourse, as done by Flowerdew (7). I also wouldn’t define discourses as a matter of representation like he (7) does, for the reasons discussed already. I’m fine with defining CDS or CDA being defined as putting particular emphasis on “linguistic form”, i.e. focusing more on what Deleuze and Guattari (197) define as micropolitics of conversation in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. The emphasis does indeed distinguish it from Foucault’s work, being more specific, but I don’t think it distinguishes it from the work of “other post-structuralists”, at least not all, as argued by Flowerdew (7). While I don’t subscribe to his (7) definition of CDS or CDA as positing “a dialectical relation between macro social structures of discourse and micro linguistic features”, because I think it’s too deterministic, too rigid and involves the micro-macro dualism, I do agree that language is social. I prefer what Deleuze and Guattari (40-41, 217) and Guattari (47-48) call molar organizationand molecular ordering or composition, the former being rigid, segmented and well defined by lines and the latter being supple and rather like flow that is hard to define, as these two “are distinguished not by size, scale, or dimension but by the nature of the system of reference envisioned.” In other words, they are inseparable and everything we deal with involves the molar and the molecular, so, both the people who form the society and the society can be understood as involving molarity (rigidity, segmentarity and linearity) and molecularity (ordering, composition and flow). This means that people can exhibit rigidity, segmentarity and linearity (think of fixed or given identities, being) and ordering, composition and flow (think of dynamic or differentiated identities, becoming). The society can exhibit these two tendencies, by being static (statist, a state) and by becoming nomadic (counter-statist, no state). This also applies to dialogue or conversation, to what Flowerdew (7) considers to be what distinguishes CDA or CDS from other types of discourse analysis, in the sense that it involves both molarity and molecularity at the same time, to varying degree, including “fixed segmetarity, with vast movements of regulated distribution corresponding to the attitudes and positions of each of us” as well as “micromovements, fine segmentations distributed in an entirely different way, unfindable particles of an anonymous matter, tiny cracks and postures operating by different agencies even in the unconscious, secret lines”, as if forming subconversations within conversations, as Deleuze and Guattari (196-197) put it, in reference to Nathalie Sarraute’s ‘The Age of Suspicion’ (1963 translation by Maria Jolas), kind of like undercurrents that run underneath a current, I guess.

Back to Flowerdew (174) who, in his book chapter, adds that context cannot be fully understood if power relations are not addressed. I agree. It is important to know what positions different parties occupy in order to understand an event. It is necessary to address power relations because it helps to understand who gets to exercise power over whom and if it is possible or, rather, feasible to resist the exercise of power. In his (174) case, the authorities are the ones who can exercise power over the protesters, who, in turn may resist in, insofar as they manage to get enough support from local people against the authorities.

Right, I think that’s enough of Flowerdew for one essay. What about Richardson’s views on CDS or CDA then? He discusses CDA in the part of the book titled ‘Social divisions and power’ in his book chapter ‘Fascist discourse’. To make sense of what is meant by fascism, he (447) begins his book chapter by defining it as what stands opposed to “the emancipatory agenda of CDS.” To be more specific, he (447) defines it as involving “power abuse” in its extreme forms and fascist discourse as the way it “is variously represented, enacted, justified and achieved in and through discourse.” Now, as fascinating the discussion of fascism is in his (447-450) book chapter, I prefer the definition provided by Deleuze and Guattari (214) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

“[F]ascism implies a molecular regime that is distinct both from molar segments and their centralization.”

And (214):

“[F]ascism is inseparable from a proliferation of molecular focuses in interaction, which skip from point to point, before beginning to resonate together in the … State.”

The state they mention here is the National Socialist State, but it applies to any State that is totalitarian or dictatorial, as they (214) point out. Soviet Union would another apt example. Anyway, following this distinction, they (214) further specify fascism:

“Rural fascism and city or neighborhood fascism, youth fascism and war veteran’s fascism, fascism of the Left and fascism of the Right, fascism of the couple, family, school, and office: every fascism is defined by a micro-black hole that stands on its own and communicates with the others, before resonating in a great, generalized central black hole.”

In other words, fascism is not a political entity, such as a totalitarian state, the central black hole. Instead, as they (214-215, 230-231) go on to further define it, is a certain nihilistic or suicidal determination of desire to destroy and abolish, to have it your way or the high, take it or leave it, all or nothing. This means that you’ve become blinded by your own clarity, so that everything appears crystal clear, self-evident, which makes you think that you have the license to be the judge, the jury and the executioner, a “self-appointed judge, dispenser of justice, policeman, neighborhood SS man”, as specified by the two (228). This is exactly what makes fascism so dangerous, so cancerous, as they (215, 228) point out. It would be tempting to define it as right-wing politics or ideology, but, as they (215) point out, fascism is everywhere you find people:

“It’s too easy to be antifascist on the molecular level, and not even see the fascist inside you, the fascist you yourself sustain and nourish and cherish with molecules both personal and collective.”

Now, this does not mean that there isn’t a whole history of fascism or historical fascism. There most certainly is. It’s rather that fascism is an everyday phenomenon. I think Foucault (xiii) expresses this well in the preface he wrote for Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘Anti-Oedipus’ (1977 translation by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen Lane):

“[T]he major enemy, the strategic adversary is fascism … the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.”

In summary, what’s important is that fascism is indeed molecular and involves micro-black holes inflicted by monomania, an excessive passional desire for redress, as clarified by the two (121). To be clear, in their parlance, a black hole is what marks the subject, the ‘I’, the ‘Self’, the individual, which, like an actual black hole, sucks everything in it, like in the case of people who, passionally, make everything about themselves, so that it’s just ‘me’, ‘me’, ‘me’.

I’m sure I’ve explained this and used these examples before, but fascism crops up in all kinds of mundane situations, like when you are in a grocery store and need to get something and someone else is blocking you from getting what you are there for, perhaps by blocking your access to it with his or her shopping cart. It’s not really a big deal, like, at all, yet, strangely, you feel that you aggrieved. Fascism is exactly that, when you feel like you’ve been wronged by others and you want to right this wrong, right there, right now! As it’s about a sense of grievance, you are only likely to share it with others, which is why the black holes resonate with one another, as well as with a central black hole in the case of a totalitarian state that seeks make use of this passionality. Of course, the resonance depends on the what it is makes people feel that they’ve been wronged and how deeply that grievance is felt by the people. My everyday example is unlikely to be something that result in much resonance with other people in the shop. That said, I think it’s a good example of what Foucault (xiv) calls the pettiness and “the tyrannical bitterness of our everyday lives” that seeks to consume us. In short, what makes fascism so dangerous, so cancerous, is how common it is.

So, yeah, my take on fascism, itself based on the definition provided by Deleuze and Guattari, is differs quite a bit from Richardson’s (449-450) definition which is, in turn, based on Michael Billig’s definition of fascism. The way I see it, Richardson and Billig define fascism too narrowly as pertaining to extreme nationalism, anti-Marxism, and pro-capitalism. That said, I do agree that fascism is centrally undemocratic and against personal freedoms, considering that, as defined by Deleuze and Guattari, it’s all about asserting oneself without care for the opinions and welfare of others. I also agree with Richardson’s added (449) feature, that fascism is mass movement, in the sense that, as defined by Deleuze and Guattari, the feeling of having been aggrieved has a tendency of resonating with others, which is how it becomes cancerous in a society. It’s also worth noting that Richardson considers the two last features, anti-democracy/anti-freedom and mass nature as what distinguishes fascism and the three first features more how fascism tends to operate, so, in a way, I guess I find myself in agreement with him.

Now, as this essay is really about discourse and discourse analysis, that is to say what is meant by them, I’ll skip the analysis part of Richardson’s book chapter. Given that there’s, what, 41 chapters in this book, in addition to the introductory chapter, that is to say 42 chapters in total, I won’t go through all of them, checking how they define discourse. What I’ll do instead is to turn my attention to Bernhard Forchtner’s (259) chapter ‘Critical discourse studies and social theory’ because it “aims to offer an overview of how the social has been understood, that is of social theory in CDS” or CDA. It’s worth pointing out that his book chapter is indeed an overview. He is explicit about this, considering that he (260) goes on to indicate that he’ll be focusing only on the work associated to Norman Fairclough (Dialectical-Relational Approach, DRA), Teun van Dijk (social psychology / cognition) and Ruth Wodak (Discourse-Historical Approach, DHA). He (260) chooses to focus on them due to their centrality and they “still exert a considerable influence” in CDS or CDA. Feel free to object to that, but it is what it is. He offers only partial coverage and therefore it is only likely that certain things are simplified to some extent. That said, considering that he has to do deal with the limitations of scope, I think he has chosen well here. I’m also going to focus only on discourse related matters in this book chapter, so whatever is not included in this essay is on me.

Right, Forchtner (259) gets things going by pointing out that CDS or CDA practitioners haven’t always been particularly explicit about what kind of theory they build on or from which existing theories or conceptual frameworks they draw from. Later on he (259) adds that this is still largely the case. He (259) states that the practitioners tend to be eclectic, building on various authors, I’d say too many to list and, well, the names aren’t that important either. His (259) point is that while drawing from various authors may be beneficial, resulting in “possible synergies”, there may also be contradictions.

To get somewhere with this overview, he (260) points out that there are two main influences that can be found in the work associated to Fairclough, van Dijk and Wodak: (neo-)Marxism and post-structuralism (namely Foucault). He (260) specifies this, in reference to flow charts in ‘Methods of Text and Discourse Analysis: In Search of Meaning’ by Stefan Titscher, Michael Meyer, Ruth Wodak and Eva Vetter (51), published in 2000, and in the second edition of ‘Methods for Critical Discourse Analysis’ edited by Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer (20), published in 2009. Having taken a closer look at the charts, Forchtner’s summary seems apt. I have to give big thumbs up to him for actually indicating page numbers for these, as opposed to the common practice of just not giving a damn about a reader who might actually want to look things up (I mean, if you indicate that something is from some 500 page tome, without giving me the page number, fuck off, no one is going to spend time going through all that if they aren’t already familiar with the work). Other names also get mentioned, namely Theodor Adorno, Jürgen Habermas, Max Horkheimer and Serge Moscovici, but Foucault and Marx are the ones that are listed as having most influence in CDS or CDA, considering that Critical Theory also has Marxist influences. Skipping ahead, Forchtner (261-262) adds that, among other Marxists, Louis Althusser and Antonio Gramsci have influenced CDS practitioners, namely Fairclough (DRA). He (262-264) also specifies that the initial or first wave of Critical Theorists, namely Adorno and Horkheimer, have had a limited influence among CDS or CDA practitioners, whereas Habermas, a prominent second wave theorist, has had a considerable influence among practitioners of CDS or CDA, especially those who subscribe to DHA.

Moving on, Forchtner (265-266) reiterates how post-structuralists, namely Foucault (but also discourse theorists Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe), are influential in CDS or CDA. He (266) points out that how the concept of ideology is not necessary (nor useful, rather counter-productive, really, if you ask me) for Foucault and those who subscribe to his definition of discourse, because, well, his definition of discourse gets rid of it. That said, as already discussed in greater detail, it is often retained by CDS or CDA practitioners. I’m not sure why that is, but it is what it is. Forchtner (266) also points out that while practitioners of CDS or CDA, namely Fairclough and Wodak (as well as others CDS or CDA practitioners who are not named), take cues from Foucault, they tend to opt for another definition of discourse and power, either because they are considered too abstract or relativist (though I’d say the right term is perspectivalist, not relativist, but, then again, I reckon Forchtner is simply summarizing the criticism, using their terms, so I can’t blame him for calling Foucault a relativist).

Forchtner (268) concludes his book chapter by reiterating an earlier point, noting that rather than simply staying faithful to that’s been done before, in an orthodox fashion, it can be very fruitful to pick and mix. That said, he (268) also acknowledges that it is usually quite perilous to do so, as “it can … lead to a situation in which theories contradict each other at various levels.” I agree. What may seem just like fucking around with concepts can actually be highly productive. It can make you think otherwise. Then again, you have to be careful when you do that. As he (268) points out, if you are not careful, the chances are that you end up contradicting yourself. To put it bluntly, you may end up shooting yourself in the foot. This is exactly why I do not recommend mixing post-structuralism with Marxism. I’m not saying it’s not possible, that there isn’t something that you can take from it and add it to the mix, assuming it makes sense to do so, for whatever reason that may be, but rather that you have to be careful when you do that. For example, I think it makes little sense to retain the concept of ideology alongside the concept of discourse as defined by Foucault because his definition involves no falsity. It’s such a letdown for me when that happens. It’s the same with how he defines power. It perplexes me when people complain that his conception of power doesn’t tell you who the bad guys are when the whole point is that there are no easy answers, no recourse to a neutral third party, to an arbiter of truth responsible for judging what’s good and what’s evil. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t get it. Why would anyone go through all the effort, discuss things in Foucauldian terms, only to reduce the complexity into some overarching binary and make it function like it’s on rails?

Right, I think this enough of CDS or CDA for a while, unless, of course, something hits me after writing this and I just find myself writing more on this topic or something related to it. So, to wrap things up, I both agree and disagree with CDS or CDA practitioners, regardless of the moniker that’s used. I wouldn’t call myself CDS or CDA practitioner either. It’s not that I don’t agree that being critical, or, rather critical of, nor that I don’t engage in discourse analysis, because I most certainly engage in discourse analysis, which, to me, is, in itself, a critical enterprise as it involves refusing to take things for granted, but rather that approach the same issues from a different angle. I like the way Pennycook (132) explains this in his article, how CDS or CDA deals with “‘serious issues’” rather than “dealing with issues seriously”, in the sense that serious issues are certainly addressed, but not how those issues come to be serious in the first place. Opting for a Foucauldian approach to discourse makes it possible to deal with issues seriously because discourse is not, no longer, considered to be about language reflecting social reality, as a matter of representation, but as producing this and/or that social reality, as explained by Pennycook (131). I think you take the analysis to another level when you start looking at “the discursive production of truth” instead of being content with looking at whether this and/or that discourse is true or not, as he (131) also points out.

Not a moment too Yoon

How about something new? How about something refreshing? How about something short this time? Yes, yes and yes. This time I’ll be taking a look at ‘Iconographical landscape warfare’, a very recent 2020 article written by Hong-key Yoon, as published in the journal simply known as Landscape Research.

I think it’s apt to say that this article is refreshing, in the sense that it is refreshing to see this type of work getting published, as opposed to the dreary more of the same, whatever it is that happens to be the latest trend (read: ethnography), as well as in the sense that this is something re-freshed, going back a bit and reworking what I think has been forgotten in the meanwhile. I like that, going back to what people used to do, and making good use of that, rather than just doing what everyone else is doing these days, citing the latest work by people who’ve managed to get elevated on to some pedestal.

Anyway, to be fair, Yoon (428) isn’t saying that you should be doing what he is doing or what someone else is doing just because he is doing it or someone else is doing it, nor that you should do what he is doing or someone else is doing the same way he or someone else is doing it. I think this is one of the strengths of landscape research and, I’d say, geography in general, not that landscape research is the prerogative of geography though (as there’s plenty of interesting landscape research done by people in other fields or disciplines, just as there are people in other fields or disciplines that are also rather open minded).

Yoon (428) points out that people are in the habit of thinking about tensions, conflicts and warfare as something that has to do with the involvement of the military. It’s of course fair to say that armed forces tend to be involved whenever there are tensions, conflicts and warfare, especially if it flares beyond what the police can handle, but that’s not the whole story. What interests Yoon (428) is exactly what people usually don’t think as having to with warfare. It’s all that is bubbling under that interests him in this article. He (428) exemplifies this with how murals and architectural features (for example monuments) are used to claim territory and assert one’s group identity in Northern Ireland. Similarly, graffiti is used to do the same in large cities where gangs tag what they consider as their turf, as he (429) goes on to point out. Of course not all graffiti are drawn and/or painted for sectarian purposes. For example, graffiti can be an act of resistance, as he (429) does point out. It’s the same with murals and architectural features as well. Not all of them have the same territorial function. In addition, the function also depends who we ask, as well as where and when we ask. A work of art, intended as such by the artist, may well be taken as an embodiment of oppression by the people who come to encounter it in their everyday life. Think of statues of certain political figures who were heralded by some, yet hated by others. There’s a reason why monuments, such as statues depicting Lenin, have been subsequently defaced and/or removed from where they once stood. This (type of stuff) is exactly what Yoon wants to focus on in this article, the warfare that takes place in our everyday surroundings, in the landscape. This is why the title of his article is what it is.

I used the example of statues of Lenin, of which my dear Turku actually has one (and so does Kotka, apparently), albeit I reckon it’s more apt to call it a monument rather than a statue as it’s only a bust, but other monuments work equally well as examples. He (429-431) lists Nelson’s Pillar (Dublin, Ireland, destroyed in 1966), Kyŏngbok Palace (Seoul, partially destroyed and partially obstructed during the Japanese occupation of Korea), Buddhas of Bamyan (Bamyan, Afghanistan, destroyed in 2001), as well as similar acts in Iraq and Libya in the early 2000s and 2010s. All of these examples listed by him (429-431) involve a struggle, some antagonism, which results in the alteration of (previously) existing prominent landscape elements. He (431) also notes how this warfare can extend to commercial establishments, such as the rivalry between HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation) and BOC (Bank of China). He (431) also adds that this does not have to be about anything that humans have made and build or put in place to be seen as it can also be about something like trees. For example, some may take offense to the presence of human introduced non-local trees in the landscape, as opposed to local trees. His (431) example deals with One Tree Hill (Auckland, New Zealand), which involves warfare over which type of trees should be present on the site, with activists attempting to cut down trees with chainsaws. Apparently there once stood a lone local tree on the hill, hence its name, but it was cut down by European settlers. The tree was subsequently replaced by another tree, but it wasn’t the same type of tree as the one before, which is why some Māori activists have carried out attacks against it. The point he (431) is making is that while they are just trees, the one before and the one after, to many people they are more than just trees.

Following the listing of a handful of examples, he (431) summarizes the textual or symbolic approach to studying landscapes as not merely a matter of reading the landscape, as in just a text that one reads and that’s it, but as a matter of interpretation or understanding by a textual community or textual communities. The point here is that a text only makes sense, the way it does, to certain groups of people. So, to be clear, the process is never as simple as just reading some words on a page. There’s no meaning inherent to landscape that can be uncovered by any reader if they just try hard enough. There are, of course, meanings, but understanding is always dependent on what Yoon (431) calls a textual community. Note how he is not saying that one’s understanding of the world is objective, nor subjective, but shared, communal or collective.

This textual approach discussed by Yoon in this article is not a new approach, as I already pointed out in the first couple of paragraphs. There are others, but the Duncans, James and Nancy, are, perhaps, the best known advocates of this type of approach in landscape research, as Yoon (428, 431-432) points out. That said, as Yoon (431-432) goes on to indicate, understanding the world textually, as a book has its roots in Christianity, in the Western or Catholic tradition and in the Eastern or Orthodox tradition. In summary, landscape can be understood as book created by God, not in words, but in things, so that to discover God, one must study the world and the things in the world. In other words, the world is, in itself, the Bible. I’d cite St. Augustine here, but, apparently the bit included in this article might be incorrectly attributed to him, so I guess it’s better that I don’t. This is not on Yoon, but rather on Clarence Glacken who relies on Hugh Pope, who, in turn, seems to have muddled the reference as this cannot be found in book 16 of Augustine’s ‘The City of God’. This doesn’t change things though. This is in line with my understanding of this and, I think, Erwin Panofsky also discusses this in ‘Perspective as Symbolic Form’ (1991 translation by Christopher Wood), but I think I’ll cover that another time.

Yoon (432) notes that this textual or discursive approach to landscape research declined following the 1990s and early 2000s. He (432) states that it declined due to the criticism from a number of parties. In summary, advocates of old school landscape geography criticized it for being overly theoretical, to the point of obscurity, and lacking in terms of the data, materialists criticized it for not being critical enough and, most importantly, those subscribing to what is known as non-representational theory (or theories) criticized it for relying on dualisms, that there are distinct spheres of ‘culture’ and ‘nature’, and an underlying assumption that landscape can be read to understand society. Now, to comment on this, non-representational or more-than-representational (as Hayden Lorimer prefers to call it in his 2005 article ‘Cultural Geography: the busyness of being ‘more-than-representational’, as published in Progress in Human Geography) approach or approaches emphasize emotion and affect, but, to me, while they go beyond what’s representational, and I commend them for doing so, some of the work ends up being uncritical of how societies work and how people actually think.

Emma Waterton (71) comments on the pitfalls of non-representational theories in her book chapter ‘Landscape and non-representational theories’ (as contained in ‘The Routledge Companion to Landscape Studies’ published in 2013) noting that there is a risk of being enamoured by it, so that one “may become so enraptured with the freedom of performativity that [one] may lose sight of the ways which difference, power and control also figure within the mix.” In other words, while it’s great that one manages to get out of representationalism, one shouldn’t forget that most people haven’t managed to do that. As she (71) also points out, it’s great to be positive about things, but one shouldn’t forget the negative things, what constrains and marginalizes people in the meanwhile you are all positive about things. I mean I think differently, very differently, in a way what many probably think is just vile heresy. It allows me not to worry about, well, anything really. I just am. I just do stuff (and yes, thinking also counts as doing). That’s it. I don’t judge myself. Others do. I don’t. I understand how judgment works, what’s the logic behind it, so I don’t do it to myself and avoid doing it to others as well. That said, others still do judge people, me included. Sometimes they also force my hand, so that I have to, formally, judge other people. It is, of course, a mere lip service on my behalf. I know what they do and why they do it. Now, while I can work around it, to the best of my ability, it still impacts me, at least to some extent, in the sense that their judgment comes to affect my capacity to affect and be affected, just as my judgment does, if I am forced to judge others, to put this in a Spinozist way. I can’t completely ignore it, no matter how I think differently and don’t agree with it. For example, much of the travesty known as peer review is just judgment which enables people to exercise power over others behind the veil of anonymity. I know how it works and I keep saying that it’s not actually merely broken, something to be fixed, because it was never whole(some) to begin with. The way it works is not caused by a bug in the system. It’s a feature. That said, be as it may, I still have to deal with that POS system. It still has real consequences for me. I shrug it off, have a laugh at it, and move on, but I still have to deal with it.

I’d actually say that not all textual approaches are representational approaches. I’d say that most textual approaches are actually non-representative, inasmuch they are discursive approaches (in the Foucauldian sense) or constructivist / post-structuralist approaches (to use more genetic terminology, given that the terms vary between authors). It’s also crucial to understand that they oppose dualism, that something can be represented, that is to say re-presented, presented again. So, I reckon that the problem with some (but not all) non-represenational or more-than-representational takes is that they tend to ignore how experience is always conditioned by language or, more broadly speaking, semiotic systems, including but not limited to language. Valentin Vološinov (85) explains this particularly well in ‘Marxism and the Philosophy of Language’ (1973 translation by Ladislav Matejka and I.R. Titunik):

“It is not experience that organizes expression, but the other way around – expression organizes experience. Expression is what first gives experience its form and specificity of direction.”

He (28) also comments on this earlier on in the book:

[N]ot only can experience be outwardly expressed through the agency of the sign … but also, aside from this outward expression (for others), experience exists even for the person undergoing it only in the material of signs.”

Simply put, you cannot separate language from experience. The only way you can convey your experience to others is through language or, alternative through other semiotic means, such as through facial expressions, as he (28) points out. More importantly, not only does expressing experience work this way, but so does experiencing. So, in a way you are indeed trapped in language (and a whole host of other semiotic systems). He (28) really likes emphasize this, as you’ll surely notice:

“Meaning is the expression of a semiotic relationship between a particular piece of reality and another kind of reality that it stands for, represents, or depicts. Meaning is a function of the sign and is therefore inconceivable (since meaning is pure relation, or function) outside the sign as some particular, independently existing.”

Pay attention to how he is not saying that this or that word corresponds to this or that object in reality. He (28) really likes to be clear about this:

“It would be just as absurd to maintain such a notion as to take the meaning of the word ‘horse’ to be this particular, live animal I am point to. Why, if that were so, then I could claim, for instance, that having eaten an apple, I have consumed not an apple but the meaning of the word ‘apple.’ A sign is particular thing, but meaning is not a thing and cannot be isolated from the sign as if it were a piece of reality existing on its own apart from the sign.”

To link this back to experience, he (28) states that:

“Therefore, if experience does have meaning, if it is susceptible of being understood and interpreted, then it must have its existence in the material of actual, real signs.”

So, you cannot have experience, in any meaningful way that is, unless it involves a semiotic relationship. To be clear, it does not have to be about language, but it often is, especially when it involves writing. Much of academic work certainly does. Before I jump back to Yoon’s article, I think it’s also worth noting that this also means that there is no distinction between what one thinks, what Vološinov (28-29) calls inner speech, and what one expresses, except a possible change in semiotic modes, which may alter how others come to understand what is expressed. So, as paradoxical or counter-intuitive it may seem, inner speech is best conceived as inner dialogue, an imagined dialogue with someone else, in the absence of someone else, and thus, well, just dialogue, just speech, as he (38) goes on to point out. Crazy shit, eh? Now, why is that? Well, because, “[s]igns emerge, after all, only in the process of interaction between one individual consciousness and another”, that is to say because, “[c]onsciousness becomes consciousness only … in the process of social interaction”, as he (11) expresses it. This is not to say that one cannot conceive a life without thought or inner speech, but rather that, for us, it comes across as simply meaningless, as he (11, 29) points out. In short, you cannot experience anything, the way you do that is, unless someone else has made it possible for you through interaction with you and therefore the way you experience anything is always interactional or dialogical. So, when you think or do something, both being same thing really, considering that any act is an expression, your thoughts or acts are always conditioned by prior experience, which is always shared, communal or collective, considering that experience is always interactional or dialogical.

So, what is a textual community? Yoon (432-433) addresses this because the Duncan’s build on this concept in their work in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Anyway, this concept is attributable to Brian Stock who introduces it in ‘Text, Readers, and Enacted Narratives’, as published in Visible Language in 1986. Stock (294) indicates that it pertains to writing, reading and enacting or performing, hence the title of his article. He (295) defines the concept of a textual community as:

“[The] union of literates and non-literates around the message of a text, written or spoken, with subsequent implications for behavior.”

He (295) exemplifies this definition with how heretical beliefs, held by actual people, are transformed into action through text, religious orders that come to govern people’s life through various rules, revolutionary movements that seek organize people according to a manifesto and technocrats who seek to establish utopias. I realize that this may still be rather vague to you as not many of us are heretics (I most certainly am though! haha!), belong to a religious order or follow the rules set by religious institutions particularly … religiously, take part in revolutionary movements that have actual manifestos that people read and subscribe to, or consider oneself to be a utopian visionary or a follower of a utopian visionary, so this needs a better definition. Stock (295) further elaborates his definition by adding that:

“The norms of bureaucracy, even the agenda of a meeting, can be a ‘textual community’, depending on the relationship between texts and action. Such ‘communities’ are not unusual; they are rather common. And being common, they all the more deserve our attention.”

So, in other words, anything can be a textual community, inasmuch it involves some text, be it written or spoken, somehow conveyed, in whatever shape or form, and comes to affect what do and/or think (as I think that thinking is also doing, albeit people may disagree with me on that). I think it’s also worth emphasizing how, for him (295), communities are common, or everyday, if you will. This reminds of how Vološinov (85) states that expression, whatever it is that someone expresses, one or another, is always “determined by the actual social conditions”, namely by the “immediate social situation”, “the concrete social milieu surrounding us.” These conditions or circumstances of course vary considerably, so that the context is indeed what comes to define the text. So, for example, people speak (or write) to others differently depending on whether or not they consider themselves as members the same social group, same hierarchical standing (employer/employee, parent/child etc.) or as having familial relation (member of the same family), as he (85) goes on to specify. In other words, “[t]he word is oriented toward an addressee” who is never “an abstract addressee”, “a man unto himself, or so to speak”, as he (85) points out.

But what about text then? What is a text? Stock (295) acknowledges that it is tricky to define it, not because it cannot be defined but because it is tied to textual community:

“Trying to move from the text to the textual community is like moving from the philosophy of language to the everyday uses of language.”

In other words, you can’t have a text without the people, the community. If there was text before textual community, text would be something transcendent and the definition of textual community would rely upon it. That would be just top-down, when it’s the other way around, bottom-up. This is not to say that aren’t often fooled to think that text is something transcendent, something beyond, something otherworldly, something that can be tapped into. In his (295) words:

“[O]nce we learn to read and write, we automatically acquire an abstract notion of a text which is independent of our knowledge of particular texts.”

To paraphrase this, we are often fooled to think that text is something that exists on its own, something otherworldly, even though it’s a mere abstraction of our own experiences with reading and writing these and/or those particular texts, engaging in dialogue with them, as Vološinov might explain that. Reading is therefore not a mere one-way street in which an ideal reader, the textual version of the ideal speaker/listener, processes a visual message from some surface, be it a page or, more contemporarily, a screen, but a two-way street, which is why, “[p]aradoxically, to comprehend, [one] must already comprehend” as aptly noted by Stock (297). So, oddly enough, you can understand something because you are part of a network, a textual community, as he (297-298) goes on to point out. In other words, “[w]hat brings people together and makes them act is the articulation of a text within the group and the binding of the group’s behavior to the rules set forth in the text”, as he (299) rephrases it. It is, of course, worth emphasizing, as he (299) does, that textual communities are contextual. This means that one is not a member of one textual community but a number of textual communities, which themselves are subject to change. This is why Vološinov (85) points out that people behave differently in different situations, depending on what roles they come to assume in relation to other people. So, for example, people tend to behave in a certain way at work, but not the same way as would at home when speaking to the members of their family or when buying groceries. On top of that, work place behavior not only depends on what the work involves, as well as how the work place is organized, who does what and in relation to whom, but also on how all that is organized at a given time in a given place. As pointed out by Stock (300), normalcy, what is considered normal or standard behavior, what is expected of people in a certain context, is always historically conditioned. So, for example, sexist behavior was permissible, if not the norm, at work not that long ago, but that’s no longer the case. This does not, however, mean that things have changed everywhere, in every country, nor that sexism doesn’t exist in other contexts, for example, outside the work place.

I like how Edward Sapir explains this in his 1932 publication ‘Cultural Anthropology and Psychiatry’ (as included in ‘The Collected Works of Edward Sapir III: Culture’, edited by Regna Darnell, Judith Irvine and Richard Handler). He (287) states that “[t]he dairyman, the movie actress, the laboratory physicist, the party whip” all share something in common, that which is transparent to all of them, but much of what they say and/or do is opaque to others. In some cases it is also not necessarily opaque to others, but rather contradictory, as (287) goes on to add. Simply put, their occupations, what it is that they do for a paycheck, affects how they come construct their world, as he (287) puts it. This does not, however, mean that they can never come to understand one another. They may understand one another and get along just fine in other contexts. They may also dedicate their time to understanding one another, for example by training themselves in this and/or that occupation.

What about Yoon then? What’s his take on textual community? Well, it’s fairly similar to Stock’s definition. Yoon (433) defines is “‘a group of people who share a common or similar understandings of a text (similarities in varying degree) and are united in taking actions to achieve the common goal’.” He (433) adds that it should not be understood as a mere group of people, people who happen to read it in a certain way that each member of the group happens to share with the other members, but rather as involving people who go on about with their lives, living it in a certain, doing this and/or that, in response or interaction with a text or texts. To make more sense of his definition, he (433) goes back to his One Tree Hill example. He (433) points out that the two textual communities, the one that doesn’t mind the pine tree and the one that does mind it, read the landscape differently and act according to those readings, not because they’ve chosen to do so, to group themselves as for or against, formally declaring their position and self-identifying with a certain community, but because they come to do so, based on their responses to texts they’ve engaged with, their shared collective experience or background, to also explain this in terms used by Vološinov and Sapir.

To make more sense of this, Yoon (433-434) reminds the reader that a reading or the process of reading is never just a one-way street. So, as already explained, when we read something, we engage with what we read. Reading is a two-way street. It’s a dialogue with what we read. Another way of saying this is that the reader projects him- or herself to what he or she reads, as Yoon (433) points out. That said, it’s worth pointing out that what the reader projects to what he or she reads is, in fact, determined in relation to what he or she has read previously or, to put this more broadly, what he or she has experienced previously. So, reading a text is never as simple as it may appear, involving a reader and a text. As a side note, why do I feel like I’ve written about this exact thing before? Moments of wonder… Anyway, reading a text is therefore always intertextual, in the sense that that text is connected to the texts we have encountered before or, more broadly speaking, to our previous experiences. That said, as pointed out by Yoon (433-434), people typically think otherwise, that reading is just a one-way street.

When reading landscapes, the naïve understanding of reading also prevails, as Yoon (433-434) points out. This point is central to this article and, I’d say, to any critical landscape research. People are naïve about their surroundings, not because they have to be that way, but because they are, because they’ve come be that way. So, yeah, as aptly stated by Peirce Lewis (11) in ‘Axioms for Reading the Landscape Some Guides to the American Scene’, as included in ‘The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays’ published in 1979 (edited by Donald Meinig), for the many, landscape just is.

Yoon (433-434) calls the process involved in taking landscape for granted, as given or natural, naturalizing. He (434) juxtaposes this with the process of denaturalizing, which, in turn, involves a critical reaction, a challenge, to what is or has been thought of as given or natural. This may involve a mere reinterpretation of the landscape, altering the reading, as well as altering the landscape, as he (434) goes on to point out. The process of denaturalizing may well be violent and involve destroying various landscape elements, for example, demolishing buildings, as specified by him (434). Denaturalizing can, however, be countered by renaturalizing. In his (434) words, this takes place when what has been denaturalized, that is to say transformed, is not accepted by a textual community. He (434) exemplifies this with how the Kyŏngbok Palace landscape was considered natural, subsequently denaturalized during the Japanese occupation of Korea when the landscape was altered by the Japanese colonial government and renaturalized following the end of the colonial era, when the locals chose to restore the landscape to its former pre-colonial glory.

Yoon does not emphasize this point, but I think it’s worth pointing out here that what is considered natural is by no means natural. What’s considered natural is merely naturalized. It appears natural, but it isn’t, anymore than anything else. This also means that what is subsequently denaturalized and/or renaturalized has never been natural in the first place. This emphasizes the role of the communities and why it is only apt that Yoon calls the tension between different communities and, possibly, within communities warfare. In short, landscape is always political. There is no beginning, nor end. There’s nothing original to it, nor a state of completion. This is why landscape is better thought as always in the making, as a palimpsest, in the sense that in textual terms it is a document that contains some writing on it, some of which has been erased, to varying degree, and subsequently written over, as he (434-435) goes on to point out.

Yoon (435-441) moves on to exemplify landscape warfare but I don’t think it’s necessary for me to go through them. It’s interesting reading, especially because the examples discussed are situated outside Europe, but I’m sure you can do yourself a favor and read these parts yourself. Anyway, I enjoyed this article because it revisits an old theme, something that people seem to have forgotten, and addresses how engaging with landscape is not objective, nor subjective, but collective.

Harvesters, Bodies and Mead!

I thought I’d do something short(er) this time, but, as you’ll quickly notice, that didn’t happen. I had gone through this text before and thought I’d be able to make a quick summary of it, highlighting what I like about it, while also providing some related commentary. I honestly didn’t realize how good this text was until I went through it again, section by section, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence. Anyway, to get to the point, in this essay I’ll be covering Tim Ingold’s 1993 article ‘The Temporality of the Landscape’. It was first published in World Archaeology, but you can also find this in his book of essays published in 2000, ‘The Perception of the Environment: Essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill’, in case you don’t have access to the original. The pagination in this essay is from article version. I’ve mentioned this article in the past and covered in a summary form, but I don’t think I gave him a fair shake by mentioning it in passing.

It’s worth noting that while this article is highly cited and highly touted, I reckon that most people will find Ingold’s views hard to understand, as well as largely disagreeable. He goes against the grain and isn’t afraid to do so. He isn’t appeasing anyone in this article. He does his own thing, boldly and bravely, which is one of the reasons why I like this article. He sets out to do what he wants, in the way he wants and doesn’t spend his time kowtowing to people who might disagree with him. I like this kind of approach because when I read something, I want to read what they have to say about this and/or that, not what they don’t have to say about this and/or that but has been included for the sake of acknowledging people who are typically expected to acknowledged. This is not to say that he doesn’t cite people. He does. It’s rather that he gets to the point. He skips the tiresome literature review, which is typically just about citing people for the sake of citing people who expect to be cited in order for the research to get published. Oh, and don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong about a good literature review. I just prefer literature reviews that are just that, literature reviews, full fledged reviews of existing literature, so that the reader can use that review to get a good idea of what’s what and then read that literature themselves. That serves a purpose, which is not just citing people who expect to be cited in this and/or that discipline or field.

So, Ingold (152) starts by stating that, for him, archaeology is a united enterprise, regardless of what labels it is given, such as social, cultural, biological or physical. His (152) point is that it makes little sense to think of this or that archaeology as a separate entity when it is clear that the different aspects affect one another. The same could, of course, be said about just about any discipline or field. He (152) then jumps to address the title of his article, noting that he focuses on time and landscape in this article. Importantly, his focus is really on how these are related, how time and space should not be addressed separately from one another, as he (152) goes on to point out:

“I believe that such a focus might enable us to move beyond the sterile opposition between the naturalistic view of the landscape as a neutral, external backdrop to human activities, and the culturalistic view that every landscape is a particular cognitive or symbolic ordering of space.”

In other words, there are two things that he would like to get straight. Firstly, he isn’t fond of how landscape is viewed as whatever is there, out there, in the background, treated as a mere synonym to space, which, in turn, is viewed as this container, something in which things are located, this or that close or far from one another. This is very common way of thinking of space and, oddly enough, you find this even in contemporary studies, albeit I ’d say that it plagues linguistic landscape studies more than other types of landscape studies. To make things worse, this way of thinking about space is more of symptom of a way of thinking which is, in itself, the problem.

Secondly, some provide a quick fix by mentioning that space is social or cultural and thus important in itself, in addition to whatever it is that they are addressing. However, to me, that’s not enough because you end up explaining one concept with another concept that is not explained, substituting one hollow abstraction for another hollow abstraction. You thus respond to the criticism that you take space for granted, as a mere container, with recourse to something else that is taken for granted, in the hopes of that the other person shares this view. So, he is against the naïveté of the first view, but he is also against the view where everything is just labeled cultural, social, cognitive or symbolic, without qualifying what is meant by that, how it all works.

Instead of the two views, he (152) proposes something wildly different:

“I argue that we should adopt, in place of both these views, what I call a ‘dwelling perspective’, according to which the landscape is constituted as an enduring record of – and testimony to – the lives and works of past generations who have dwelt within it, and in so doing, have left there something of themselves.”

Okay, okay, I can dig this. I agree with him on this. I don’t know about others, but, of course, landscape is an enduring record of what has been done. In a way, our surroundings are made of these traces of past generations. Some generations have, of course, left more traces than others. The same applies within a generation, so that it only makes sense that some have left more traces than others. Linking this back to his criticism, this third view challenges the first view that all there is is just things in a container, like sandwiches in a lunchbox. Now, to me, he isn’t saying that there aren’t these things, sandwiches in a lunchbox. No, no. It’s just that he wishes to shift our attention from the things, whatever they may be, to how those things came to be. In my example, we have sandwiches (things) in a lunchbox (a container), meant to be eaten for lunch, but those sandwiches did not simply appear in the lunchbox, like out of nowhere. Someone made them. So, the way I see this is that he does acknowledge the things, but what he is interested in the conditions of their apparition, how this or that may have come to being. This shifts our attention from ‘what’ to ‘how’, ‘who’ and ‘why’. Assuming that my take on his criticism of the second view is correct, this third view challenges it in the sense that it is far more specific than the second view. If landscape is presented as just reflecting this or that culture or society or as its ordering of space, it treats culture or society as something superior to actual people, as if existing over and above them, beyond them, regardless of them, yet defining them, which, in turn, fixes them in time. I think this is why he emphasizes the importance of not only addressing landscape as a record of actual people, but as a record of people both present and past. What he wants us to pay attention to is how people change and so does landscape (and culture, society etc.), inasmuch as they do, of course (as the record does endure, and so do our ways of thinking, resisting the change that is, nonetheless, inevitable).

Following his own take on the issue of landscape, which is arguably rather broad, Ingold (152) turns his attention to the details, to how one might actually engage with landscape. He (152) emphasizes the importance of “immediate experience” and “everyday involvement in the world.” He (152) acknowledges that we can’t go back in time, to engage with the world as people did back in the day, whenever it was, because, well, we can’t go back in time and those who could, perhaps, relay that information (assuming that they can just relay it to us, which I think they can’t, as language doesn’t work that way, transparently, as I’ve discussed in my previous essays) are dead. It’s kinda hard to interview dead people! He doesn’t indicate this, but it’s the same with people who are longer present, not because they are dead, but because they have moved elsewhere. They may have left traces of themselves, but it’s unclear who did this and/or that, so we are left guessing. Anyway, for him, this is all beside the point, as he (152) goes on to indicate. Why? Well, because, for him (152), “the practice of archaeology is itself a form of dwelling” in which “[t]he knowledge born of this practice is thus on a par with that which comes from the practical activity of the native dweller and which the anthropologist, through participation, seeks to learn and understand.” To clarify this point, he is not saying that the way a so called native dweller and an archaeologist (any researcher really, but, I assume, here it’s archaeologist because this is published in an archaeology journal) engage with the world are the same, because they are not, as he (153) goes on to explicitly point out. What he (153) is saying is that while their ways of engagement certainly differ (to unspecific varying extent, I might add), they are both engaged in the same project, doing the same thing, as they “both seek to engage the past in the landscape”. In short, as he (152) goes on to rephrase this, “[f]or the archaeologist and the native dweller, the landscape tells – or rather is – a story”, which “enfolds the lives and times of predecessors who, over the generations, have moved around in it and played their part in its formation.” For him (152-153) this means that:

“To perceive the landscape is therefore to carry out and act of … engaging with an environment that is itself pregnant of the past.”

I condensed this, omitting the bit about remembrance and remembering, because, as he (152-153) points out, one isn’t strictly speaking recalling something internal, some internal image, something stored in one’s mind. Instead, one engages with the world which conjures the past, or so to speak. But what then differentiates the so called native dweller, the local, and the archaeologist, the researcher, the expert? The answer to this is kind of obvious. It should not be hard to figure out, albeit, I have to point out that, in my experience, some of my colleagues do fail to figure that out. I’m like … well … the expert has certain advantages that come with his or her background, whatever that may be. When you look at the landscape, whatever is out there, in our surroundings, the expert knows what to look for, for his or her purposes, whereas the local doesn’t. Why is that? Well, firstly, it’s because the expert is trained to pay attention to certain things (being expert at this and/or that). Now, this does not mean that the locals are dumb, that they don’t have knowledge of this and/or that. They are not unworthy. Everyone has some background which pushes them to pay attention to this and/or that, inasmuch as they do, of course. That said, their backgrounds and their knowledge are likely not relevant. How so? Well, by relevant I mean that they may not be relevant to what the researcher seeks to find out by investigating the surroundings. Their backgrounds and knowledge are relevant to themselves, of course, but that’s not, in itself, the same as being relevant to what the researcher seeks to find out. Sure, okay, they can be relevant to the researcher, but only inasmuch that’s what’s relevant to the researcher. For example, if the researcher wants to know what’s relevant to them, then, of course, that’s also relevant to the researcher. It only makes sense. Secondly, in the context of landscape, the researcher is not only an expert in this and/or that, but also an expert in landscape. Summarizing what I’ve covered in many of my previous essays, people are not generally attentive with regard to their surroundings. That’s a core function of landscape. That’s what landscape does to people. So, if I ask the locals to engage with their surroundings, I’m making them do what they don’t do. In other words, by making them do what’s unthinkable to them, I’m no longer dealing with what’s relevant to them, according to their backgrounds, but what I want them to think of as being relevant to them, according to my background.

Now, what I just went on about is my take on what differentiates the local from the researcher. He (153) also argues that one’s training, one’s “education of attention” is important because it guides one “to attend to those clues which the rest of us might pass over”, which is quite literally the case when one deals with archaeology because the clues are located below the surface. He (153) exemplifies this also with hunting, noting that a novice hunter learns from more experienced hunters who help him or her to pay attention to what’s relevant different situations when hunting, albeit some of the stuff one learns on one’s own. The thing with educators is that while they are not strictly speaking necessary, they do facilitate learning in general. So, in short, what differentiates the novice hunter and the experienced hunter is that “the experience hunter is the knowledgeable hunter”, as he (153) goes on to summarize it. That’s what’s what. I don’t get it how some fail to understand this, how the researcher is the one who is experienced and knowledgeable, whereas the local is not. Does this mean that local input is pointless? Again, as I already pointed out, no. Whether it matters really depends on what the researcher seeks to find out, whether it’s relevant to his or her study. If it’s not and thus no help, it’s pointless to ask them for input. That said, if it is relevant to one’s study, then it is and thus it makes sense to involve them. Of course, in the context of landscape, the way I understand it, one still needs to be aware of how one ends up projecting oneself, one’s own experience or expertise on the locals if one involves them, which is exactly why I don’t involve them. I mean, sure, I could involve them, but then they should be treated as experts, like me, because, well, I made them experts. What they have to offer, their knowledge, would certainly be useful to me, but only if it offers something that I don’t already know. So, for example, when it comes to language, semiotics and various social issues, such as gender or socioeconomic matters, they would not be of much use to me. That said, if I were, for some reason, to involve a biologist in a landscape study, that person could be of great use to me because my knowledge of biology is certainly very limited, whereas that person would likely be very attentive to the relevant clues that I would simply not even know how to look for. This is a matter of expertise, how well attuned one is to one’s surroundings, in terms of knowledge in this or that, as he (153) puts it. This makes the split between the experts and the non-experts (non-local/local, outsider/insider, etic/emic) unnecessary, if not counter-productive, because the accounts that one can provide are no more or no less authentic than anyone else’s. What matters is what matters, what it is that one seeks to find out. It’s like coming up with a problem, in a Bergsonist sense (as I’ve discussed in some of previous essays), followed by solving it. No need to hunt for the meaning, the origin, the truth or the like, just solve problems that you find interesting, the way that you finds most apt for the purpose.

Now, to me, this, asserting that there is a clear distinction, a dichotomy between the researcher and, in negation, who isn’t the researcher, is just ill-conceived or, rather, half-baked. I like to be very clear about the fact it was I who did the research. It’s me. Just me. I consider myself an expert, but only in this and/or that area of expertise, whatever it is that I have focused on. I don’t know it all, nor market myself as such. In addition, I think expertise or knowledge should viewed as something that one has to a certain extent. So, yeah, some know more while others know less. It’s not simply a matter of either or. What matters is what others can contribute to the research, to your research. If you know better, then you do and that’s it. If you don’t know better, then you don’t and it might be worth it to include them in your research. That said, if they do contribute, I think that then it should no longer be considered just your research. Then it should be considered a collaboration and the others should be treated as equals, as authors, not as mere informants who end up being mentioned but not getting any credit because you want all the credit for yourself, despite making them do the work, contributing their expertise which you yourself lack.

To further comment on expertise, were I asked to comment on discourses pertaining to flora and fauna, as manifested in the landscape, I’d be like, well, I can’t really say much about that and recommend asking a biologist (a botanist and/or a zoologist, to be more specific). I wouldn’t know enough about that. Could I learn more about that? Yes. Sure. Anyone could. Should I? Maybe, maybe not. I reckon that if it matters enough to me, I’ll find myself learning more about biology, which, in turn would help me in this regard. I could, of course, ask someone who has already done that to do that (instead, or with me, as a collaboration). Similarly, should I engage with surroundings that are entirely strange to me? Well, just because I find the dichotomy half-baked doesn’t mean that I’m advocating for parachuting me to some faraway land that I know little of, to make an authorized record of their way of living, based on my observations. Again, I think I wouldn’t consider myself as having enough expertise in that scenario. Like in the previous example, I’d recommend asking someone else, possibly someone who shares certain expertise with me, but knows more about that specific context. Could I pull it off though? Well, yes and no. If I had to do it right now, if I’d be given little time to familiarize myself with what’s relevant in that context, I’d say no. Then again, if I had all the time in the world so that I could do all that, then sure, I don’t think there’s anything that prevents me from studying some faraway land. I don’t think there’s anything essential that I wouldn’t be able to handle in the long run. Would I do that though? Well, I don’t think it makes much sense. I don’t even know who’d fund such. Why would they? Why wouldn’t they choose someone who wouldn’t have to go through all that. I mean I’d ask them that if they offered me such. Again, it’s not I couldn’t, nor that I shouldn’t, but that it wouldn’t make much sense to me.

To explain this in the terms used by Ingold, something tells me that just because you are an experienced and knowledgeable hunter doesn’t mean that it applies in all cases. Having a wealth of experience in hunting a certain animal doesn’t mean that the experience is applicable in the context of hunting all other animals. Similarly, experience in hunting a certain animal in a certain context doesn’t mean that the experience is applicable in all other contexts. You could certainly learn to hunt another animal or the same animal but in different circumstances, to learn new things and adapt your previous experience and knowledge to a different situation, but that would involve considerable effort. You might want to go through all that, if it’s about you, if that’s what you desire, but it’s, of course, not something that you must do (well, unless your life depends on that or something).

To put this bluntly, in inverse terms, it’s equally problematic to side with the non-experts, to have them express themselves, inasmuch it is understood as supposing that it is essential to do so. To use the hunter example again, it certainly makes sense to involve local hunters, instead of non-local hunters when it comes to hunting this or that animal, locally, in specific circumstances that may not apply elsewhere. That said, there’s nothing essential about the local hunters that makes it so that someone who isn’t one of them, there and then, wouldn’t be able to learn to hunt that animal, in those circumstances. To use the faraway land example, just because I once got criticized for conducting a ‘colonial’ study, in a context that I was born into, grew up in and, later on, worked in, I don’t think that there is anything essential about being local. I keep using that word, essential, because siding with the locals presupposes that there is something inherent about them, this or that group of people, that defines them as such, something that is their essence, which someone who is not one of them cannot ever be, you know, because it’s about the essence. I find this highly problematic because it builds on essentialism (cough, cough, Plato!) It presupposes that there is a fixed identity, an idea or a form, that something or someone is tied to and must conform with. So, in my case, I could argue that no one should study anything Finnish except Finns, because a non-Finn would not be able to understand the essence of Finnishness, considering that they themselves lack in terms of that essence. Now, I find that laughable. It’s such a bad argument that I find it hilarious and stupid at the same time. The what now? The essence of being Finnish! Hahahahhahahaha! It’s like in Plato’s ‘Parmenides’ (1871 translation by Benjamin Jowett) where Plato’s main man, his champion, Socrates, has a moment of clarity, when he finds himself disturbed by the realization that, according to this own logic, everything, even something like hair, mud and filth (dirt), therefore needs to correspond to a pre-existing idea or form, what could also call an essence. To explain the gravity of this issue, this literally means that you can never invent anything. So, for example, the skyr that I just ate after that long run, that Icelandic cultured dairy product, has a fucking corresponding idea, the idea or essence of skyr. Haha! So does this keyboard, this mouse, these headphones, these speakers, this screen, that notepad over there, those cans of beer, all different sizes mind you, the point being that the list is endless, but, if we are to follow this logic, none of these are inventions. I think you should be able to grasp what the problem with this way of thinking is, but, in case you don’t, don’t worry, we’ll return to this soon enough.

You should be able to get the point if you’ve ever done discourse analysis. I mean if you follow the Foucault’s (49) definition of discourse “as practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak”, as presented in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ (1972 translation by Alan Sheridan), you would know that following that definition everything and everyone we deal with is constructed through discourse (statements), albeit not exclusive through it as also needs to taken into account the non-discursive side (visibilities). The titles of his earlier book ‘Les mots et les choses’ or ‘The Order of Things’ are entirely serious and highly apt because he is interested in words (the discursive) and things (the non-discursive), which together create an order of things, the ordering of objects, as he (49) points out in the ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’. I roll my eyes, every single time, every time when some suggests that I do ethnography instead of discourse analysis, when it’s clear that the two are incompatible. It’s like asking me to be on team Plato when it’s obvious that I play for the opposing team, the anti-Platonists. Hilarious!

If you fail to get the point, check out Foucault’s 1981 interview with André Berten. He explains his own approach in that interview so concisely and so promptly that it shouldn’t be too hard to understand. What’s particularly important about this interview is how he points out that the thing of his time, phenomenology, was too fixed on lived experience in the sense that it involved predetermination. For him the problem is not with lived experience, as such, as we all do have lived experience, quite obviously, really, but rather how it ignores how that experience is not markedly individual but rather collective and social. To be more specific, we can, of course, say that all experience is in some sense individual, as we are all unique to some degree. That said, much of our experience is, in fact, shared, which is why it’s collective and social. We are highly alike, not because we are born that way, but because we become that way, because we are brought up that way. I mean, just the fact that we can speak is because someone taught us to speak. In other words, it’s more apt to say that people’s experiences are mostly collective rather than individual. The way we experience world is not given, from birth. It’s structured according to what counts as true in the relevant regimes of truth, as he might say (in his other publications). This is exactly why I’m not interested in lived experience, what it is that Joe or Jill Sixpack has to say about this and/or that., but in what are the conditions that give rise to his or her experience and his or her opinions about this and/or that. The experiences and the opinions of people are one thing, sure, but, for me, what’s really interesting is why they might have come to experience the world in a certain way and voice their opinions about it in a certain way. Like Foucault exemplifies this in that interview, mad people are not that interesting. Sure, we could focus on them, what is it that they have to say, okay, okay, but the problem with that is that we therefore take for granted that they are actually mad. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. In other words, we treat madness as a given, as a matter of essence, rather than as a construct that is specific to certain time and place. To be clear, this does not mean one seeks to explain someone’s behavior by probing into their past, whether they endured a tough childhood, a tough break up with someone, or the like, because, again, to understand all that, one needs to analyze how we’ve come to construct what is ‘childhood’ or a ‘relationship’ in certain spatio-temporal context and what kinds of roles various institutions play in all that (plus a whole host of other things). This is far, very far, from contemporary ethnography, because if one follows Foucault, one cannot start from people’s experience, trying to situate oneself in their shoes, or so to speak. One has to realize that all lived experience, their experience included, is conditioned and it’s this conditioning that leads them to experience the world the way they do. There’s nothing given about it. Instead, as Deleuze (and Félix Guattari) keep saying, we are always in the middle of things. People’s lived experience is, of course, important, to themselves, just as my lived experience is important, to myself, but, in a study, what’s more important is how these experiences, mine included, are constituted and how they emerge, what are the conditions of their apparition.

Following the prologue where he addresses what’s been covered so far, how landscape ought to be approached in his view, Ingold (153-157) moves on to address how he defines landscape. This section is very thorough and explicit, something which you rarely see in recent studies. I mean I’d like to get away with a three to four page discussion of just one concept but, alas, no one apparently has the time, nor the attention span for such these days. I mean, I haven’t even covered this section yet, but I’m already loving it!

Right, he (153-154) goes back to the basics, starting out from scratch. In summary, to him, landscape is not land, nor nature, nor space. Firstly, it’s not land because land is divisible, but landscape is not. In other words, land is something that you can measure, so it’s quantitative and homogeneous, whereas landscape cannot be measured, so it’s qualitative and heterogeneous. So, unlike land, you can’t really say that there is this or that landscape, extending from here to there, nor that this or that landscape is composed of these and these elements. As he (154) puts it, “you can ask of a landscape what it is like, but not how much of it there is.” He (154) also argues that “landscape is a plenum” which is why it is, in itself complete, at all times, having “no holes in it that remain to be filled in”. In other words, You don’t work to complete it, but to rework it, to alter it. To me, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have these and/or those things out there, but rather that the whole they (in)form is never a pre-existing entity that has been fragmented and thus may be missing some pieces. What you see is what you get, or so to speak. It never lacks anything.

Secondly, landscape is not nature because this would presuppose that nature is something that’s just out there, (pre-)existing, while we, you and I, just happen to be there, as separate from all that, wherever else is there. So, in other words, he is troubled by the human/nature or culture/nature split because it assumes that one is always external to the world, detached from it, as if observing it from a distance. In short, this involves a certain dualism (which I vehemently oppose!). In his (154) words:

“Application of this logic forces an insistent dualism, between object and subject, the material and the ideal, operational and cognized, ‘etic’ and ‘emic’. Some writers distinguish between nature and the landscape in just these terms – the former is said to stand to the latter as physical reality to its cultural or symbolic construction.”

Oh, snap! And there goes ethnography, gone with the wind (as it should, in my opinion, inasmuch as it builds on such dualism)! Anyway, he (154) goes on to exemplify the application of such a logic by how Stephen Daniels and Denis Cosgrove (1) define landscape as “cultural image, a pictorial way of representing or symbolising surroundings” in their 1988 publication ‘The Iconography of Landscape: Essays on the Symbolic Representation, Design and Use of Past Environments’ and strongly argues against such a definition:

“I do not share this view. To the contrary, I reject the division between inner and outer worlds – respectively of mind and matter, meaning and substance – upon which such distinction rests.”

I share his disdain of dualism, which, the definition provided by Daniels and Cosgrove certainly builds on, but, I acknowledge that the dominant way of thinking is dualistic. In other words, I agree that landscape is not a mere representation (of something), but, that said, people do tend to take it as such, hence its great influence on people. To me it’s pivotal engage with the topic from that angle because it’s societally highly relevant. Ignoring the issue won’t make it go away. I think that people should be made aware of it and provided the tools to deal with it. That said, given the problem is really with the way of thinking, with the dominant image of thought, not landscape itself, one should, however, also explain what the problem with that is and how one might think otherwise, as well as how that affects how one might creatively re-think how landscape functions.

Related to this, I recently listened to (and read the translated transcription of) a lecture on Baruch Spinoza held by Gilles Deleuze in 1980 (Seminar on Spinoza: The Velocities of Thought, third lecture, held December 9, 1980, translation by Charles Stivale and Simon Duffy). The point of this lecture is to present to two images of thought: the dominant one which relies on morality and the one proposed by Spinoza which relies on ethics. The former builds on essence and values. It forces one to consider something as having an essence and that operation is done through the means of values. What is considered the essence is also the Good, which is why it is also good to act in a certain way, not just in accordance to one’s essence. This consideration involves a judgment, which is also why this image of thought is, at times, called the principle, the system or the doctrine of judgment (in Deleuze’s works). It’s also important to understand that judging something according to its essence, how well it is realized, always involves an appeal to a higher level above the level of existence (Being). You have to do that from the above, otherwise you can’t judge. In other words, each time you judge, you have to elevate yourself above the others. This is why I consider it hilarious that such a thing exists as peer review. I mean being a peer means that you are on the same level as they are, that is to say not above them, yet the system requires that you to have to judge others, that is to say act from above, meaning that you are, in fact, not their peer.

Deleuze exemplifies how this works in reference to how Aristotle states (in ‘Nicomachean Ethics’) that humans are reasonable animals, that is to say that it is what distinguishes human from other animals, which is why it is considered the essence of humanity. That said, Deleuze adds that human behavior is, nonetheless, often highly irrational, as one might be able to point out on the basis of one’s own experience of human behavior. In short, human essence is rationality, yet, in actuality, humans do not act according to their essence. Therefore humans fail to realize their own potential, what it is to be human. He emphasizes that it’s important to understand the essence as an end that one is supposed to seek, that is to say what is valued.

Right, it’s evident that judgment invokes lack. So, as rationality is (held as) the essence of what it is to be human and as one, nonetheless, keeps failing at realizing that, one’s own essence, one is, oddly enough, defined in relation to something that one is not. This is not the topic of this essay, but, as I’ve written in previous essays, one ends up doubling oneself through this procedure. One is thus a mere re-presentation of one’s own essence, a partial realization of it. Now, I don’t subscribe to this way of thinking, but, to clear, it is the way most people think. People think that they are this or that, not only human, but, for example man, which, in turn leads them to assess themselves and others in terms of whether they realize their potential, the essence of man, whatever that is considered to be. This creates all kinds of problems because people keep failing to reach their own essence, not realizing that it is people who came up with what that essence is in the first place. So, it becomes a moral obligation to act in a certain, as to realize one’s own potential, to be in harmony with one’s essence, or so to speak. This leads to what Deleuze calls a double judgment, where one judges oneself and is also judged. In other words, people end up judging themselves and others.

The latter image of thought treats essence completely differently. Instead of viewing it as general or abstract, as a shared properly, such as the essence of human, the essence of dog or the essence of table, each essence is particular, a singular determination, the essence of this, or that, and so on, and so on. This is why Deleuze often explains things in terms of singularities in his own works. In this context, lecturing about Spinoza, he points out that it’s, perhaps, less confusing and, thus, more apt to speak of existence (Being) and existents rather than essences. To be clear, existence pertains to the level of existence (Being) and existents (beings,as in be-ings) pertain to the singularities of this or that, whatever this or that happens to be on the level of existence. There is no judgment involved, as to whether this or that realizes some abstract idea, some general essence, nor how well it realizes it. But how does one differentiate between this or that, let’s say between two humans, two dogs or two tables, or, any one of them, really, if not through how well they realize their essence, how well they reach their potential? Well, obviously, the difference is between the existents (beings), that is to say the singularities. On the level of existence the difference between existents (beings) is quantitative, which means that there is scale to it. So, one existent (being) is more or less similar to another existent (being). There is also a qualitative difference, but that’s between modes of existence. The qualitative side is, perhaps, harder to explain, considering that it has to do with mode, the way or manner how something exists. Deleuze uses the example of how someone may find something funny and another person may not find it funny at all. The difference is not in the existent, what something is, in that moment, but the way or the manner it is or, rather, appears to us, like in the case of two people who react to something in a different manner. So, in other words, mode of existence is about the manner of being. It’s not about what, but how.

If we consider both the quantitative and the qualitative differences together, what defines this or that, whatever it may be, a human, a dog or a table, for example, is what they can do, as Deleuze is keen to emphasize. So, in short, the moral image of thought is concerned with what something is or, rather, is supposed to be, whereas the ethical image of thought is concerned with what something can do. It’s not that in the latter case it doesn’t matter what something is, because it does, but rather that what something is, in the quantitative sense, is relevant only inasmuch it affects what it can do, what it is capable of. He exemplified this with drinking, how some people can’t hold their liquor, or so to speak. It’s not that they are by their essence like that, poor drinkers, but that, as it stands, they are not capable of consuming a lot of alcohol without vomiting. Sure, the constitution of their bodies does affect that but this has nothing to do with an essence. This is why Deleuze is interested in diagrammatics, i.e. the diagrams of power, which involves elaborating what this or that can do.

If it appears that I’m dealing with another world, it’s because I am. That’s how Deleuze sees this. The first image of thought pertains to a moral world, whereas the second image of thought pertains to an ethical world. I run into this issue quite a bit whenever I submit a manuscript. It’s often quite telling of the state of academics, really.

Anyway, back to Ingold (154) who goes on to further explain his position. In summary, for him (154), landscape is not nature, something out there, on its own, nor “humanity against nature”, a matter of imagination, something that takes place in the mind. I’m not entirely sure about my take on this, but, to me, it appears that he is against presenting landscape as separate from people, as a given, just there, out there, regardless of whether we engage with it or not. I think he is also against thinking that landscape is just in our heads, imaginary, so that there’s no connection what’s out there as it’s just in our heads. In short, I think he is saying that you can’t really explain landscape without taking both into account at the same time. There’s this reciprocity. So, yes, you could say that landscape is just out there, but you’d struggle to explain how that would be the case, knowing that it has a certain history and how it pertains to the order of things. You could also say that landscape is just a figment of imagination, not really out there, but you’d struggle to explain how it is that it got in there, how it became a figment of your imagination, unless, unless, it’s what’s out there, other people included, that was involved in that process, knowing that people have not always engaged with the world as such order of things, knowing that people were not born with it. This is why I think it’s apt that Ingold (154) states that:

“[T]hrough living in it, the landscape becomes a part of us, just as we are a part of it. Moreover, what goes for its human component goes for other components as well.”

And that (154):

“[E]ach component enfolds within [it] the totality of its relations with each and every other.”

Here I replaced “its essence” with [it] because I can’t stand the word essence in this context, considering what I’ve covered so far. Anyway, the point here is about relationality. You can’t explain this or that, without acknowledging that you also need to explain what else is there, because all that affects this or that, whatever it is that you seek to explain, inasmuch as it does, of course, and, importantly, all that what is connected to it and thus affects it, inasmuch as it does, is also defined in this way, as constructed in relation to whatever it is linked to or has been linked in the past. To make more sense of this, it’s worth explaining how this is typically defined, as explained by Ingold (154):

“In a world construed as nature, every object is a self-contained entity, interacting with others through some kind of external contact.”

It’s not that there’s no interaction involved, no relations between entities in this understanding of the world, but rather that each entity or object is taken existing as separate, self-contained and self-sufficient entity that engages with other self-contained entities or objects, whatever they may be, if they do. In other words, there’s a radical separation of entities that is taken as how things really are.

Right, thirdly, landscape is not space. He (154-155) exemplifies this by comparing how just about anyone engages with the world with the way a surveyor or a cartographer engages with the world. In summary, no matter where people are and when that takes place, landscape is always there for them. There’s no escaping it. Importantly, this also applies to those surveyors and cartographers. That said, what’s particular about these surveyors and cartographers is that it’s their job to go against this everyday way of being in the world. Their task is to gather data and “to produce a single picture which is independent of any point of observation”, so that it appears, as if, “it could be directly apprehended only by a consciousness capable of being everywhere at once and nowhere in particular”, kinda like in “aerial or ‘birds’-eye’ view”, as explained by him (155). The point he (155) is making here is that this approach to the world no longer deals with actual circumstances and actual people, what is it that people do, like walk from here to there, wherever there is, but with potential circumstances, what people might do, where they might walk, to point B, from where they are, point A, as judged from above. In short, such an approach involves a radical separation from the world, where the world is divided into neatly bounded segments, as he (155) goes on to add.

As already pointed out, with landscape there is no such segmentation, no place that is “‘cut out’ from the whole”, as he (155) goes on to specify it. Now, as I already pointed out, we can think of landscape as a whole, but only as a particular whole, which consists of parts that are tied to it, there and then, in that specific spatio-temporal context, so that, in his (155) words, “each place embodies the whole at a particular nexus with in, and in this respect is different from every other.” To be clear, landscape is not, in itself, a bounded entity, so, in a way, there are no landscapes, as in this landscape or that landscape, as he (156) goes on to argue. I think I’ve pointed out this before, in some previous essay, but, anyway, you can try this out yourself. It’s should be easy to get this point. So, the point he is making is that you are always somewhere and what you can see (or sense, if you don’t want to limit yourself to vision) is the landscape. Don’t move! Don’t move your head or even your eyes! Is what you see a landscape? Let’s assume it is, even if it isn’t. Now, feel free to move and/or move your head and your eyes. If what you just saw was a landscape, is what you see now the same landscape or another landscape? Where would you draw the boundary? Now, do the same again, move a bit and/or look around. What about now? It should be evident that from this little experiment there’s nothing inherent about our surroundings that gives rise to a landscape, understood as this neatly bounded entity. We can, of course, speak of landscapes, this or that, but it’s then we who define them as such, on the basis of our experience, as he (156) goes on to point out. How does that work then? Well, I reckon that we intuit it, what we call this or that a landscape, and we intuit it on the basis of our knowledge and experience, which, to my understanding, is always markedly shared or collective. I’d also say that language is to blame here because it always fail to capture the complexity of any given situation, the singularity of it, no matter how aptly someone puts it. You end up with some sort of a reduction of what you are dealing with. Ingold (156) seems to agree with me on this:

“In short, the landscape is the world as it is known to those who dwell therein, who inhabit its places and journey along the paths connecting them.”

I’d actually be even more radical with this and remove the sense of place because, for me, place is already a point in space and thinking in terms of points, going from one point to another, one after another, implies that there is a system to it, a grid, or so to speak. So, I’d reformulate this as so that landscape is the world as it is known to people, how it appears to them.

Having explained how, to him, landscape is not land, nor nature, nor space, he (156) jumps to contrast his definition of it with environment. To distinguish the two, he (156) first provides his own definition of environment as reality for, the world as it functions in relation to people (and other life forms) who inhabit it. He (156) is keen to emphasize that, for him, function has to do with affordances and therefore environment has to do with what it makes possible to people (and other life forms). He (156) adds that this also applies to all life forms, what he refers to as organisms, as they are also defined in terms of their functionality, what it is that they are capable of. So, not unlike Spinoza, he defines people (and other life forms) in terms of what they are capable of and, by extension, the environment as what comes to afford them this and/or that function or capacity to act.

Following the functional definitions of environment and life form that puts emphasis on the capacity to act, he (156) defines landscape as a matter of form and compares it to body (what, I think, Deleuze and Guattari would call organism, in the sense that it’s how something is organized, which is why I chose to replace organism with life form in the environment / life form pair). In short, he (156) considers form as pertaining to what something is, how it appears to us, in this or that form, whereas function has to do with the capacity to act. Similarly to environment and life form, landscape and body are relational, one always informing the other, as he (156) goes on to point out. In addition, because they pertain to form, they need to be formed. As explained by him (156), they are not pre-formed, appearing as such, like out of nowhere. To be more specific, he (156) states that:

“Both sets of forms are generated and sustained in and through the processual unfolding of a total field of relations that cuts across the emergent interface between organism and environment[.]”

So, as body is a form, as is landscape, he (156) calls the formative process embodiment. He (156) acknowledges that embodiment has certain buzz value to it, which, I take, pushes people to conduct studies that revolve around this notion. I reckon that it’s just like any other popular concepts that suddenly become trendy. The problem with that is that the concepts are used for their supposed explanatory value, without really explaining them. So, he (156-157) warns not to confuse embodiment as something simple as prioritizing form over process, as a matter of inscription or transcription, “whereby some pre-existing pattern, template or programme, whether genetic or cultural, is ‘realized’ in a substantive medium.” In terms used by Spinoza, this is not a matter of something or someone realizing their potential, their telos, their pre-scripted goal. So, it’s important to realize that the process of embodiment involves what he (157) calls incorporation, “a movement wherein forms themselves are generated”. I’d add here that it’s not that there aren’t any patterns, templates, programmes or scripts, but rather that even these are subject to change. For example, human patterns, what one might also call practices or discourses, are certainly subject to change. The same applies to genomes, the genetic instructions of various life forms. So, to get back to the topic, landscape can therefore be understood as a form of environment, as based on whatever it is that gets incorporated into it, as he (157) goes on to point out.

The way he defines embodiment and how it relates to landscape reminds me of how Deleuze and Guattari define it, pertaining diagrammatically to forms of content and expression. That’s why it also reminds me of how one might define it as pertaining diagrammatically to non-discursive and discursive formations, to use the Foucauldian parlance. When it comes to other things, besides landscape, it also reminds me of how discourses can and do become materialized or manifested, as discussed by Ron Scollon in his 2008 book chapter titled ‘Discourse itineraries: Nine processes of resemiotization’, as included in ‘Advances in Discourse Studies’ edited by Vijay Bhatia, John Flowerdew and Rodney Jones, and Richard Schein’s work, namely his 1997 article ‘The Place of Landscape: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting an American Scene’, as published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. I’m not going to elaborate more on all that because I’ve explained the way that all works so many times already. I think it’s better to keep going with this and see where Ingold moves next.

Right, Ingold uses the same approach with time or temporality as he does with landscape. Before he defines it, he (157) seeks to establish what it isn’t. In summary, he (157) argues that temporality is not synonymous with chronology, nor with history, because the former pertains to a “system of dated intervals, in which events are said to have taken place” and the latter pertains to a “series of events which may be dated in time according to their occurrence in one or another chronological interval.” What’s important here, in both cases, is that they have to do with a system of isolated instances, this or that, for example an event or a date. One moves from one event to another, in succession, one by one, but, as he (157) goes on to emphasize, nothing happens, nothing takes places, nothing moves, nothing does.

In stark contrast with chronology and history, he (157) defines temporality as a matter of immanence, so that one passages in time. To be more specific, it involves “a pattern of retensions from the past and protensions for the future”, so that historicity merges with it “in the experience of those who, in their activities”, what he also calls taskscape, “carry forward the process of social life”, as he (157) goes on to clarify.

So, the focus is now on that taskscape, which is intrinsically temporal and consists of various activities. That’s the starting point here. He (157-158) specifies that these activities can also be understood as a matter of labor and that the products of these activities, commodities, can be measured in terms of their value. Both labor and value can be quantified, as he (157-159) goes on to elaborate. Firstly, while what counts as labor may vary, as it involves various raw materials, tools, procedures and skills, it can nonetheless be measured in terms of the time (clock-time or astronomical time, as quantified on the basis of the axial rotation of the earth and its movement around the sun) and the wages (money or capital) that go into it. Secondly, value can measured in terms of how much something is deemed to be worth. In stark contrast, use-value pertains to affordances, what something is to someone in terms of what it makes possible for that person, and thus it cannot be quantified. This is why he (158) considers the distinction between value/labor and use-value to be homologous with the distinction between land and landscape. In short, similarly landscape, taskscape is qualitative and heterogeneous, as he (158) explains it as concisely as possible.

Taskscape consists of activities, which he (158) specifies as practical operations carried out by some skilled person in his or her environment. These tasks are similar to the parts, components or particulars that make up landscape in the sense that while it is tempting to discuss them in isolation, as this or that task, they only make sense in connection to other tasks, as he (158) goes on to clarify. So, as I pointed out in the context of distinguishing landscape from land (154), these tasks form a whole, but only a particular whole. In his (158) words, these tasks only make sense “within an ensemble of tasks, performed in series or in parallel, and usually by many people working together.” So, yeah, I’d say that they form a whole, but it is a whole that is particular, not some given whole of which the various tasks are just parts of. In other words, for him (158), taskscape is an ensemble of interlocking tasks, “an array of related activities”, that never lacks any task or activity, just as landscape is an ensemble of elements, a configuration of bit of this and a bit of that, “an array of related features”, which never lacks any element or feature.

When it comes to time, the temporality of taskscape is social and pertains to how time is experienced, as he (158-159) points out. So, unlike clock-time or astronomical time, it doesn’t consist of any distinct units and therefore it cannot be quantified. This is what Henri Bergson refers to us duration (durée). To be more specific, in ‘Time and Free Will’ (1910 translation by F. L. Pogson), Bergson explains the difference between time and duration. He (75) starts by explaining how numbers work:

“Number may be defined in general as a collection of units, or, speaking more exactly, as the synthesis of the one and the many.”

So, in short, you have one, which, in turn can be summed up as many if there are more than one ones. There’s also subtraction, multiplying and dividing, but that’s all beside the point. What’s important here is the emphasis on thinking this as having to do with a collection of units. He (76) adds that we also need to qualify these units:

“It is not enough to say that number is a collection of units; we must add that these units are identical with one another, or at least that they are assumed to be identical when they are counted.”

This obviously involves a certain reduction, as he (76) goes on to acknowledge:

“[W]e agree … to neglect their individual differences and to take into account only what they have in common.”

There’s that, granted. Of course it’s possible to address the individual differences, but then we are doing something different, as he (76) points out:

“[A]s soon as we fix our attention on the particular features of objects or individuals, we can of course make an enumeration of them, but not a total.”

Okay, I’d disagree here on the last bit, in the sense that you do get a total, albeit not the same total that he is talking about here. For example, if I examine 50 sheep, there’s 50 sheep. Let’s say that one of them is black and the rest of the sheep are white. So, there are a total of one black sheep and 49 white sheep, for a grand total of 50 sheep. This is clearly doable. Then again, what he is saying is that 1 and 49 are not the same thing as 50 in themselves.

He (77) moves on to state that we can think of the one and the many both in terms of space and time. In terms of space, we can have a flock of sheep, 50 of them, each occupying a different position in space. They are positioned close enough to one another so that we can comprehend them as a flock, yet far enough from one another so that we can distinguish each sheep. In terms of time, we can also think of the 50 sheep as appearing to us in sequence, one by one, as a series of them. He (77) notes that it is certainly tempting to distinguish these two ways of counting sheep as different from one another, but he isn’t buying this. For him (77), the problem with the second conception of counting sheep is that it appears to pertain to time, but it actually pertains to space or, to be more accurate, the way time is defined in terms of space, that is to say spatially. How so? Well, because this involves measuring “the trajectory of a body in motion”, counting “only a certain number of extremities of intervals, or moments, in short, virtual halts in time”, as explained by Bergson (11) in ‘The Creative Mind’ (1946 translation by Mabelle Andison). Time is thus actually astronomical time, as already elaborated by Ingold (158). It’s how time is unitized, how it is counted, but not time itself, or time in itself, what Bergson refers to as duration. He (86) exemplifies this pure duration in ‘Time and Free Will’ with how the sound of a bell makes little sense if it is experienced as separate countable instances. He (86-87) acknowledges that it is certainly possible to do so, but that’s not what people generally do. I think music is an even better example because it’s not typically apprehended as a mere list of separate sounds that you listen to one by one. It’s the same with video, as Ingold (159) goes on to point out. You can look at a video, frame by frame, but that results in looking at static images that just appear to you, on an as is basis, distinct from one another, having no connection to one another, unless, unless you apprehend them as a continuum.

So, in summary of this issue that pertains to time, many may think of it in terms of clock-time or astronomical time, but, following Bergson or Ingold, that’s just a conception of time, not time itself. It’s how time is ordered into chunks, not time itself. It’s how time is measured, as based on the way space is measured, not time itself, nor space itself, for that matter. Instead, time is always social. What does Ingold (159) mean by this then? Well, before I explain that, it’s important to make note of how one is constituted in the present moment, as explained by him (159):

“As such, [taskscape] constitutes my present, conferring upon it a unique character. Thus the present is not marked off from a past that it has replaced or a future that will, in turn, replace it; it rather gathers the past and future into itself, like refractions in a crystal ball.”

To put this in terms used by St. Augustine (242-243) in ‘Confessions’ (2006 edition, edited by Michael Foley, translation by Francis Joseph Sheed) and Deleuze (76-77) in ‘Difference and Repetition’ (1994 translation by Paul Patton), only the present actually exists. The past cannot exist, in itself, as the past is what ceases to be. It’s the same with future as it can never exist, in itself, as it is yet to be. In other words, contrary to popular opinion, time does not have three dimension: the past, the present and the future. Instead, as stated by Deleuze (77), as the past and the future are always apprehended from the present, they are, in fact, dimensions of the present, as evident from the example he provides:

“A scar is the sign not of a past wound but of ‘the present fact of having been wounded’[.]”

In more simple terms, what matters is the present. Everything you do is always in the present. Even recollection functions in the present, hence the scar example. As there is only the present, there are no points in time, no time line, which also means that, similarly to landscape, taskscape does not consists of isolated tasks that take place in isolation from one another, as discussed by Ingold (155, 159). This does not, however, mean that one cannot segment it, to apprehend it in such a way, nor, I’d say, that it is not useful to do so. In his (159) words, just as what one can apprehended as the various landscape elements, such as “walls or fences”, can be seen as demarcating a landscape from another landscape, the various activities, such as “rites, feasts and public ceremonies”, can be understood as segmenting time in a similar fashion, separating a taskscape from another taskscape.

What about the social aspect of time then? This should actually be fairly easy to comprehend if one considers what’s been covered so far already. Keep in mind that the aforementioned activities that can be understood as parts of this or that taskscape and the elements that can be understood as parts of this or that landscape all involve humans. No rite, feast or ceremony exists on its own and no wall or fence came to being on its own. As everything and everyone is the product of this world, the way we come to understand time is always social. The same applies to space. In other words, everything and everyone is markedly social and, conversely, whatever is there, like those walls and fences, and whatever it is that people do, for example take part in those rites, feasts and ceremonies, can be understood as social markers.

Ingold (159) indicates that Émile Durkheim defined time as social, but, for him, the problem with Durkheim’s work is that it also treats time as chronological. In other works, he (159-160) isn’t satisfied with how Durkheim treats time as consisting of chunks of time, marked by the various activities that “come from society”, including the aforementioned activities, as explicitly mentioned by Durkheim in his own work. Simply put, he (160) doesn’t buy Durkheim’s definition of time as truly social because the recurrence of the aforementioned activities are treated as a metronome, which “inscribes an artificial division into equal segments upon an otherwise undifferentiated movement”. Against this, he (160) argues that the social aspect of time is not metronomic, having a steady beat, like tick-tock, but rhythmic, pulsating, so that the beats vary and fluctuate. He (160) argues that rhythm has to do with “the successive building up and resolution of tension, on the principle that every resolution is itself a preparation for the next building up”. He (160) exemplifies this with breathing because each exhalation always anticipates the next inhalation, until it doesn’t, of course, resulting in death. This is why life is rhythmic. To be clear, it’s not only that our own life is rhythmic, that one goes through one’s own rhythmic cycle or cycles, but that we are connected to the rhythms of others, and therefore taskscape ought to be understood as constituted by “a complex interweaving of very many concurrent cycles”, “the network of interrelationships between the multiple rhythms”, instead of a “particular rhythm”, as he (160) goes on to clarify.

This reminds me of how Valentin Vološinov (72, 94-95) defines language in ‘Marxism and the Philosophy of Language’ (1973 translation by Ladislav Matejka and I.R. Titunik) as action, be it verbal or written, but not just as any action but as interaction, so that each utterance or expression always anticipates a response and also acts a response to something. It’s worth emphasizing that this applies not only to saying something or writing something, that is to say expressing something, but also to reading, as well as thinking, what Vološinov (38) calls inner speech, because while it may appear as if only one person is doing something, even just thinking about something, one always engages in dialogue with others, even when is alone. I’m doing that right now, engaging with imaginary people as I think, read and write. I think Vološinov (102) puts it nicely when he states that:

Any true understanding is dialogic in nature.”

And, expanding on this (102):

“Any genuine kind of understanding will be active and will constitute the germ of a response.”

And, further expanding on this (102):

“Understanding is to utterance as one line of a dialogue is to the next. Understanding strives to match the speaker’s word with a counter word.”

And, putting this even more broadly (102):

“To understand another person’s utterance means to orient oneself with respect to it, to find the proper place for it in the corresponding context.”

He (102) also warns not to confuse the response with matching what what is, was or is about to be expressed with more of the same, with the same, which chimes with Ingold’s rejection of thinking time as a matter of progression, as measurable identical intervals. In Vološinov’s (102) words:

“Only in understanding a word in a foreign tongue is the attempt made to match it with the ‘same’ word in one’s own language.”

In other words, like life itself, language is a living entity. There’s always the anticipation of something will follow, which is also never what was already said. Okay, it could be same, or, rather appear to be the same, the exact same word, but it might already be transformed in the response. For example, someone might say ‘cool!’ and another person might respond to it by saying ‘cool?’ Now, of course, when you say something, like ‘cool!’ or ‘cool?’, you don’t indicate it by saying ‘cool’ followed by an exclamation mark or a question mark. It’s in the way that you say that. Anyway, the point is that you can use the same word, but convey a different sense.

Also, if nothing follows, not necessarily immediately, but eventually, there is no conversation. The great thing with language is, however, that you can engage with dead people through what they’ve left behind, whatever it is that they’ve written, even though, to be accurate, you are not actually engaging with them, but with some figment of your imagination that has a tendency to fool itself to think otherwise, that you are actually engaging with them, regardless of whether they are dead or alive. To indicate the social aspect of this, Vološinov (95) explains how any kind of speech act functions:

Any utterance, no matter how weighty and complete in and of itself, is only a moment in the continuous process of … communication. But that continuous … communication is, in turn, itself only a moment in the continuous, all-inclusive, generative process of a given social collective.”

In other words, you can’t separate what is said from the context of where it is said. Everything and everyone is important, to the extent that they are, of course. He (95) is particularly adamant about this point:

[C]ommunication can never be understood and explained outside of this connection with a concrete situation.

It makes no sense to think of language as having a life of its own and analyze it as such. It’s always active. It’s contained in the very act. This is why pragmatics ought to be the central concern in the study language. Everything else is superfluous. This connects to Ingold’s (161) point about how taskscape ought to be understood as active, as performed. In his (161) words:

“[T]askscape exists only so long as people are actually engaged in the activities … , despite the attempts … to translate [them] into … a kind of ideal design … that generally goes by the name of ‘culture’, and that people are supposed to bring with them into their encounter with the world.”

One could simply exchange ‘culture’ with ‘language’ here and it would work equally well, assuming that one was discussing verbal or written activities rather than activities in general. This is also why I prefer ‘discourse’ and ‘practice’ over ‘culture’. I think he explains the problem with using words such as ‘culture’ particularly well here. The gist of the problem is that whenever people do something, there is this tendency to explain it as a matter of culture, that people do whatever they do because it’s in their culture to do so, as if culture pre-existed people.

Anyway, following this tangent on interaction, I reckon it’s fair to say that we owe our existence to others, to their mutual involvement. It’s also important to realize that the said mutual involvement is not limited to initial points of contact between two people which result in births of more people. People are constantly shaped by their environment, including but not limited to what he (160) calls the social environment. It’s rather simple really. People are always in the middle of things, as Deleuze and Guattari keep saying in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, and, as expressed by Ingold (160) they resonate with their surroundings, including one another, inasmuch as they do, of course.

Moving on! Following the detailed discussion of landscape and taskscape, what they are and what they are not, Ingold (161) jumps to further discuss them in relation to one another. He (161) is interested in whether they blend or not: “[w]here does one end and the other begin?”

To answer his own question, he (161) acknowledges how landscape is typically associated with painting whereas what he calls taskscape is associated with music. That said, as he (161-162) points out, landscape is not typically associated with the act of painting but rather the product of the act, also known as paintings, whereas with taskscape it’s the other way around so that the act or performance is more important than the product, what one would typically call a recording. In short, landscape is all about privileging the form over the process, whereas taskscape is about privileging the process over the form, as he (161-162) presents this. Now, it’s obvious that you can’t have a painting without the act of painting. It’s equally obvious that you can make a product out of the performance of music by recording it. With painting, however, we, that is to say those of us who’ve grown up in Western societies, tend to ignore the act of painting and only focus on the final product, as he (161) summarizes this. In other words, the act of painting is considered as means to an end. It’s not treated as meaningful in itself unlike with music where the performance is highly valued. For example, playing an instrument, dibble dabbling with it, is considered interesting, at least to the person playing the instrument, whereas with painting (or drawing, any performance through the use of images really) what’s considered interesting is what gets done. Another example would be live gigs. People pay money to witness the performance of music, which, in many cases, they could equally well listen to as a recording. It’s not that people don’t value the recordings, I don’t think so, but rather that they want to be there, in the moment, to experience it live (as a live performance, that is to say not just as a recording, as a living thing). In stark contrast, people don’t pay money to see a painter paint something, to witness the process. They could, but they don’t. Instead, they go to a gallery or to a museum to look at the finished products. Of course, part of this has to do with the mediums of music and painting, how sound is emitted rapidly, as this fleeting thing, whereas painting is a slow process of leaving traces on a canvas, resulting in something that can be enjoyed much longer than the quickly dissipating music, as he (161-162) goes on to point out. Then again, as already pointed out, this has more to do with our ways of thinking about art than with what the mediums afford the artists.

Ingold (162) shifts from comparing landscape and taskscape in terms of painting and music to comparing them in terms of the acts or performances and products in general. Summarizing this, landscape appears as it does, here and now, having a certain form, but nothing about it is given or ready-made. A lot has gone into that form and, to be accurate, still goes into that form. It’s easy to forget that even the most solid landscape elements fade away eventually and require some sort of maintenance to prolong their enduring appearance. Some endure and require little maintenance, whereas others don’t last that long, but none of it is given or ready-made, original or authentic in any way, whatsoever. Each landscape element, or object or thing, to put this in more general terms, is what Herbert Mead (370) refers to as a collapsed act in ‘The Process of Mind in Nature’, as included in ‘The Philosophy of the Act’ published in 1938 (edited by Charles Morris, John Brewster, Albert Dunham and David Miller):

“It is when these results of past experience have attached themselves to the stimulations that we find a field of objects within which we can act intelligently.”

He (401) also explains this in his 1912 article ‘The Mechanism of Social Consciousness’, published in the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods:

“A physical object … is a construct in which the sensuous stimulation is merged with imagery which comes from past experience. … [T]his imagery arises from past experience of the result of an act which this stimulus has set going. … A peculiar stimulus value stands for a certain response value. A [physical object] is a collapsed act in which the result of the act to which the stimulus incites is represented by imagery of the experience of past acts of a like nature.”

In short, the objects arise from the acts. Conversely, from the point of view of the act, performance or what he (401) calls conduct, the acts are understood as collapsed to the object. He (401) further explains how this works:

“Our conduct in movement and manipulation, with its simulations and responses, gives the framework within which objects of perception arise and this conduct is in so far responsible for the organization of our physical world. [P]hysical objects … are compounds of the experience of immediate stimulation and the imagery of the response to which this stimulation will lead. The object can be properly stated in terms of conduct.

He (401-402) defines objects as physical objects and as percepts because they “arise in physical experience” and involve perception. It’s also worth emphasizing that, for him (401-402), objects are not only physical objects but also social objects, because experience is always also social. As he (401-402) points out, even the most primitive instincts or impulses are do not remain isolated and affect how one will perceive and respond to other stimulations. To make more sense of this, he (402) provides an example:

“It is of course true that a [hu]man is a physical object to the perception of another [hu]man, and as really as is a tree or a stone. But a [hu]man is more than a physical object, and it is this more which constitutes him [or her] a social object or self, and it is this self which is related to that peculiar conduct which may be termed social conduct.”

Those who are familiar with what is known as mediated discourse analysis (MDA) may find the definition of an object as a collapsed act familiar to them, even if they are not familiar with it. For example, consider how Sigrid Norris and Boonyalakha Makboon (43) define objects in their 2015 article ‘Objects, Frozen Actions, and Identity: A Multimodal (Intect)action Analysis’ published in Multimodal Communication:

“Objects in everyday life do not simply exist. They have been produced by social actors, and have often been acquired and placed into a particular environment by other social actors.”

As well as how they (43) prefer to define objects as frozen actions:

“A frozen action is defined as an action that is embedded in objects and/or the environment.”

To be clear, to them (43) this means that:

“[S]ocial actors use, produce, and keep material objects, these multiple actions are embedded in the objects themselves.”

Collapsing, embedding? It’s the same thing, if you ask me. I think other fitting monikers would be folding and stratifying. Feel free to disagree though. I’m just riffing here. Norris (13-14) explains this in further detail in her 2004 book ‘Analyzing Multimodal Interaction: A Methodological Framework’

“Frozens actions are usually high-level actions which were performed by an individual or a group of people at an earlier time than the real-time moment of the interaction that is being analyzed. These actions are frozen in the material objects themselves and are therefore evident.”

Why are they evident? Well, they can be perceived and apprehended because the actions that have become frozen are based on social or collective experience. Easy! To make more sense of this, it’s worth specifying that an action can be understood as a higher-level action that consists of lower-level actions, which, in turn can be understood as higher-level actions that consists other lower-level actions, as she (13-14) points out. They can therefore be understood as chains of actions. They cascade, virtually indefinitely. They can, of course, be apprehended as objects, this or that, at whatever level happens to be relevant to us at any given moment.

Anyway, the point Ingold (162) wants to make through Mead is that if objects are collapsed acts, then landscape is the embodiment of taskscape, “a pattern of activities ‘collapsed’ into an array of features”. This only makes sense because, following Mead’s definition, you can’t have objects without the acts or activities. I don’t know if it’s necessary for me to point this out again, but Ingold (162) reminds not to think of this as meaning that landscape is a complete or finished form of taskscape, like a one off concrete realization of the taskscape. In other words, it’s important to keep in mind that while landscape is indeed the embodiment of taskscape, it’s embodied form, it’s always subject to change, given that “the forms of the landscape arise alongside those of the taskscape, within the same current of activity”, as he (162) goes on to emphasize. Landscape is always here and now and reflects the situation, right now. There’s nothing original or authentic about it, as no “cultural design is imposed upon a naturally given substrate”, as he (162) puts it. Simply put, using his (162) concise wording, landscape is “perpetually under construction”, a constant “‘work in progress’”.

I agree with Ingold on this, but I’d still like to point out something that’s rather easy to forget. Landscape is just what it is, as examined at any given moment. It consists of various elements, whatever they may be. I’m interested in these elements in my own work and this where I deviate from Ingold. Landscape is constantly changing, regardless of whether we notice or not. Some elements are added, whereas others are removed. Some undergo a change on the spot. For example, various surfaces are weathered (or eroded). Some of them endure weathering better than others, which is why some landscape elements are replaced every now and then. When I go for a jog, I notice many street signs that need to be replaced or refurbished eventually as the paint on them has faded to the point that it’s hard to say whether they are legible enough in various lighting and weather conditions. It’s also worth noting that the landscape elements do not only include what humans have built or put in place. So this also applies to the so called natural features, be they animate or inanimate, organic or inorganic. I mean trees and grass change constantly, even without human involvement. Not even rock can retain its form forever. Of course many landscape elements are highly durable, so it’s usually very hard to notice any change. In other words, the change is not noticeable to us. In some cases, if not in many cases, one also has to take into account that people are in the habit of seeking to conserve the landscape as it is, as it appears to them, or, rather how they think it should be, how it should appear to them. This is done by regulating the taskscape, the human various activities, namely what changes can be made and who can make changes. In short, I think it’s important to keep in mind that landscape is a highly fixed form, not because it must be so, but because people desire it to be so. This is also where I deviate from Ingold as I put particular emphasis on this political aspect, how landscape is used to regulate people and what they can think and do.

Before he moves on to the analysis section of his article, Ingold (162) concludes by differentiating landscape from taskscape. For him (162), it’s intuitively evident that the former is visual and thus “seems to be what we see around us”, whereas the latter is aural or auditory, “what we hear”. So, in terms of perception we see objects but hear activities. In terms of vision, the world appears to us as an ensemble or an array of objects. In terms of hearing, the world appears to us as an ensemble or an array of activities. This is because visually “an object need do nothing itself, for the optic array that specifies its form to a viewer consists of light reflected off its outer surfaces”, whereas aurally an object must actively emit sounds or, through its movement, cause sounds to be emitted by other objects with which it comes into contact”, as he (162) goes on to elaborate the difference between landscape and taskscape. Simply put, we see things, “a landscape of houses, trees, gardens, a street and pavement”, but we “do not hear any of these things”, and, conversely, we hear activities, a taskscape of “people talking on the pavement, a car passing by, birds singing in the trees, a dog barking somewhere in the distance, and the sound of hammering as a neighbour repairs his garden shed”, even when we do not see what emits these sounds, as he (162) exemplifies this. In short, the former pertains to the visual world, how we engage with our surroundings visually, whereas the latter pertains to the auditory world, how we engage with our surroundings aurally, as he (162-163) summarizes the difference between the two (he actually also mentions touch or haptic perception, but it’s not covered in this article). Importantly, this also means that landscape and taskscape have their limits. This means that if you study landscapes, your study is limited to analyzing the world visually through the various landscape elements (visual percepts, physical and social objects), whereas if you study taskscapes, your study is limited to analyzing the world aurally through the various interlocking tasks (aural percepts, activities).

He (163) argues that this distinction between landscape and taskscape, the visible (objects) and the audible (activities) leads to a another distinction. He (163) states that both “presuppose the presence of an agent”, which only makes sense, considering how what is created necessitates creation. For example, anything that’s currently on my desk, including this keyboard that I’m typing on, right now, has been created, somewhere at some time, likely involving a number of people, a number of components and a number of factories. That said, he (163) argues that it is agency that distinguishes taskscape from landscape. For him (163) taskscape is interactive, whereas landscape is not because the agents that act have capacity to do so, whereas the objects they create do not. He (163) goes on to provide plenty of examples of this, how it is people or, more broadly speaking, anything living or animate that has the capacity to act, whereas anything that does not live or is inanimate does not, only to backpedal on this distinction. As he (163) points out, it would certainly seem to make sense to distinguish between the living and the non-living, the animate and the inanimate, in terms of agency, but, then again, what about certain phenomena that appear to meet the criteria, such as (the blinding) light, (the howling) wind or (the crashing) tide? On top of that, it’s not only that these wave form phenomena seem to have agency, that is to say to function as activities, without having living or animate agents, but also that they make people re-act to them or interact with them, as noted by him (163). For example, attending to tides is highly important if you manage a harbor or your ship seek shelter at a harbor. Now, of course, we can attribute these phenomena to planetary mechanics, but, what’s important here is that these phenomena exist as the embodiments of these mechanics and they impact people’s lives by forcing people to act in relation to them, as he (163) goes on to specify.

He (164) backpedals on this distinction even further because the notion of living and non-living or animate and inanimate appears to be superficial. I was already going to comment on this initially, to disagree with this distinction, but he (164) does make u-turn on this one, stating explicitly that he finds it lacking because “life is not a principle that is separately installed inside individual organisms, and which sets them in motion upon the stage of the inanimate.” In other words, he (164) thinks that the distinction is poorly conceived because it starts with physical objects that are given life, as if a magic wand had animated them or someone had made them run on an operating system, while the leftover objects are just whatever they are because that wasn’t applied to them. The problem with this is that life is bigger than treating it as a very limited role specific to certain entities, as he (164) goes on to complain. He (164) cites his own 1990 article ‘An Anthropologist Looks at Biology’ published in Man, New Series, in which he (215) he argues that:

“Life is not something separately infused into inert matter. It is rather a name for what is going on in the generative field within which organic forms are located and ‘held in place’. Thus life is not ‘in’ organisms, but organisms are ‘in’ life.”

He (164) rephrases this in the latter article, the one discussed in detail in this essay:

“That generative field is constituted by the totality of organism-environment relations, and the activities of organisms are moments of its unfolding. Indeed once we think of the world in this way, as a total movement of becoming which builds itself into the forms we see, and in which each form takes shape in continuous relation to those around it, then the distinction between the animate and the inanimate seems to dissolve.”

Simply put, life is here and now. Everything and everyone is co-constructed in relation to everything and everyone else. He (164) summarizes this:

“The world itself takes on the character of an organism, and the movements of animals – including those of us human beings – are parts or aspects of its life-process[.]”

So, instead of thinking yourself as this and/or that, distinct from what else is there, as a given, think of yourself as what you’ve become. It’s simple as that. You are always whatever you happen to be at any given moment, which means that it’s actually rather pointless to contemplate whether you are something, this and/or that, or not. I think he (164) explains this particularly well when he states that we are not isolated from the world, regardless of whether we classify what else is there as animate or inanimate, and that “we do not act upon it” nor “do things to it” instead of “mov[ing] along with it.” Indeed, your actions are not isolated from what else is there, which is why all action is actually interaction. Even when one thing appears to collide with another thing or one thing to penetrate another thing, what we are really dealing with is collisions and interpenetrations. Who’s fucking who now? A clusterfuck? So, as he (164) goes on to clarify this:

“Our actions do not transform the world, they are part and parcel of the world transforming itself.”

I consider his rejection of agency as pertaining only to humans, animals or forms of life, the animate, as particularly important because I focus on interplay of the animate and the inanimate in my own work. I’m particularly interested in how various objects, both physical and social, shape people, who they are or who they become, or, rather, who they get to become with them, through their interaction with them. My interest in that process stems from the commonly held view that nothing that is considered inanimate has any agency. In other words, studying the ensemble of landscape elements is interesting exactly because people think those things are just there, out there, existing as parts of a larger whole, what is known as landscape, which, in turn, is just a mere static backdrop. This is not to say that focusing on human activities, what it is that people do or are in the habit of doing, isn’t important. It is. That said, it’s also rather obvious to me that it is, because it is also obvious to me that people interact with one another and are thus shaped by one another. It’s the same thing with human activities in relation to other forms of life, such as animals and plants. But that’s not all there is to interaction, which is why I want to focus on what’s missing, those things, what Bruno Latour refers to as the missing masses in his 1992 book chapter ‘Where Are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts’, first published in 1992 in ‘Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change’ edited by Wiebe Bijker and John Law. I’ve focused on how language operates this way, acting back, when it is written and put on display in the landscape, which ties what Ingold explains in this article to what Vološinov discusses in ‘Marxism and the Philosophy of Language’. Even language is doing. It’s doing things with words, as J. L. Austin famously put it.

I think I’ve covered enough in this essay. As I stated at the beginning, this article is likely a challenge for the reader. That said, I think it’s worth going through, like it or not. I for sure wasn’t sure what to think of it the first time around and even second time around, but now that I went through it again, at a slow pace, I quite like it. I won’t cover the second part of this essay where he discusses this in relation to Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1565 painting ‘The Harvesters’, but, to summarize what he is after in this article is that we can view landscape like we generally do, just staring at it at a distance, yes, fixed, like with that painting, or bring life to it by understanding it as taskscape, something in which you move and look around. While I agree with him and like the way he has reworked landscape into something that else than how it is generally understood, to understand and appreciate landscape the way he does is something that requires not only an open mind, certain willingness to think otherwise, but also embracing a different way of thinking. The problem with this is that most people do not think this way. For them, the dualism that he (154) disagrees with, as do I, is a given. For them, they are subjects, then there are these objects, so you also have these other divisions that come with it, including but not limited to “the material and the ideal, operational and cognized, ‘etic’ and emic’”, as listed by him (154). So, yeah, as I pointed out, it’s not just that people need to be open minded about this. It’s really that they need to reject dualism, to change their way of thinking, which is easier said than done. Going against the dominant way of thinking about the world, also known as Platonism, is tough. It’s very hard to go against it because it’s been the way of thinking for over two millennia now. I’d say that the vast majority of people are not even aware that you can think otherwise, which is why, on one hand, I appreciate what Ingold has to say in this article, yet, on the other hand, I think it’s too optimistic as people tend to think in a way prohibits them from understanding what he is after.

Skipping ahead to the conclusion, or epilogue, as he likes to call it, he (171-172) acknowledges what many others have sought to focus on in landscape studies, “the multiple layers of symbolic meaning”, and expresses his sympathy to what they are trying to do, challenging landscape as a given, something that’s just out there (the first view). That said, he (171-172) doesn’t like the way landscape is understood as a mere representation (re-presentation, presenting something again), having certain layers of meaning, deposited on top of the world, superimposed on it, if you will, and how, following this understanding of it, the task of the researcher is to go through these layers, uncovering them, one by one, until one uncovers the last layer, the layer of meaning that is considered the true or original layer of meaning (the second view). For him (171) the problem is that this tends to be a purely an intellectual endeavor, ignoring how people make sense of their surroundings. This goes back to an earlier discussion on how when one interprets landscape, one can only make sense of it on the basis of one’s experience. So, as I pointed out earlier on, I don’t advocate sending researchers to some remote corners of the world, not because I don’t think they’d be essentially incapable of understanding how the world works somewhere else, where they don’t live, but because it’s likely highly impractical to do so. It’s way more practical to ask someone already highly familiar with it all to do that instead, inasmuch that person is capable and willing to do that, but, strictly speaking, it’s not essential to do so. As he (172) puts it, “[m]eaning is there to be discovered in the landscape, if only we know how to attend to it.” Whether we know how to do that, how to attend to it, well, that depends and it’s something that you have to assess, case by case. To me, this problem has to do with the dominant way of thinking or image of thought that meaning is something fixed, something that exists on its own, separate from people, something that can and must be uncovered. To me, doing that, trying to uncover the truth, is symptomatic of the dominant way of thinking. It comes with the territory, or so to speak. I think he (172) struggles to explain this in his epilogue. I think it would be easier to make sense of this by noting that language, among other semiotic modes, is not something separate, something that exists on its own, something that we connect to, something that we use, like a tool, but something that we do, as I’ve pointed out in this essay a couple of times. In other words, I think it is easier to understand what he (172) is after if one treats meaning not as something to be uncovered, but as something that is made. That said, the meaning that is made, the sense of it, whatever it is that one is after, can’t be explained because sense cannot be put into words (either you get it or don’t). It’s never individual. It’s always collective. Sure, you can push that to its extreme so that others might not be able to get it, to what Vološinov (102) refers to as the upper limit of understanding, what one might also call the pragmatic or contextual meaning, but, for others to make sense of what you are after, you probably operate closer to the lower limit of understanding, what one might also call the semantic meaning, unless those who you are dealing with or wish to deal with (in the case of writing, for example) are part of the same particular collective with you (as it makes it easier for them to get what it is that you are after than for someone who isn’t part of the same collective and doesn’t share the same collective experience). Going beyond the upper limit would make it impossible to understand what one is after. As pointed out by Vološinov (88), that would involve going beyond any and all social structuration, resulting in what would appear to us as animal like behavior. Going the other direction, beyond the lower limit, or at it, I guess, one would also be in trouble because life would lose all its specificity. It’d be all generic, to the point that it wouldn’t make sense either. In other words, while making sense of something is always differentiated, as aptly expressed by Vološinov (88), it’s never individual or specific to this or that person. In his (88) words, “[t]he stronger, the more organized, the more differentiated the collective in which an individual orients himself, the more vivid and complex his inner world will be.” So, making sense of something is never individual. I guess one could say that it’s individualized but, as explained by Vološinov (88), that always depends on the collective that one is a part of. This is exactly why just about anyone can make sense of anything, inasmuch as they share enough knowledge or experience. This is also why I consider notions such as ‘etic’ and ‘emic’ as counterproductive. They rely on thinking in terms of identity, as a matter of essence, that one is this or that, a member of this or that group, setting fixed bounds on what can and cannot be understood and experienced.

Outnumbered, outgunned, but not outdone: Smells like team spirit

I was going to write about the current situation and how media plays a role in it, or, should I say its role in it, but I haven’t really finished that, so it’ll just have to wait. It’s something that I managed to forget, that I had written about it, and the recent events made me think, like, didn’t I already write about this? Well, I did and I didn’t. I did write about it, a bit, but I didn’t cover properly. Anyway, I’ll see to it when I have the time and the inspiration to get it done.

So, instead of doing writing about the media and how current events have been covered, I’ll look into something else. Because … all happens these days, not that it changes my life that much, as I’m used to everyone else taking their sweet … time to do anything (in contrast, I’ve reviewed manuscripts and MA theses in a day, giving detailed constructive feedback), I’ve found time to start working out properly again. That’s hardly worth mentioning, in itself, but it has also given me time to listen to podcasts while I’m working out, which led me to this. The cancellation of sports (and, well, anything and everything, really, but sports being highly relevant to my life) also made me think of what I’m about to cover in terms of sports, because, to me, it’s always a team effort.

I think you can notice what I’m about to cover in sports, how, on paper, you can a very good team, with the good athletes or players, coaches, support staff, equipment and training facilities, yet, somehow, a supposedly worse team, one that doesn’t have all that, can outperform the better team. Why? Well, because they might not have all that, but they do have team spirit. It’s simple as that. But what is team spirit? What is it? How does it come to be? Why do some have it while others don’t?

Right, to get on with this, to answer all those questions, I happened to listen a podcast on Ibn Khaldun, because, why not, and, while I was listening to it, what was said sounded quite familiar. It turned out that I had read about him in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, written by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1987 translation by Brian Massumi). They (366) mention him on the plateau on nomads, the one on the war machine, noting that:

“Ibn Khaldun defines the nomad war machine by: families or lineages PLUS esprit de corps. The war machine entertains a relation to families that is very different from its relation to the State. In the war machine, the family is a band vector instead of a fundamental cell; a genealogy is transferred from one family to another according to the aptitude of a given family at a given time to realize the maximum of ‘agnatic solidarity.’”

Now, before I continue on this, I think it’s worth clarifying that esprit de corps (OED, s.v. “esprit”, n.) has to do with how members of a body act as parts of a whole, not by simply being parts of a whole, as given as such, but by acting in relation to another, which creates the sense of belonging to the whole:

“[T]he regard entertained by the members of a body for the honour and interests of the body as a whole, and of each other as belonging to it.”

The notion of body (corps) is particularly important, because, for Deleuze and Guattari (366) it is never “reducible to an organism, any more than esprit de corps is reducible to the soul of an organism.” As I’ve discussed in my previous essays, for them, a body is just any body, like, say, a body of water, not just the human body. Moreover, a body is not merely an organism, in the sense that organism is a matter of how something is organized, in this and/or that way, which is why they (30) state that “[t]he body without organs is not a dead body but a living body all the more alive and teeming once it has blown apart the organism and its organization.” Anyway, they (366) specify that they prefer to use the word ‘spirit’ because they considered it to be volatile and decentralized whereas “soul is weighted, a center of gravity.”

I think it’s also worth clarifying what they (366) refer to as agnatic solidarity. Now, solidarity (OED, s.v. “solidarity”, n.) is not a tough word to comprehend, considering that it has to do with:

“The fact or quality, on the part of communities, etc., of being perfectly united or at one in some respect, esp. in interests, sympathies, or aspirations[.]”

And, in a legal sense (OED, s.v. “solidarity”, n.):

“A form of obligation involving joint and several responsibilities or rights.”

In contrast, agnatic is a probably something that you may want to check. It (OED, s.v. “agnatic”, adj.) has to do with:

“Of or relating to agnates; related through the male line[.]”

In other words, agnatic solidarity has to do with solidarity, some sort of unison, between male kinsmen. I wouldn’t say it’s a legal obligation. It’s more of a unwritten rule, that you stick your neck out for others and they do the same. Anyway, back to the point where Deleuze and Guattari (366) define this:

“[I]t is not the public eminence of a family that determines its place in a State organism but the reverse; it is the secret power (puissance), or strength of solidarity, and the corresponding genealogical mobility that determine its eminence in a war body.”

So, as I just pointed out, there’s strictly speaking nothing set in place so that people must act in a certain way, but rather that they do. I’ll let them (366) finish, before I move on:

“This has to do neither with the monopoly of an organic power (pouvoir) nor with local representation, but is related to the potential (puissance) of a vortical body in a nomad space.”

Pierre Clastres elaborates on this in ‘Archeology of Violence’ (1994 translation by Jeanine Herman). He (88) points out that 16th century European explorers made note of how the locals in South America were organized in small groups but no one ran the show, or so to speak. They did have leaders, yet, the explorers thought that there was no clear hierarchy, no clear chain of command, no policing, as he (88) goes on to elaborate. He (88-89) adds that this puzzles people even contemporarily, because it’s hard for someone accustomed to a state society to explain how leaders can be “stripped of all power”, how “chieftainship is located outside the exercise of political power.” It comes across as absurd to think of the exercise of power outside a hierarchy because it appears, well, simply contradictory to be a leader, a chief, if it doesn’t mean power over the community, as he (89) further clarifies the issue.

How does it work then? How the hell that makes any sense? Well, according to Clastres (89), the leader or the chief, whatever you want to call that person, is rather a spokesperson, someone who stands in for the society on certain occasions, not as its representative, but as someone who gives the group identity when dealing with other groups. So, I guess, in this arrangement the leader is more like a diplomat, someone who works for the group. He (89) adds that primitive societies are not divided internally, so people are either of us or of them, friends or enemies. Anyone who is a friend is an ally, someone you look after and someone that looks after you, whereas enemies are those who do not meet this condition, which is why war is waged upon them, as he (89) goes on to clarify. So, yeah, the leader is indeed more like a diplomat, someone who is tasked “to consolidate the networks of alliance”, as he (89) puts it. The leader does, however, also play a role in relation to the enemies, in the sense that it is the allies who are called upon to defend against enemies or to attack them. The leader does, of course, need to display courage under such circumstances (to lead by example, I guess), so, in a way, the leader is not only a diplomat but also a marshal or a general. Most importantly, the leader does not make decisions for the society. To reiterate the earlier point, the leader does not rule over others. Instead, the leader only executes the will of the society, as agreed by the members of the society, as he (89) points out. It wouldn’t make any difference if the leader did attempt to do otherwise because the leader doesn’t have any power over the members of the society, as he (89) goes on to clarify. On top of that, if the leader ends up on a power trip, the members of the society are not bound to follow the leader and the leader can thus be replaced, even by force, as he (91) goes on to specify that. I mean, it sort of makes sense, considering how you only differentiate between friends (allies) and enemies. The leader is considered a friend, a prestigious friend, but if that friend becomes an enemy, then the leader not only can be replaced, but must be replaced.

Now, how does one become a leader if it does not involve an exercise of power. Well, in this arrangement one is selected for this position because one displays the necessary qualities, diplomacy and courage, or, in short, prestige, as he (89) puts it. One doesn’t get to be the leader if one isn’t of use to one’s society. The point is that people may call such society primitive, even consider it a non-society, but, if you ask me, members of such society discussed by Clastres are clearly not dumb. He (90) adds that while members of the society tend to value the leader’s views and, in some cases, value them more than the views of other members of the society, the leader is never in a position that would allow these views to be turned into commands that the members of the society would need to obey. This also applies in cases where members of the society, that is to say friends, challenge one another and argue over something. As he (90) points out, the leader can only appease the parties involved and appeal to them in order to stop them from feuding.

There is another occasion in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ where Ibn Khaldun is mentioned. Deleuze and Guattari mention him when they (481) contrast nomads with sedentaries:

“When Ibn Khaldun speaks oibadiya, bedouinism, the term covers cultivators as well as nomadic animal raisers: he contrasts it to hadara, or ‘city life.’”

It is worth noting here, as they (481) do, that being sedentary is not, in itself, merely defined as a matter of farming, cultivating the earth, but rather a matter of organization, hence the earlier point about organism being about organization, how something is delimited and/or partitioned. They (481) point out that in Greek terms, the undelimited and unpartioned open (smooth) space is nomos, including but not limited to “the pre-urban countryside; mountainside, plateau, steppe”, and the delimited and partitioned closed (striated) space is polis, what one calls the city and the town.

In the notes section (555), it is clarified that Ibn Khaldun approaches this “sociological problem of the esprit de corps, and its ambiguity” in what they call his “masterpiece”, ‘The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History’ (1958 translation by Franz Rosenthal). I’ll try my best to summarize the three main points here. Firstly, in bedouinism (nomadism) the way of life builds on a shared understanding of eminence as subordinated to solidarity between people, which is to be ‘secret’ (implicit), whereas in cities (sedentarism) the way of life builds on subordination to eminence, which is to be public (explicit). Secondly, bedouinism (nomadism) involves “great purity and great mobility of the lineages and their genealogy”, whereas, in stark contrast, city life (sedentarism) is fertile for “lineages that are very impure, and at the same time rigid and fixed.” Importantly, what is considered solidarity is open in bedouinism (nomadism), extending within the community, not only within one lineage but also between lineages, whereas in city life (sedentarism) solidarity is much more limited between them. Simply put, in the former case people are marked by solidarity, whereas in the latter case there is solidarity, but only inasmuch it serves another purpose, hence the subordination. Thirdly, and most importantly, as they (555) stress this, in bedouinism (nomadism) the “lineages mobilize an esprit de corps and integrate into it, as a new dimension” known as asabiyyah (عصبيّة), in which there is no fixed state that would guarantee a leader power over others, hence the great social mobility, whereas in city life (sedentarism) it works the other way around, “the esprit de corps becomes a dimension of power and is adapted for ‘autocracy.’”

Now, that’s only my summary of their summary. I’ll now have a closer look at what Ibn Khaldun actually wrote. He actually wrote quite a bit and there’s no way I’m covering it all, so I’ll just take a look at the relevant part of his book, which can be found in the second chapter of the first volume. It’s worth noting that this was written in 1377, which is why the examples deal with something as remote (to most contemporary people) as camel herding and why it may contain passages that just wouldn’t do contemporarily . My point is that the fact that I look at it and cover parts of it does not mean that I wholeheartedly endorse its contents. Of course, for me, that applies to just about anything, really. I don’t think you need to buy into something wholesale. I can’t really comment on the religious aspects either, so I won’t go into detail with all that.

I’ll start from the beginning, from the point where Ibn Khaldun (249) emphasizes the importance of social organization. Summarizing the main aspects of this, how things start to get going, he (249) notes that people lead different lives under different circumstances, some cultivating land, whereas others have animals graze on it. Land is particularly important aspect of this because whereas farming is typically done intensively, on good land, in hopes of high yield, animal husbandry takes a lot of land, which is why, according to Ibn Khaldun (249) “the call of the desert” is highly tempting, even though, as you probably already know, life in the desert is tough and riddled with perils. The desert is always either too damn hot or too damn cold. On top of that there’s the obvious need for water, food and shelter, what he (249) calls bare necessities. The upside of this way of life is that once you are accustomed to needing only that, just the bare necessities, you won’t be bothered by what some might call the lack of anything beyond bare necessities, convenience and luxury, anything that involves wealth and comfort, whatever it is that city dwellers typically seek to acquire and take great pride in, as he (249) puts it. Everything is functional. Therefore housing only exists to provide temporary shelter from the elements and food is supposed to provide nutrition, as he (250) goes on to elaborate the Bedouin (nomad) lifestyle.

To avoid being overly simplistic, Ibn Khaldun (250-251) does point out that this is not simply an either or type of a deal. It’s not that you are either a nomad or a sedentary. There are also people who are what one might contemporarily call semi-nomadic, such as pastoral herders, people who move from one pasture to another, but do not venture into areas where the conditions are not as favorable as they are in the areas that they are familiar with, as he (251) goes on to point out. He simply opts to focus on those who venture into the desert because, for him, they are the most clear cut example of nomads. I guess you could say that he focuses on them because they are most hardcore. He (252) actually calls them “the most savage human beings that exist”, “on a level with wild, untamable (animals) and dumb beasts of prey”, if compared with the sedentaries.

I think it’s worth emphasizing that he (252) doesn’t actually think that the Bedouins (and other nomads) are somehow crude or savage, dumb or wild (etc.) as that’s a matter of perspective. It’s rather that he (252) gives them credit for their austere lifestyle. They don’t get carried away, thinking that they are entitled to something as they make due with bare necessities, as he keeps repeating. For him (252), this lifestyle is the basis for the lifestyle of the city and, similarly to the call of the desert, there is something alluring about the conveniences and luxuries of the city that attracts the Bedouins (nomads). It sort of makes sense, really. I mean you wouldn’t have people in the cities, unless there was something that drew them there. It’s interesting that he (252-253) considers the Bedouins to be prior to the sedentaries, yet, at the same time, he considers settling down (sedentarism) an aspiration or a goal for the Bedouins. So, in a way, he is stating what Deleuze and Guattari state in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ when they (429), following Clastres, propose that:

“[S]ocieties termed primitive are not societies without a State, in the sense that they failed to reach a certain stage, but are counter-State societies organizing mechanisms that ward off the State-form, which make its crystallization impossible[.]”

To be more elaborate, Clastres (87-88) addresses this in the ‘Archeology of Violence’:

“[P]rimitive societies are societies without a State; they are societies whose bodies do not possess separate organs of political power. Based on the presence or absence of the State, one can initially classify these societies and divide them into two groups: societies without a State and societies with a State, primitive societies and the others.”

Now, to be clear, what is meant by primitive, by Deleuze and Guattari, as well as Clastres, has nothing to do with actual inferiority, which is why Deleuze and Guattari indicate that these societies are termed as primitive, rather than being primitive. As explained by Clastres (90-91) such views that present these societies as embryonic or childlike, degree zero, something to grow out of, presuppose that they are inferior, which, in turn reinforces the notion of a state society as the way to go about things. So, instead, as aptly expressed by Clastres (87), “we no longer cast upon primitive societies the curious or amused look of the somewhat enlightened, somewhat humanistic amateur; we take them seriously.”

What they, Deleuze and Guattari, as well as Clastres, are saying is that what we call a state, a country or a nation, a clearly delimited territorial entity, is not a given, even though we are tempted to think that way, as they (427) point out:

“We are always brought back to the idea of a State that comes into the world fully formed and rises up in a single stroke, unconditioned Urstaat.”

And (360):

“We are compelled to say that there has always been a State, quite perfect, quite complete.”

So, as they (360) emphasize, it’s the other way around.

“[T]he State itself has always been in a relation with an outside and is inconceivable independent of that relationship.”

To make more sense of this, what they call the State is something as simple as the matter of sovereignty, who controls a certain delimited area of land, a territory, as they (360) go on to elaborate. States come in all shapes and forms, for example as despotic states (think of empires, kingdoms, duchies, etc.), liberal bourgeois states and totalitarian states (think of the Soviet Union, for example), as Clastres (88) points out. Ibn Khaldun (253) makes the same observation when he notes that not unlike the Bedouins (nomads), “sedentary people differ also among themselves in their conditions (of life)”, so that clans and tribes, as well as cities and towns vary in terms of their population and the territory they occupy or hold. States also operate by delimiting and partitioning, as pointed out by Deleuze and Guattari (481), whereas non-state societies do not, as elaborated by Clastres (88). Importantly, what follows from the delimiting and partitioning (designating this and, followed by dividing it) is a hierarchy (you know, like a taxonomy, a tree), meaning that some are deemed superior to others who are, conversely, inferior to them, but, possibly superior to others, who are, in turn, inferior to them (and so on, and so on), as explained by Clastres (88). He (88) also stresses that this is particularly western (albeit not exclusively so) way of thinking (an imperial state of mind, if you ask me), in which thinking otherwise, that there could even be a society outside the (hierarchically organized) state, is inconceivable. It just doesn’t compute.

What is the outside then? Well, it’s anything that isn’t controlled by the various states, what doesn’t adhere to territoriality. Deleuze and Guattari (360) point out that, territorially speaking, they can be larger or smaller than states, but, be as it may, what’s common in both cases is that they undermine the sovereignty of the states. They don’t play by the rules, or so to speak. They (360) list multinational corporations and religions as these entities that are larger than states and various bands, margins and minorities as the entities smaller than states. They (360) add that these two extremes of the outside are not mutually exclusive, so you can have what Marshall McLuhan famously called the ‘global village’. To be more specific, they (360) note that a multinational company may appear to engage in pillage or piracy, in the sense that they seek to deplete resources, coming from the outside, as if raiding a territory like a band marauders. Similarly, they (360) point out world religion may be adopted by small bands, like it was the case with the Bedouins. To further explain the outside, from the perspective of the outside, they (427) note that:

“[T]he war machine explains nothing; for it is either exterior to the State, and directed against it; or else it already belongs to the State, encasted and appropriated, and presupposes it.”

Here the point is that the nomad war machine exists outside the various states. It is the outside, or so to speak. That said, as they point out here, the war machine also presupposes the state. Why? Well, you can’t be against the state, unless the state exists. I like to think of this as a matter of mutual presupposition. This takes us back to the earlier point that what Deleuze and Guattari, as well as Clastres, define as the state is not a given, but rather a mode of organization, among other modes. The state is, of course, the dominant mode of organizing a society, which is why it appears to us as a given, but it is not the only one and, by no means, inherently the best mode of organizing a society. That’s exactly what Ibn Khaldun is stating.

Right, so, to get back on track here, summarizing Ibn Khaldun (252-253), the Bedouins (nomads) are primary to the city dwellers (sedentaries), but only because their way of life is based on bare necessities. Conversely, what’s beyond bare necessities, anything of convenience or luxury is thus secondary. All that is accrued only after one has secured the bare necessities. That said, I think he does take into consideration that while nomadic way of life appears to be primary, the temptation to settle down, to be form a state, i.e. to be static/statist, is already there, like a seed, hence my earlier point about this being about mutual presupposition. In other words, settling down is a state of mind, or so to speak, how one seeks to stop and hunker down. Conversely, the temptation to adopt a nomad lifestyle is also present for those who have settled down, even though going from riches to rags, or so to speak, is certainly less tempting to most people. It’s not entirely erased when people settle down. By formulating it this way avoids asserting that one way of organizing a society is, in itself, better than other ways of organizing it and that they necessarily succeed one another in a given order.

Ibn Khaldun (253) states that the Bedouins (nomads) are “closer to being good than sedentary people”. Why is that? Before I provide the answer to that, it’s worth noting that he (253) actually doesn’t believe that people are inherently good or evil. For him (253-254) people are brought up as this or that, so it is the education that defines whether are in the habit of doing good or evil deeds. He (258) further elaborates this point:

“[M]an is a child of the customs and the things he has become used to. He is not the product of his natural disposition and temperament. The conditions to which he has become accustomed, until they have become for him a quality of character and matters of habit and custom, have replaced his natural disposition.”

It’s also interesting that he (254) doesn’t say that one’s education makes one good or evil, but rather that if one is brought up in a certain way, it will be difficult for the person to act otherwise. Now, what is meant by good and evil is left somewhat open and one has to figure that out by oneself. He does elaborate on this, when he (262) indicates that “[e]vil qualities in man are injustice and mutual aggression”, which would amount to good qualities being justness and restraint. Anyway, for him (254), because of what has already been mentioned a number of times, because the sedentaries end up taking all the convenience and luxury for granted, to the point of decadence, they tend to exhibit “all kinds of blameworthy and evil qualities”, what I guess one might call vices. In stark contrast, the Bedouins (nomads) tend to exhibit much less “evil ways and blameworthy qualities”, as he (254) points out. I think it’s crucial to emphasize here that he is not saying that the Bedouins (nomads) are (inherently) good, nor that they are better than sedentaries. What he (254) is saying is that “[t]hey are closer to the first natural state” than the sedentaries. In other words, what he is saying is that the Bedouins (nomads) are not clearly marked by either good or evil. So, they are closer to being good than the sedentaries not because they have been brought up to be good, but, because their indifference to good and evil, they are not evil either. They lead very simple lives, having customs that are appropriate to the conditions they find themselves in, so it’s hard to find anything blameworthy about them, not to mention opulent or decadent. This does not, of course, make them paragons of virtue either.

He (257-258) also considers the Bedouins (nomads) to be more likely to display courage and fortitude than the sedentaries. Much of this is rather obvious, so I’ll just summarize the main points. If you live a sedentary life, you rely on others to do things for you. Importantly, these things that you entrust others to do for you, such as protect you, you wouldn’t and, in all likelihood, couldn’t do yourself, for yourself, nor for others. In other words, being sedentary makes you weak, in the sense that you end up depending on others. In stark contrast, the Bedouins rely on themselves and stay ever vigilant. They pay attention to their surroundings at all times, watching and listening. Even sleeping is serious business to them, so they sleep only in the company of fellow Bedouins or when on the move, when mounted.

It is at this point that he does, however, distance himself from the Bedouins (nomads) that he otherwise gives plenty of credit to when he (258) states that, “[a]s a rule, man must by necessity be dominated by someone else.” I’d say he almost contradicts himself, considering that he does consider the nomads to be self-reliant and thus not dominated by someone else, but, then again, he (258) actually states that “[n]ot everyone is master of his own affairs”, not that no one is master of his own affairs. Okay, you could argue that he (258) is, in fact, stating that some are fit to rule and thus others must simply obey the ruler, be ruled, but, then again, this does leave room for the other interpretation, that by having enough courage and fortitude one can be self-reliant.

This leads him (259-260) further praise the Bedouins (nomads), their courage and fortitude, their self-reliance, because they do not cave in when they are faced with “brute force and intimidation” unlike the sedentaries who end up being deprived of their power of resistance. He (259) notes that this actually pertains to the enforcement of laws and argues that the fear of being punished and/or humiliated is enough to break the fortitude of sedentary people. He (259) adds that this also pertains to education because when “people grow up in fear and docility”, they “consequently do not rely on their own fortitude.” They end up being “deprived of much of their own fortitude” when they are subjected to formal instruction, regardless of whether it concerns crafts, sciences or religious matters, as he (259-260) goes on to further specify. He (260) really wants to emphasize this point, so he bluntly states that:

“This is the case with students, whose occupation it is to study and to learn from teachers and religious leaders, and who constantly apply themselves to instruction and education in very dignified gatherings.”

So, in short, he (260) reckons that formal education makes people weak because it only teaches people to be reliant on the very people who dominate them. Now, as if that wasn’t clear enough, he (260) goes on to add:

“This situation and the fact that it destroys the power of resistance and fortitude must be understood.”

In other words, if you didn’t notice it already, he for sure isn’t fond of weak people, nor organizing the society in a way in which a handful of people dominate the vast majority of people. I don’t know, maybe he’d be okay with it if it was a matter choice or a matter of combat, having to yield to domination because that would involve a test of courage and fortitude, as well as include the potential for resistance, but considering that people do not choose their parents, nor their educators, he really seems to be against the system. Related to this, he (260-261) blames people for using religion, and its tenets, for their own purposes, to making people reliant on them.

Following this discussion, he (262) jumps to characterizing how the Bedouins (nomads) and the city dwellers (sedentaries) handle injustice and mutual aggression, the two evil qualities mentioned in this context. He (262) states that the mutual aggression and the sense of injustice between sedentaries is handled by the authorities and the government, unless it is the ruler who happens to be the one responsible for the injustice (quite the snarky comment, in 1377, if you ask me!). He (262) adds that aggression coming from the outside of the city can be thwarted in by government troops and/or having walls that keep the aggressors from entering the city. In stark contrast, the Bedouins are expected to exercise self-restraint out of respect to their leaders, as he (262) goes on to point out. This reminds me of how Clastres explains the role of leaders in the South American context. Ibn Khaldun (262-263) states that confrontations with outsiders are handled by their militia, consisting of a tightly-knit groups of young and well trained Bedouins (nomads) that share a common descent, because the close bonds increase compassion and affection among them, which, in turn, makes them appear more courageous and fearsome to their enemies. This has to do with what has already been referred to as asabiyyah (عصبيّة), group feeling, what I’d call team spirit, as he (263) goes on to exemplify:

“This means that one cannot imagine any hostile act being undertaken against anyone who has his group feeling to support him.”

Now, the emphasis here is on blood bonds, on lineages, because those of kin tend to be those who people care for, feel affection for and have compassion for, or, at least did, back in the day. He (263) expresses this particularly aptly in inverse fashion:

“Those who have no one of their own lineage (to care for) rarely feel affection for their fellows. If danger is in the air on the day of the battle, such a one slinks away and seeks to save himself, because he is afraid of being left without support and dreads (that prospect).”

He (264) provides a more general formula for this:

“If the direct relationship between persons who help each other is very close, so that it leads to close contact and unity, the ties are obvious and clearly require (the existence of a feeling of solidarity) without any outside (prodding). If, however, the relationship is somewhat distant, it is often forgotten in part.”

He (264) then expands this to others, anyone close really, such as “neighbors, relatives” or anyone that shares “a blood relation in any degree (of kinship)”. This also applies to client-master relationships and to one’s allies, as he (264) goes on to add. What really matters is whether one would feel injured if the other person were to be harmed or treated unjustly. I think it’s also worth recognizing that not all blood bonds lead to this group feeling or team spirit. I mean there are a lot of bad relations among relatives, of which, I’m sure, Ibn Khaldun would disapprove of. He doesn’t really cover that aspect, perhaps because it may have been quite rare in his day, but he (265) point out that there are limits to the notion of blood bonds. If the tie is too remote, going back many and many generations, it doesn’t count, even if that tie can be proven. That’s why he (265) emphasizes that the tie must be close, here and now, not … yawn … somewhere, back in the day.

The bits about concerning purity and impurity of lineage (blood line), as discussed in the notes section of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ (555) are not well explained, so I think it’s worth addressing them the way Ibn Khaldun discusses these notions. At first, when you think of purity of lineage, it may make you think of genetic purity, which, in turn may make you think of racial purity and the like, but, that’s not really the case. Anyway, so, to reiterate what was mentioned earlier, the Bedouins (nomads) are thought to have pure lineages, whereas the townsfolk, the city dwellers (sedentaries), are thought to have impure lineages. So, to make sense of this, do not think of genetic or racial purity or impurity, despite the fact that nation and race are mentioned by Ibn Khaldun (266).

Right, so, for Ibn Khaldun (265), the Bedouins (nomads) are the ones with pure lineages. What is meant by this is that purity, this unmixing, this unsulliedness? Now, if you read his (265-267) accounts, it may indeed come across as being concerned with genetic or racial purity. However, I reckon he is actually saying that the Bedouin (nomad) way of life is such that the clan or tribe, that is to say the extended family, is a tight-knit unit that stays together, instead of spreading out geographically. In contrast, these days family is typically understood as a tree, as in a family tree, and typical behavior would be that the children go their own way, settling apart from the parents. This was already the case with European feudal nobles of Ibn Khaldun’s time, where the sons (or, if no sons where born, the oldest daughter or the oldest daughter with a son) would inherit the title or titles (the oldest typically getting everything or the main title, the others getting nothing or just some minor titles). This arrangement makes it so that what, I think, Ibn Khaldun considers to be a lineage is effective split into cadet (OED, s.v. “cadet”, n.) branches, the branches of, effectively, dispossessed younger sons (oldest brother inhereits it all), who then have to find their place elsewhere, outside the family, which, later on, was typically in the military (hence junior officers in the making are nowadays called cadets). So, what Ibn Khaldun (267) is really saying is that such arrangements where members of the family go their own way wipes out the group feeling, which is (or at least was) typically found among members of the same (extended) family.

The intensity of group feeling is further specified in the notes (269) as pertaining to how close or distant the members of the same common descent are; the closer to one is to one’s kin, the stronger the tie and the stronger the group feeling. So, for example, one tends to have strong bonds with one’s siblings, but the bond with one’s cousins tends to be not as strong. This is sort of self-explanatory really. That said, it’s worth noting here that this is not posited as a necessity, so, in actuality, one may well have strong bonds with one’s cousins, while having been estranged from one’s siblings.

This emphasis on blood lines may still bother you, I get that. That’s why it’s important to make note of what Ibn Khaldun considers family. For him (267), one may change one’s descent (blood line) by attaching to another descent, voluntarily or involuntarily. As he (267) points out, “the only meaning of belonging to one or another group is that one is subject to its laws and conditions, as if one had come into close contact with it” because “[i]n the course of time, the original descent is almost forgotten” as “[t]hose who knew about it have passed away, and it is no longer known to most people.” In short, lineages continually change in this way as people become attached to other lineages, that is to say change lineages through coming to close contact with them and not with their previous lineage, as he (267) goes on to specify. This applies basically to anyone, even servants, captives and slaves, as he (276-277) points out later on. So, yeah, oddly enough, for him, while descent is important (because it can result in group feeling), it’s not strictly speaking about biological. In short, you can jump between blood lines, which, I know, may seem a bit contradictory. Whether you are considered this or that lineage, well, that really depends on whether others, the people involved, are willing to consider the person making the jump as one of their own, as he (268) goes on to ponder. There’s no clear cut, yes or no, answer to this and no check list as to what one has to accomplish in order to be considered one of them. Again, I think this is quite self-explanatory. I mean there are people who fit right in, with like almost no effort, it seems, and then there are people who’ll never seem to fit in, no matter what they do, not because they can’t fit in or don’t fit in, but because it’s the others who get to make that call. Also, if switching was not possible, the group would have to intermarry, which would be disastrous, at least in the long run.

Anyway, be as it may, you are always considered as being of some descent, unless that has become muddled and you haven’t been adopted into some descent, I guess. He (269) emphasizes descent, being considered part of the group, because, for him, leadership is a matter of group feeling or, as I like to call it, team spirit. Simply put, you can’t become a leader of a group, a captain of a team, unless the group feels that you are worthy candidate to lead them, as he (269) goes on to point out. This issue of leadership is further specified in the notes (269) as a sort of shared sense of superiority, what, following Clastres, one might define as a matter of prestige. I think prestige is apt here because, as Ibn Khaldun (270) goes on to indicate, there is no shortage of people who claim to be brave, noble or famous. In other words, if you need to claim that you are brave, noble or famous (that you have this or that desirable quality), it’s only likely that you are an impostor, as he (270) also points out. So, yeah, I’d say that what he calls superiority is not actual superiority over others, but rather a sense of superiority or prestige that the members of the group sense, considering that he (270) states “that superiority results from group feeling” and that (273) “nobility and prestige are the result of (personal) qualities.” He (284) expands on this, noting that:

“Leadership means being a chieftain, and the leader is obeyed, but he has no power to force others to accept his rulings.”

He (284) contrasts this with what he calls royal authority or mulk, which he considers to be more than (local) leadership. It seems to work the same way for him (284-286), but it pertains to a larger scale, when one group dominates an another group, which then feeds into it, permitting it to dominate yet another group, and so on and son, until this ruling dynasty grows decadent and thus lacks royal authority. This way, I guess, you can have groups in groups, without simply homogenizing all the groups. Of course, this is already implied by how you can have client-master relationships where the prestige of the master is carried over to the client, inasmuch the client is recognized for its services to the master, as he (278) points out in reference to a case where a Persian house retained its descent under Arab rule, but the prestige it earned during that time was from being the client to a master descent, not of its own.

Whether or not the groups become decadent depends on the circumstances, but, given that conquests tends to results in increased wealth and prosperity, it’s only likely that decadence starts creeping in, not necessarily in the ruling branch of the common descent, but in the other branches, as they may find themselves content with how things are, taking it easy while the ruling branch takes care of things, as he (286) characterizes the situation. This also applies on the larger scale, in the cases where one group functions as the master and the clients become decadent, being content at how things are under the protection of the master, as he (287-290) goes on to add.

It is stated in the notes (268-269) that group feeling pertains to everyone who shares a common descent, what one might call the extended family, the different branches of the same family, but only the members of a particular descent, of a particular family branch, can be candidates for leadership. Simply put, the most prestigious family branch is considered responsible for providing leadership for everyone who is considered as sharing a common descent. However, this does not mean that leadership remains in the same family branch. It may, of course, remain in a particular family branch, but it may also be transferred to another branch if it is deemed more prestigious than the previous branch. I think that this is why it is stated in notes section of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ (555) that the Bedouins (nomads) are very mobile in terms of their lineages and genealogy. In fact, I’d argue that it might even be misleading or simply erroneous to call the particular descents family branches, because the group feeling of common descent only pertains to living members of a group of varying proportions. Simply put, not everyone of common descent is necessarily considered of being part of that group, even if they can prove that to be the case, as also stated by Ibn Khaldun (265):

“If, however, existence is known only from remote history, it moves the imagination but faintly. Its usefulness is gone, and preoccupation with it becomes gratuitous, a kind of game, and as such not permissible.”

And (265):

“[W]hen common descent is no longer clear and has become a matter of scientific knowledge, it can no longer move the imagination and is denied of affection caused by group feeling. It has become useless.”

So, in a way, what Ibn Khaldun (265) considers to be a common descent is not a matter of knowledge, but of sense, feeling or affection. For him this would typically apply for about (up to) four generations, considering that he (278-280) states that, in general, prestige is relevant within four generations and after that it’s no longer relevant to the members of the group. It’s not that prestige doesn’t transfer from one generation to another. It certainly does, at least to some degree. However, the problem with the transfer is that whatever the quality once was, generations ago, is unlikely going to be manifested generations down the line. As he (279-280) points out, the fourth generation is already so distanced from the first generation that whatever was great about one’s ancestor or ancestors is now in them a shallow imitation but which the fourth generation still thinks is the real deal and take it for granted that the group respects them for that. He (280 argues that therefore the group end up replacing leader before the fifth generation, transferring the status to some other particular branch of the common descent.

This exactly why it might be better to think of the particular descents as strands of a common descent, rhizomatically, rather than as branches of a common ancestry, as a matter of arborescence. This also means that there’s great purity among the Bedouins (nomads), as also mentioned in the notes section of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ (555), because those who abandon their descent or are forced to abandon their descent, for turning against one’s own kin or for having become decadent, for example, are no longer considered as part of that common descent. Once you no longer have group feeling, that team spirit, you are no longer considered part of that group or team. It’s that simple. This also explains why leadership can never be transferred outside of the group, to anyone who is not considered as sharing a common descent, as specified in the notes of ‘The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History’ (269). Ibn Khaldun (271) provides plenty of examples of how leadership or authority is never about claims but about group feeling, but I really cannot verify any of the examples, even though I recognize the Abbasid and Fatimid dynasties among the examples. I’m just not familiar enough with who’s who, who did what and what not. Anyway, the point he (271-272) is making is that talk is cheap and the problem with that is that it doesn’t take much for a claim, a fabrication, to be taken as an irrefutable fact.

To explain how the city dwellers (sedentaries) are impure in terms of their lineage, as mentioned in the notes section of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ (555), it should not be hard to comprehend how that might be in the light of what has been covered thus far. Ibn Khaldun (273-274) isn’t specific about this, but he does indicate that the sedentaries can only have prestige in a metaphorical sense and thus they are mere pretenders when it comes to leadership. This is because, for him (274), a group includes all the descendants, good and evil, prestigious and non-prestigious, noble and ignoble, whereas the city dwellers (sedentaries) tend to be highly selective when they discuss their lineage. Only the ones that are remembered as having good qualities and having done good things get mentioned. Then, as already mentioned, there are also those who stake claims lineages that were not really theirs, but a good story is always a good story, as they say. So, in short, they are impure because they don’t really care about their lineage, their people, only themselves and, at times, go as far as to claim position in some other lineage, some other group of people, not because they want to be part of that lineage, that people, but because it benefits them. On top of all that, these people may also truly believe that they are men of the people (yes, men, because they were men, and, in most cases, probably still are), or so to speak, which is why he (274-275) calls them delusional.

So, in summary, why does Ibn Khaldun consider the desert dwelling Bedouins (or, more generally, the nomads) superior or more prestigious than anyone else, the townsfolk and city dwellers in particular (or, more generally, the sedentaries)? Well, as he (282-283) goes on (and on) to discuss, the way of life based on bare necessities, basically just for the sake of existing, if you will, doesn’t give them much opportunity to become decadent. That’s why. They retain their group feeling because they look after one another, not themselves, and those who, for some reason, for example taking too much pride in their own particular strand of common descent, start elevating themselves above everyone else will be struck down from their self-created pedestals.

I’ll stop here with Ibn Khaldun as the rest of the chapter ends up repeating itself quite a bit. By going on and on about royalism, it also risks coming across as more of a justification of it, rather than distanced discussion of it (which I think it is, at least earlier on). Some might feel tempted to compare his views on this with Thomas Hobbes, but I think he is far too conscious, far too aware, if not personally familiar with, of how monarchy has a tendency to become self-serving, which is why, I think, that he isn’t in favor of hereditary rule, such as primogeniture, in which the oldest son, the firstborn, always becomes the next ruler. I’d say that, for him, this isn’t balanced because it isn’t legitimated by the group, those who are of common descent. For him, leadership and authority always depend on the group and the group is in the right to replace their leaders if they’ve become self-serving. In other words, it’s always bottom-up, regardless of the situation. Plus, he goes into great detail on this, how transferring leadership from one leader to another in a close circle, like from father to son, tends to end up taken for granted, quite delusionally, and thus becomes self-serving, which leads to an eventual intervention by the group. So, I’m not really convinced that he is a royalist in the strict sense. I think he is too aware of how it will fall apart. I’m more tempted to think that, somehow, this reminds me of Friedrich Nietzsche when it comes to how it appears that there is this underlying will to power, the power to affect and to be affected, which, in some cases, ends up as the mere will to dominate, as pointed out by Deleuze (134) in ‘To Have Done with Judgment’, as contained in ‘Essays: Critical and Clinical (1998 translation by Daniel Smith and Michael Greco). For example, in ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ (1994 translation by Carol Diethe) Nietzsche (58) states that (pagination from 2006 edition):

“I think I have dispensed with the fantasy which has it begin with a ‘contract’. Whoever can command, whoever is a ‘master’ by nature, whoever appears violent in deed and gesture – what is he going to care about contracts! Such beings cannot be reckoned with, they come like fate, without cause, reason, consideration or pretext, they appear just like lightning appears, too terrible, sudden, convincing and ‘other’ even to be hated.”

Now, contrast that with what Ibn Khaldun (258) has to say about the Bedouins (nomads), those whom he (250-254) considers the primary society in the world:

“As a rule, man must by necessity be dominated by someone else.”

He uses the word domination, but he (258-259) goes on to qualify its use:

“If the domination is kind and just and the people under it are not oppressed by its laws and restrictions, they are guided by their courage or cowardice that they possess in themselves. They are satisfied with the absence of any restraining power.”

Alternatively (259):

“If, however, the domination with its laws is one of brute force and intimidation, it breaks their fortitude and deprives them of their power of resistance as a result of the inertness that develops in the souls of the oppressed[.]”

So, there are two ways of exercising power over others. The first one is the Bedouin (nomad) way, in which people restrain themselves from aggression and injustice out of respect to their leaders, who, in turn, are only their leaders because they are deemed worthy of the position (until they aren’t). The second one is the city dweller (sedentary) way, in which people are disciplined and punished, so that they would know their place and would not rise up against the rulers. Now, as discussed by Ibn Khaldun, the leaders may slip from the first way to the second way, which leads them to dominate others, in the sense that Nietzsche (58-59) uses the word dominate. In Nietzsche’s (58-59) words:

“What they do is to create and imprint forms instinctively, they are the most involuntary, unconscious artists there are: – where they appear, soon something new arises, a structure of domination … that lives, in which parts and functions are differentiated and related to one another, in which there is absolutely no room for anything that does not first acquire ‘meaning’ with the regard to the whole.”

As he points out, this is, at first, more less instinctive, unconscious and thus involuntary. It then tends to create a structure of domination. They (59) don’t really even think about it, so they don’t even care. For him (20) this disparity between the ones who dominate and the ones who are dominate result in ressentiment. It’s sort of inevitable for that to happen, because, as explained by Ibn Khaldun (306), the way things are handled “require[s] the leader to exercise a restraining influence by force” because otherwise “his leadership would not last.” For the Bedouin (nomads) themselves, there can be no domination of the Nietzschean kind within the group, among those of common descent, as they are expected to be self-reliant and self-restraining, as pointed out by Ibn Khaldun (259, 262). Their society is organized around the group feeling. Turning against members those who are deemed to be of common descent, be it through direct aggression or indirect self-serving behavior, will be punished. Such people have to seek refuge elsewhere, in some other group that may or may not be willing to adopt them, or be killed. So, to cut a long story short, I’d say that their society is organized around mutual dependence, not a mutual contract. In Ibn Khaldun’s (306) words:

“Their leader … is, therefore, forced to rule them kindly and to avoid antagonizing them. Otherwise, he would have trouble with the group spirit, and (such trouble) would be his undoing and theirs.”

Going back to the earlier point about will to power and will to dominate, the nomad way is the former and the sedentary way is the latter. In ‘To Have Done with Judgment’ Deleuze (128) also refers to the former as a system of cruelty and to the latter as the doctrine of judgment. This matches Ibn Khaldun’s depiction of the Bedouin (nomad) way of life as harsh and cruel, but not judgmental. He (302) refers to it as “savagery”, bluntly stating that they damage, pillage and plunder and that they take anything that they can. He (302-303) isn’t saying that it’s a human nature to do so (remember the importance of upbringing and education for him), but that it has become their nature to be “savage”, so, for them “it means freedom from authority and no subservience to leadership.” For him (303), such a “disposition is negation and anthesis of civilization”, “the antithesis and negation of stationariness, which produces civilization” and “the negation of building, which is the basis of civilization.” Importantly, under their rule, people live “in a state of anarchy, without law”, as he (304) points out. There can be no judgment if there is no law.

While Ibn Khaldun certainly praises the underlying group feeling, he should not, however, be understood in suggesting that people should live like the Bedouins (nomads) do. He may find Bedouinism (nomadism) to be praiseworthy in that regard, but, as he (304-305) goes on to elaborate, many Bedouins foster self-serving tendencies, which eventually results in a dog-eat-dog world, which, in turn, well, kind of negates what he finds particularly valuable in Bedounism. He (308-309) points out that while the Bedouins (nomads) are self-reliant, their simple way of life is not crafty, which undermines their self-reliance. They need “carpenters, tailors, blacksmiths, or other (craftsmen whose crafts”, which means that they need to either trade with the city dwellers (sedentaries) or take what they need by force. The problem is that if they only do the latter, there won’t be anything to take in the long run. Then again, the more they do the former, the more it undermines their self-reliance, which, in turn, erodes their way of life. That’s quite the conundrum alright.

But does this mean that because actual Bedouins (nomads) are a bunch “savages” to him, he supports the stationary or sedentary way of life? Well, no. I’d say no. It’s evident that he isn’t fond of the decadence that comes with it. Convenience and luxury has a tendency to make people lazy and self-serving, so I can’t really say that he is in favor of that way of life either. I reckon he wants to get the best out of both worlds, to combine the -ism of Bedouins (nomads), Bedouinism (nomadism), with everything that comes from staying put, all that what the Bedouins (nomads) destroy. But, for that, he needs religion, which he (305-306) thinks can temper the Bedouins (nomads). That said, his (307-310) own account of how the three aspects, the solidarity of the Bedouins (nomads), the stability of the city dwellers (sedentaries) and the temperance of religion, have meshed does not make it seem like he has figured out a solution to the problem of inequality. I think the issue has to do with how the second aspect, what Deleuze and Guattari (360) call the State, is in contradiction with the other two aspects that are the two directions of the outside, the first aspect being local and the third aspect being global. I’d say that the state certainly tries to capture them and integrate them. I reckon it also succeeds in that, but that ends up transforming them into something which they are or were not, which means that the society doesn’t become marked by solidarity and temperance.

Anyway, Ibn Khaldun’s take on group feeling is not only interesting, but also quite unique or at least well ahead of its time. I think this is what one should focus on in his work. This is what one can learn from the Bedouins (nomads) and I think Ibn Khaldun would agree with me on that. I’m not sure the shift from leadership based on group feeling to royal authority is that well argued though. To me, it’s more of the same, but on a different scale, really. I don’t mind it that much, but given that he goes on and on about it, it risks coming across as sort of apologetic, in defense of royalism (this may, of course, be a problem with the translation, how it makes me think of despotism and feudalism).

There is that religiosity that runs through the chapter, which I’m sure you’ll notice if you read it yourself, but, to me, it seems to be there because, most likely, it was expected of him. He appears to first explain something in great detail, how something happened, only to finish it by saying it that this happened because God willed it, but that’s like saying whatever just happened, happened because not only did God made it possible to happen and God allowed it to happen, but because God also willed it to happen. Sure, okay, but, stating that, after the fact, that’s like saying it is what it is, regardless of what happens. It’s like sure, okay, what about it? Why did this make me think of Baruch Spinoza here?

This book chapter also includes some pretty racist segments, but, considering that this was written in 1377, I’m not that surprised, nor shocked, really. To be honest, I’m more surprised that it isn’t more racist than it is. For me, it’s more of a letdown. It’s like you are rooting for someone, someone unknown, someone unheralded, for coming out of nowhere and being better than the household names, only to end up slightly disappointed. Of course, it’s me who is projecting such high expectations to a fairly obscure text that is certainly ahead of its time, hoping that it’d be even more ahead of its time than it is. I don’t know if that’s giving him a fair shake.

To elaborate on the issue, he seems to contradict his rather open views regarding people, how anyone can become part of this or that lineage, yet, he goes on to assert that black people, what I assume to be in reference to people who live in the southern parts of Sahara desert and/or south of it, “have little (that is essentially) human and have attributes that are quite similar to those of dumb animals”. I mean, come, come on! Really? Really? You go on and on about the different groups of people, including Arabs, Israelites, Kurds, Persian and Turks, and the various dynasties, in great detail, but then you make sweeping statement like that in passing. Like, what, you didn’t bother to investigate more and you just threw in something? Is that it? It’s even worse in chapter one, where it becomes evident that it’s based on mere speculation. To be fair, he comes pretty close when he attributes skin color with air temperature, black people being black because the air is hot and white people being white, blue eyed, freckled and blonde because the air is cold, which is, to be honest, not a bad guess, for 1377. That’s not the problem. The problem is that this leads him to flirt with, I never thought I’d say this, brown supremacy, the supremacy of the temperate people, the people who have temperate moral qualities because they live in areas which are not too hot, nor too cold, but temperate. Right … lets just say that these parts of the book haven’t aged well and leave it at that.

Again, as this was written in 1377, it’s pretty obvious that the status of women was so low that they aren’t really even worth mentioning in this book, except in some familial context. It was clearly a man’s world back then and there’s no apologizing for that and, no, I’m not going to write that it was what it was, in the sense that it was thus meant to be so.

In his defense, if I’m allowed to do that, it’s fair to say that you’ll find recent texts that are way more problematic than this text. I’m actually quite surprised how he manages to distance himself from many issues (albeit not all) that just wouldn’t fly contemporarily. I for sure wasn’t sure what I’d think about the purity or impurity aspect, it first being about blood lines, but then it was clarified that what is meant by that is, well, rather flexible, as one can adopt another line of descent if one’s own isn’t working for oneself, assuming that others are okay with it, of course.

The good thing is, of course, that you don’t have to subscribe to everything that someone else says or does, wholesale, so, like with other books (or texts, in general), I recommend to just take what you find useful. He is clearly a product of his time, which, I think, he would agree with, considering how he considers one’s upbringing and education crucial to one’s life, albeit not in a simple deterministic manner.

Given Choice

A previous essay of mine focused on the art of conversation, as discussed by Gilles Deleuze in part I of ‘A Conversation: What is it? What is it For?’, as included ‘Dialogues’ (1987 translation by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam). This time I’ll be looking at part II of the same text. It’s attributed to Claire Parnet. Whether this is actually the case or not, I don’t really know. I actually don’t even really care, but I’ll go with it.

Parnet (19-20) comments “the question answer procedure” by stating that it builds on dualism. One is always privileged over the other. For example, an interviewer is always the one setting the questions to the interviewee. As she (20) points out “[t]here is always a binary machine which governs the distribution of roles and which means that all the answers must go through preformed questions, since the questions are already worked out on the basis of the answers assumed to be probable according to the dominant meanings. Exactly. Just as I pointed out in the previous essay. There is always this expectation, either me setting up the question so that I get the answer that fits the question, what I expect, (which makes asking the question pointless, the difference being that it now appears that the other person contributed something) or, rather, the other person expects me to expect certain answers and then goes with it. The point she (20) is making is that questions create certain expectations that ought to be met by the person expected to answer the questions. Conversely, straying from the question, not providing the expected answer is typically prohibited, as she (20) goes on to add.

She (20) explains the binary machine works by referring to what is known as ‘forced choice’. She (20) exemplifies how this works with a deck of cards, but I’ll leave it up to you to read that yourself. You’re familiar with how this works if you’ve ever filled in a survey or a questionnaire that presents you questions that can only be answered with two or more predefined options. The ‘good’ thing for the person conducting the survey or questionnaire is that there are no gaps in the data. It also makes the work way easier as there’s no need to go through the data, to process something open-ended into this and/or that category. Now, the thing is, however, that if there is not even an option to not answer the question, then you are forced to choose, minimally one or the other. For example, if someone asks you whether you prefer red or white wine, you can’t say that you don’t drink wine (or alcohol in general), that you have no preference, that you are fine with both or they go well with certain foods, or that you actually prefer rosé. Okay, let’s assume that you chose white, because you had to. Now you are asked whether you prefer Riesling or Müller-Thurgau. Again, you can’t answer that you have no preference, that you don’t like either of them or that you’d rather go for Viognier. One could, of course, give more options, but the point is that you are still forced to make a choice. The problem with this is that it can be used against people, to manipulate them. For example, you could be asked whether you support a certain cause or not (or this or that cause), only to use your answer to ask a follow-up question, along the lines of whether or not the support or lack thereof is problematic, and so on, and so on. The point is that you can corner people this way because the game is rigged from the start.

This also reminds me of how Jean-Jacques Lecercle handles this in ‘The Misprision of Pragmatics: Conceptions of Language in Contemporary French Philosophy’ when he (28) points out that by asking questions one can impose a certain position upon one’s interlocutor. Of course, when one opts for the question-answer approach, it’s not as simple as being assertive, like name calling people, as he (28) goes on to point out. It has the same function, it’s just way more clever to work through questions as you are using the other person as your foil. He (30) exemplifies this with a three-step formula, consisting of statement (what you want), inversion (shifting the apparent origin of the statement to one’s interlocutor) and echo (shifting the statement back to oneself in the form of a question). As he (30) goes on to point out, I can invert something like “‘I want you to do this’” into “‘you want me to do this’” and then echo it as a question ‘you want me to do this?’. In short, the point here is that use can use questions to impose on people, make them answer from a certain position that you set up and, to connect to this to forced choice, you can work your way through a series of questions, making it appear that the other person is saying this or that. Each question then just forces the other person more, making the person commit to things that he or she might not be willing to commit if there was no forced choice involved.

Anyway, back to Parnet (20-21) who provides real life examples of how the questions can be used to impose certain positions on people even in seemingly open-ended settings. She (20) points out that in psychoanalysis a patient may, for example, talk about a certain part of the country located by the sea (in French: mer), only to be interpreted as the patient speaking about his or her mother (in French: mère). Similarly, and even more tangentially, she (20-21) states a patient may be speaking of a Resistance leader called Rêne, only to be interpreted by the analyst as speaking about Rê-ne, about reincarnation or rebirth, about Renaissance, finally leading to mother again. She (20) also provides an example about how the analyst, which she aptly refers to as “the manipulator”, interprets a patient who speaks about his or her interest in joining a group of hippies (in French: groupe hippie) as talking about pissing (in French: gros pipi). Now, you may object to those interpretations as being hilariously tangential, but that’s exactly the point she is making.

Parnet moves on to discuss faciality, but as I’ve covered that quite a bit in the past, I’ll jump to something else, something which I think she explains particularly well. She (22) explains the problem of treating language as communicating information, as a matter of informatics:

“The schema of informatics begins from a presumed maximal theoretical information; at the other end, it puts noise as interference, anti-information and, between the two, redundancy, which diminishes theoretical information but also enables it to overcome noise.”

In other words, the task of language is seen as functioning to communicate maximal information from one person to another, transmitting it from point A to B. The problem is that there’s noise or interference, anti-information, anything that isn’t what is to be relayed from A to B. There’s also redundancy. It’s a problem in the sense that it always involves duplication, which limits how much information can be transmitted. If you say the same thing twice, there’s already redundancy. You only need to say it once. It’s simply unnecessary and takes away from what could have been said in its stead. That said, if there is noise, the package of information may get lost in transit. For example, if you are talking next to a construction site or your phone has poor reception, you may have trouble hearing what the other person is saying, so redundancy can be useful. Saying something more than once makes it more likely for someone to get it, albeit, of course, at the expense of what could have been in its stead. Parnet (22) is not, however, content with this existing schema. In a way it does still hold, but it functions different. In her (22) words:

“On the contrary, this would be: above, redundancy as mode of existence and of propagation of orders[.]”

What she (22) does is to indicate that, as discussed in the previous essay on the first part of this text, redundancy functions not to make sure that information is successfully communicated from A to B, but to make sure the order-words are propagated. She (22) uses the example of news. They do not simply provide you information, they tell you how things are, what the order of things is. They are also highly redundant. I mean, news do express the same stuff again and again. This is arguable even more the case than what it used to be, back in 1977 when this text was first published. Now news is everywhere, telling you how things are, making sure that you don’t think otherwise.

Parnet (23-24) moves on to summarize the issue or the theme that deals with the dominant image of thought which, in short, impedes thinking, the exercise of thought. She (23) aptly clarifies what Deleuze and/or Guattari mean by image, noting that it’s not about ideology, but the way things are organized, so that it “effective trains thought to operate according to the norms of an established order or power, and, moreover, installs in it an apparatus of power, sets it up as an apparatus of power itself.” This image builds around ratio, as in what is considered rational, reason, as in what is considered reasonable, and correctness, as in what is considered to be correct, as she (23) points out. To be more specific, firstly, it builds on the idea that there is good will and good nature, as in that “the thinker … seeks ‘truth’” and “possesses ‘the true’ by right, as she (23) further clarifies the image. Secondly, it relies on what is considered common-sense, brought you by the “harmony of all the faculties of a thinking being”, as she (23-24) points out. It just comes to you. Thirdly, it deals with recognition, assuming that a thinker simply recognizing things, this and/or that, as if they were there, waiting to be recognized as this and/or that, representing some fixed otherworldly idea that you recognize in the moment, as she (24) further clarifies. Fourthly, it is about error, in the sense that it has to do with how one must overcome errors in thought, those that make you mistake this for that, false as true, as pointed out by her (24). Fifthly, she (24) adds that it also deals with knowledge, that is to say what is considered truth and how it pertains to “sanctioning answers or solutions for questions and problems which are supposedly ‘given’.”

Following her (23-24) summary, she (24) moves on to reverse this Platonic schema, turning it upside down. Firstly, thoughts must not come from good nature or good will, but from “a violence suffered by thought”. Secondly, thoughts do arise from some harmony of faculties. They arise from taking each faculty to its limits of disharmony, in relation to the other faculties. Thirdly, thoughts are not tied to recognizing, that is to say coming across them in the world, as if preexisting. They are created during encounters. Fourthly, thoughts do not involve the risk of errors, but the risk of stupidity. Fifthly, thoughts are not defined in terms of knowledge. There is nothing preexisting to be recognized that one simply learns, and no set of given questions or problems to be posed or set.

She (25) also explains the Platonic schema as a matter of arborescence and contrasts it with rhizome. She (25) states that “trees are not a metaphor at all, but an image of thought in order to make it go in a straight line and produce the famous correct ideas.” She (25) specifies that:

“There are all kinds of characteristics in the tree: there is a point of origin, see or centre; it is a binary machine or principle of dichotomy, with its perpetually divided and reproduced branchings, its points of arborescence; it is an axis of rotation which organizes things in a circle, and the circles round the centre; it is a structure, a system of points and positions which fix all of the possible within a grid, a hierarchical system or transmission of orders, with a central instance and recapitulate memory; it has a future and a past, roots and a peak, a whole history, and evolution, a development; it can be cut up by cuts which are said to be significant in so far as they follow its arborescences, its branchings, its concentricities, its moments of development.”

In summary, arborescence is the model of a tree. Just imagine drawing a tree. You have a point of origin, the seed, from which it shoots up, only to branch out from the center and the branches to branch out. You can also look at a tree and work your way back, to see where it came to being, how it grew vertically and horizontally. You can also cut it up, piece by piece, to see how the different parts of the tree function. It is the same thing with the roots of the tree.

She (26) goes on to add that ‘schools’ (as in schools of thought) are arborescent. They always have “a pope, manifestos, representatives, declarations of avant-gardeism, tribunals, excommunications, impudent political volte-faces etc.” She (26) adds that there are always disciples, but these disciples are always sterile. I take this to mean that the followers of a certain school just do what they are told. They don’t really create or produce anything new, something that might differ from what they’ve been taught, hence the sterility. Just think of it, like how one’s offspring may well look a lot like and/or act like a parent, but there’s still always something new about them. That’s not, however, the worst thing about schools for her. She (26) argues that what’s worst is the way that schools crush and suffocate everything that has happened before and is taking place right now. In other words, schools seek to gain exclusive control of an area, to establish a territory that the members of school control according to their principles, and ward off any dissenting views within the territory or entering it.

She (26) contrasts arborescence with rhizome:

“Each decisive act testifies to another thought, in so far as thoughts are things themselves. There are multiplicities which constantly go beyond binary machines and do not let themselves be dichotomized. There are centres everywhere, like multiplicities of black holes which do not let themselves be agglomerated. There are lines which do not amount to the path of a point, which break free from structure – lines of flight, becomings, without future or past, without memory, which resist the binary machine – woman-becoming which is neither man nor woman, animal-becoming which is neither beast nor man. Non-parallel evolutions, which do not proceed by differentiation, but which leap from line to another, between completely heterogeneous beings; cracks, imperceptible ruptures, which break the lines even if they resume elsewhere, leaping over significant break …”

I think it’s worth emphasizing here that when one thinks rhizomatically, each act or thought (the same thing really, thinking not being separate from acting, or should I say occurring), is always linked to another thought or thoughts, which, in turn are linked other thoughts, and so on, and so on. Now, to be clear, this does not mean that everything is connected to everything else, but rather that things are linked to other things, inasmuch as they are, and those other things are, of course, then linked to other things, in as much as they are, and so on, and so on. Of course, we are jumping ahead here a bit by calling thoughts things, which may give an impression that thoughts are given, like a definite list of things that are then connected to other things. This is not the case. This is only the case inasmuch thoughts have come to being. This is why she (26) points out that this is the case “in so far as thoughts are things themselves.”

That said, this does not mean that there is a point origin that one can uncover by going back in time, tracing one thought to other thoughts until one reaches the first thought. Why? Well, because even that thought testifies to another thought, as she (26) points out. Now, this does not mean that going from one thought or a thing to another thought or a thing is pointless. No, not at all. It’s actually what you should be doing, going down that line, only to take another line, and another line, and so on and so on. That’s the point she (26) makes about becoming and non-parallel evolutions. Of course, nothing about this is neat, there being all these breaks, cracks, ruptures. That’s why sometimes it’s more of a leap that you need to make, not just following a line or a path. You might, of course, eventually end up where that leap takes you by following a line, but that’s already assuming something specific, somewhere that I want to be, which is not the point here. That’s why she (26) states that becomings are not tied to static notions such as man or woman, human or animal.

There’s also an interesting bit where Parnet (24-25) explains how author or authorship is usually understood as a matter of recognition, only to note that it is, as I’ve discussed in a previous essay, an author function, a figment of imagination of who this or that person is and what he or she thinks about this and/or that. In short, she (24-25) explains how dealing with someone like Deleuze, Guattari or Foucault (or Hume, Nietzsche, Proust or Spinoza, to list all those listed by her), it’s always an encounter. I like how she (24) defines encounters with people as meeting those who are not waiting for you to produce them (as encounters). It’s just about vigilance, taking a chance, going with it, seeing through it, but without forcing it, without attempting to make something specific, something what you already know or recognize happen (as that’s a matter of probability, not chance). So, for example, when I’m reading this text by Parnet, it’s an encounter. She did not write this text knowing that I will be engaging with it, not to mention writing about it, perhaps misunderstanding something, which may or may not lead to something else by chance. I like the way she (25) explains this by stating that Deleuze and Guattari worked together not as individual authors but in dialogue, à deux.

She (26-27) extends this discussion into journalism, noting that, on one hand, the author-function has been put into question when everything is just like a piece of marketing, be they “articles, broadcasts, debates, colloquia, roundtables about a doubtful book which, at the limit doesn’t even need to exist”, yet, on the other hand, the author-function appears to have been reconstituted along those lines, so the journalist or the reporter, whatever you want to call that, is now, sort of, responsible for creating that event that he or she covers, you know, like an author. I’d say yeah, that seems about right. I don’t think they simply just cover something that is taking place. A lot of the stories are tied to that journalist. They would exist without that person writing it or recording it, one way or another.

She (27) also points out when journalists are everywhere, everything is rendered as functioning in their service, or so to speak. This is actually the issue I take with journalism. I think there’s just something lazy, something rather dishonest about what is commonly known as interview. This goes back to the earlier issue about asking questions, how they are often used to position the interlocutor, to corner them, to force them to play a certain role according to the script written by the one asking the questions, that is to say the interviewer, the journalist. What the interviewer is doing is making it appear, as if, they were engaging in actual conversation, a dialogue, when, in fact, it’s a monologue. Sure, you can’t be sure if the interviewee will play ball, but, it’s only likely that he or she will do that.

I did an interview last year. It had a very basic question-answer format, one-to-one. The thing is that I knew already how that interview would go, how that person would answer, so, in a way, it was just me, telling a story that I’ve written about the person, while making it appear as if the person in question had something to say. To me, this is just lazy and, well, dishonest. I know people don’t take it as such, but, yeah, to be clear, I for sure knew what the answers were going to be like. It was like me putting words in the interviewee’s mouth, even though, technically, I didn’t do that. It must have been the easiest piece of writing that I’ve ever done.

I knew it was going to be that way. I wasn’t fond of the idea, knowing full well that it was going to go that way, but, well, it was interesting to see it unfold, in real time. In a sense, it was like a kind of marketing, as Parnet (26) puts it. It’s also why I prefer to engage in conversations, where the other person is my interlocutor instead of an interviewee. The other person gets to have a say, but there is no question-answer format, no rules, no need to say anything, if it comes to that. It just, sort of, unfolds and we see where it goes. I even let the other person ask me questions, if it comes to that. I mean, why not? I then work on it, ideally in correspondence with my interlocutor and that’s then what gets published. It’s a lot more challenging for both, me and my interlocutor, but I think it’s better that way. So far it has worked well. What’s particularly interesting and rewarding about the way it works is the dialogue itself, what you and your interlocutor get out of it, instead of what gets published. The best thing is when things get completely out of hand and the discussion ends up some tangent that becomes more important than what you were discussing before that. That’s when the magic happens! Parnet (27-28) seems to agree:

“Creative functions are completely different, nonconformist usages of the rhizome and not the tree type, which proceed by intersections, crossings of lines, points of encounter in the middle: there is no subject, but instead collective assemblages of enunciation; there are no specificities but instead populations, music-writing-sciences-audio-visual, with their relays, their echoes, their working interactions.”

So, yeah, you just end up going somewhere, not even knowing where that is, what that even means, but that’s the charm of it. Anyway, I’ll let her (28) continue:

“What a musician does in one place will be useful to a writer somewhere else, a scientist makes completely different regimes move, a painter is caused to jump by a percussion: these are not encounters between domains, for each domain is already made up of such encounters in itself. There are only intermezzos, intermezzi, as sources of creation.”

In other words, it’s this being in the middle of things, in between, not this or that, me or him/her. I am tempted to babble more here, but, as she keeps on producing, expressing things so aptly, I’ll let her (28) continue:

“This is what a conversation is, and not the talk or preformed debate of specialists amongst themselves, not even an interdisciplinarity which would be ordered in a common project.”

I. Could. Not. Agree. More. This is exactly why I find myself amusing myself, coming up with mock-interviews where I play both roles, because, well, in a way that’s exactly how interviews work. If I can play both roles, why would I ask someone else to play that role for me, for the sake of it? Why would I ask anyone anything if I already know what the other person will reply? Why the fuck would I do that? What’s the point in that? In her (28-29) words:

“The boring thing about questions and answers, about interviews, about conversations, is that usually it’s a matter of taking stock: the past and the present, the present and the future.”

Ah, yes, stock questions, stock answers. More of the same, same old, same old. There may be something that changes, something evolves, but it’s all very predictable. She (29) adds that this is the problem with authorship, the author or the author-function, how it would appear that the author either remains the same, like this or that, or he or she evolves or transforms while moving from one work to another. She (29) argues against this:

“[T]he embryo, evolution, are not good things. Becoming does not happen in that way. In becoming there is no past nor future – not even present, there is no history. In becoming it is, rather, a matter of involuting; its neither regression nor progression. To become is to become more and more restrained, more and more simple, more and more deserted and for that very reason populated.”

Now, you might be asking, what in the world is involution. That’s a good question, to which I’d answer that it’s about spiraling. Anyway, I’ll let her (29) define it:

“It is obviously the opposite of evolution, but it is also the opposite of regression, returning to a childhood or to a simple primitive world.”

In other words, it’s not about progressing, anticipating the future, nor about regression, longing for what was, as if it was the real deal, the true nature of things. She (29) really emphasizes that it’s about the simplicity of it, being restrained. For example, she (29) likens it to elegance, as opposed to being under- or overdressed. What is elegant? Again, a good question, but I believe that’s exactly her point. It’s not about being overdressed, what is considered too formal for the occasion, or about being underdressed, what is considered too informal for the occasion, as you can be appropriately dressed for the occasion, yet not be elegant. Elegance is just something you cannot buy in a store. There is just this grace or dignity to it, something, perhaps, restrained, something simple about it, which, somehow, makes it impressive. It’s like those pearl earrings that I see on her. There’s nothing special about them, as such. They are not something that stand out, yet, they do add something, something elegant. It is rather restrained, if you think of it. It’s hard to explain, which I guess is the point Parnet (29) makes.

Another way of saying this is to say that one is here and now, in between, in the middle, always adjacent, en route, on a path that has no beginning nor end, as she (29-30 goes on to explain it. Yet another way of expressing this is to think of of grasses and weeds as they are everywhere, yet, oddly enough, the way they are is, rather restrained, as she (30) points out. There’s nothing fancy about grass. There’s nothing central to weed or grass, no stand-out feature like with flowers, or, as she (30) puts it, “[i]t grows between”, “overflows by virtue of being restrained.” I like the way she (30) characterizes the act of a writing in this context as moving on the grass, as becoming-bison. Another way of thinking about how that works is fog, not being in fog, but being the fog that happens to between people, as she (30) goes on to add.

On the level of society, or socius, this is about state-ism and nomadism, as she (31) summarizes it, the former being arborescent (tree), the latter being rhizomatic (grass). In her words (31), “[t]he steppe, the grass and the nomads are the same thing.” Importantly, nomads are always in the middle, thus never out of place, or so to speak, always growing, expanding, as they only have geography, no history, no sense of time where one is not present, that is to say in past or in future, as she (31) goes on to specify. This is what troubles the state-ists. For them it’s bizarre. She (31) explains this in reference to Nietzsche, noting that nomads come across as appearing out of nowhere, for no apparent reason, no consideration of how things are organized and as if it was their destiny to do so. In other words, nomads trouble the state-ists because they don’t play by the rules. In fact, it’s not that the nomads don’t play by the rules (set by others, mind you), or so to speak, but rather that they don’t even acknowledge them. They don’t exist to them. They have their own rules, their own modes or organization, as she (32) goes on to point out. They don’t operate the same way so it’s hard to pin them down. They don’t even move the same way. They don’t have this extensive, point to point, approach to it. They don’t have this movement that is either absolute, from one point to another, or relative, as judged from another point, as elaborated by her (30-32). Instead, what matters in movement is speed, which is intensive, not extensive, as she (31) points out. It can even happen on the spot as it’s not about where one is positioned at any given time, as pointed out by her (32).

I’ll skip the bits where she exemplifies speed and jump to the final part of this essay where she (33-35) discussed binaries or dualisms. In summary, when you have a binary, you have 1-2 (or 0-1, if you want to start from 0). She (34) points out that we often like to think that we can escape such binaries by adding more terms to the equation, so that 1-2 (this or that) is now 1-2-3 (this or that or that) or 1-2-3-4 (this or that or that or that), but that gets us nowhere because a split is a split, no matter how many splits are involved. 1-2 involves one division. 1-2-3 involves two divisions. It may appear to be better than a single division and, perhaps, it is better than a single division, but the problem is that it, nonetheless, involves divisioning. You do not undo the divisioning by adding more divisions. In her (34) words, “[w]e can always add a 3rd to 2, a 4th to 3, etc.,” but “we do not escape dualism in this way, since the elements of any set whatever can be related to a succession of choices which are themselves binary” (as in this or that, followed by another … or that).

To overcome the dualisms, one should think otherwise, which is pretty much what Deleuze and Guattari attempt to make you, the reader, do in their work. I think eclectic is a fitting word here. In short, as she (33-34) goes on to point out, it’s not about 1-2 or 1-2-3, but about 1-6-18- 33, whatever, really. Instead of relying on ‘or’ one relies on ‘and’, so it’s not this or that (or that..) but just this and this (and this and this and this…). In her (34) words, “[a]nd even if there are only two terms, there is an AND between the two, which neither the one nor the other, nor the one which becomes the other, but which constitutes the multiplicity.”

She (35) returns the issue of a conversation or a dialogue, to point out that the way the first chapter of their book has two parts, but it’s not a matter of one opposing the other. It’s not an interview. In other words, the first chapter does have two parts, one written by Deleuze ‘AND’ another written by Parnet. As the chapter functions as a conversation, as a dialogue, ‘BETWEEN’ the two, as well as ‘BETWEEN’ you ‘AND’ them, it doesn’t even matter who wrote what. The point is not to get stuck on what Deleuze wrote ‘OR’ what Parnet wrote, possibly followed by some sort of dialectical move, but to just take what you get out of the conversation, as she (35) points out. What that is, well, that’s not important as you are not out to get this ‘OR’ that. Conversations are great in this regard. When you just engage with someone, let them speak and don’t force things on them, you’ll end up getting a lot out of it. Of course, you don’t know what is or will be, but that’s the charm of it.

Quantity Assurance

I’ll keep discussing the quantification of all things social in this essay. I’ll also stay on the same book as in my last three essays, covering parts of the recently published ‘Reterritorializing Linguistic Landscapes: Questioning Boundaries and Opening Spaces’ (edited by David Malinowski and Stefania Tufi). This time I’m focusing on a book chapter titled ‘The Quality of Quantity’ by Kate Lyons.

In summary, this book chapter deals with what you might come to expect just by looking at the chapter title. We are still dealing with the issue of what we get out of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Lyons (31) notes that what became known as linguistic landscape studies (LLS) largely shifted from quantitative methods to qualitative methods when it gained more and more traction among scholars. In short, the statistical approaches were largely replaced by ethnographic approaches, which seek to “position optimal analyses of a LL within careful consideration of the sociohistorical context(s) in which a sign may occur and/or bring about, as well as highlight the fluidity of interpretation researchers must allow in their assessments of signs’ significance”, as she (31) goes on to point out. In other words, the shift was motivated by thinking in terms of processes rather than objects, contextualization rather than context, which meant that relying “on the establishment of discrete categories” was deemed problematic, as clarified by her (31). Lyons (31) dedicates this chapter to going against the grain, illustrating the usefulness of quantitative methods, which, I approve of because it’s basically heresy to those who matter, no, sorry, to those who think they matter. This does not, of course, mean that she is against qualitative approaches, but rather that she “advocate[s] the use of statistics not for validation or irrevocable proof but as a potential complement” to them, to teasing out “subtle patterns”, as she (31) points out herself. She looks into utilizing inferential statistics and exemplifies its use with a study (which I’m sure you can check out yourself, so I won’t cover that part in detail).

Lyons (32) states that there are two key issues that one needs to come to terms with: to count or not to count and if one opts to count, what should one count? Some opt to count, whereas others opt to not count. If you ask me, there is no right or wrong answer to this. It depends on how you opt to approach this issue and what it is that you are trying to accomplish by opting to count or not to count.

Summarizing what I’ve stated in the previous three essays, if we think in terms of singularities and multiplicities, or haecceities, then counting is counter-productive because no matter what you do, say or write, you’ll end up expressing something that is subtractive. In less abstract terms, experience can never be put into words. If it is put into words, it’s never the experience in itself. No matter how many words one uses, one will always fail to match the richness of the experience in itself. The point is that we can’t subsequently add up what we have subtracted in hopes of piecing it back together. Once you subtract something, you’re already counting, you are already doing something quantitative. It’s going to be reductive, no matter what. Does this mean that it’s then just pointless to not count, because in terms of research it’s more or less impossible? No. I actually think this way and promote thinking this way. It’s more of a way of life than anything else, if you ask me. You can, of course, express something that is not a reduction of experience, a mere futile attempt at resemblance, but that’s art for you. Art is great, don’t get me wrong, but it has nothing to do with this.

To get back to the question, to count or not to count, I think there’s nothing wrong with counting, inasmuch as what one counts is thought of as partial objects that come together as components of this and/or that metastable arrangement. One is to be thought of as many; the whole that the many form is only whole in the sense that it’s one, which, turn can be thought of as being one of the many of another whole, and so on, and so on. What’s particularly important to realize here is that the whole is never something original that has been fragmented. The goal is therefore not to piece together the fragments in hopes of reconstructing something that had some ‘original’ form. The ones or wholes, what we think of as objects are just effects, partial objects of other partial objects that are also partial objects of other partial objects, machines within machines that are also machines within machines. What you see is what you get. Counting ones is thus a mere device that can help us understand how those partial objects come operate in unison. Yes, this process is always going to be reductive, no matter what you do, but, as I pointed out, the task is never to complete a puzzle or to mend a broken vase, or the like. What we are dealing with is no longer a closed set, but open ended. Nothing ever begins, nothing ever ends. We are always in the middle of things.

Anyway, what I just went on about is, more or less, what Lyons is saying in this book chapter. The point of using statistics is not to find all the pieces of a puzzle in hopes of completing it, once and for all. Instead, the point is to illustrate how things are interdependent, that is to say defined not in isolation, but in connection to everything else that they are connected (which are, of course, connected to everything else in the same way, inasmuch as they are, of course). The strength of quantitative approaches is that they can help us identify these co-occurances, how things are related to one another, how they appear to be contingent on the presence of something else, whatever that might be in this and/or that context.

To get back on track here, Lyons (32) argues that the answers to her own questions depends on what the researcher seeks to accomplish. The hypotheses and the research questions should help the researcher to pick the suitable course of action. I agree with her problem oriented take on this issue. For example, if you deal with singularities such as the fall, as in all bodies fall, it’s beside the point to quantify it, as pointed out by Gilles Deleuze (‘U’) in ‘Gilles Deleuze from A to Z’ (2011 translation by Charles Stivale). Summarizing Deleuze (‘U’), grabbing objects and letting go of them, one after another, proves just about nothing. Reproductions of the fall don’t really tell us about the fall itself. You can test something, let’s say, a hundred times, to prove that it is the case, but someone can always still doubt that and ask you to test it one more time, only to ask you to do it just one more time, and so on, and so on. Qualitatively, it’s the fall itself that is interesting, not that it appears to hold if we keep letting go of objects. To give you more examples, qualitative study focuses on the conditions of apparition, what is it that might explain why we distinguish leaflets from pamphlets or green from blue? It’s beside the point to examine a certain number of leaflets and pamphlets when we try to figure out why we’ve come to distinguish them. Sure, we may have to involve actual leaflets and pamphlets but it’s not a numbers game. We can also look at a certain number of instances that involve the said colors, but, again, that’s beside the point. But if we are dealing with something quantifiable, like how many legionnaires there were in the Roman legion at a certain time, then, yeah, quantify away.

Lyons (33) moves on to deal with the second issue, what should one count if one opts to count. I won’t get into detail here as I sort of covered this issue in the previous essay,. Anyway, in summary, it’s best to address this issue through one’s hypotheses and research questions, what it is that one wants to find out through quantification.

After addressing the two key issues, Lyons (34-38) explains the benefits of applying two different types of models in quantitative linguistic landscape studies, generalized linear regression models (GLM) and generalized additive models (GAM). I leave it to you to read the specifics on these four pages. Which one is better then? She (36, 38) addresses this question by noting that no statistical model or approach is inherently better than another one, albeit she found GAM to work better than GLM for her data because of the complexity involved and because it allows her to address spatial categories (latitude and longitude). Again, the fit really depends on what one seeks to find out and what kind of data one is working on, as she (38) points out. Usually different models, approaches and visual illustrations have their pros and cons. Some work great with certain kinds of data, whereas others not so. For example, as pointed out by her (35), ideally one does not resort to binaries, such as the indicating the frequency of one language vs. ‘other languages’, but if the number of cases for those other languages is negligible, the selected model may not be the best fit for that purpose. Moreover, presenting something in a certain way tends to result in ignoring or undermining other aspects. Tables are great in the sense that you get to see the counts, as well as the math involved, but it’s only likely that you need to be familiar with the terms used, how it all works, to make sense of it all, which is not so great for someone who is unfamiliar with it all but wants to understand what’s the deal. In other words, tables aren’t great because they aren’t that intuitive. That’s why the graphs tend to work much better. They allow you to get what’s important at a glance, as done by her (45-46) in this study. That said, graphs tend to be limited by what you can present on a page. Firstly, a page forces you to reduce what you have to two dimensions. In her case, it’d be great to see the presence of languages examined in relation to latitude and longitude, but presenting more than two dimensions in two dimensions just won’t do. Sure, you could do that on a map, but then it might risk obscuring what she manages to present in her graphs. Anyway, the two dimensions are constrained by the actual physical dimensions of the page itself. Of course, this is a problem that has to do with academic publishing that, for some reason, still relies on articles and books. Secondly, even if you could present more dimensions, you can’t just cram more and more in the same graph because while it does take into account more, it tends to make it harder to comprehend what’s at stake at a glance, as I pointed out. That’s counter-productive because the main benefit of graphic illustrations is making the work easier to comprehend.

What I really like about this book chapter is that she explains how statistics work, what’s the deal, or so to speak. I especially like the part where she (35) points out that inferential statistics should not be seen as a tool that proves something to be simply true or false (with recourse to a low p-value):

“This point is of crucial importance in motivating and interpreting inferential models, particularly in the case of the field of LLs. Inferential statistics should not be viewed as a way to prove something about a landscape, but an enhance way of describing and characterizings [its] features. The benefit of these techniques over descriptive statistics is not that a configuration of variables can be deemed significant, but that certain aspects can be highlighted and noted for future surveys and that relationships between variables may be more precisely characterized.”

Thank you! To paraphrase this, using statistics, going beyond description (counts and ratios), can be used to indicate which phenomena tend to co-occur and, conversely, which do not. That’s interesting in itself already, even if it does not tell us why some phenomena seem to co-occur whereas others don’t seem to co-occur. By doing just that, indicating that, hey, these things seem to be linked, pushes us to look at those things closer, to investigate them further, which may even lead us to figure out why it is that they keep appearing together. In short, this helps us see patterns. It’s as simple as that.

She (35-36) provides an example to make this easier to comprehend. So, let’s take language as one variable and combine it with some other variables. The problem is that looking at percentages alone makes it harder to see if there’s some connection between them. This does not mean that it’s impossible to intuit that some things seem to be linked, whereas others don’t. I mean you don’t even have to look at percentages. You can see this just by looking at cross-tabulated counts. The presentation is not what matters. It’s rather that in many cases the counts and ratios aren’t clear cut and you are left wondering, going through the data, which, of course, takes time. In her (36) example, certain types of businesses seem to prefer English over Spanish, yet other types of businesses seem to prefer Spanish over English. The problem is, of course, that we don’t know any specifics about the variables, so the percentages won’t do the trick. This is actually why one should always mention the counts as well, even if one is using percentages. Firstly, it’s very important to keep the proportions in mind (especially what the total is, are we dealing with the full set of data, a subset of data or a subset of a subset of data etc.). Secondly, if you only indicate percentages, one type might contain, let’s say, 200 units that were assessed, whereas another type might contain only 12 units. The fact that is the case, that something is that skewed, is, of course, interesting in itself, but I’d hesitate to say much about those 12 units. I’d recommend investigating that aspect more, whether it’s a thing in general or just a fluke in that data. I mean, it could be that the area in question just happens to have a low number of those types, but a high number of the other type. We might able to get a lot out of the 200 units (or maybe not, it really depends), but those 12 units might mislead us to think that that type tends to have these and/or those features associated with it (which could be the case, sure, but at least I’d be hesitant to say so). Conversely, if we do not look at the numbers, we might be working with very little data, which may risk saying something like this or that co-occurs (which, again, may or may not hold).

What I also like about this book chapter is that it incorporates spatiality (latitude and longitude) in the core of its analysis, something that I haven’t seen previously in similar studies. My own work has been mainly indoors, so this wouldn’t work for me, as such, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Using GPS data is something that has been underutilized thus far, which is actually kind of surprising, considering how big a deal GIS is in geography. As I pointed out in the previous essay, we did that type of spot mapping with GPS loggers in undergraduate geography classes years ago. It’s not even that hard to do and the mapping software is much better and intuitive these days.

There still seems to be interesting chapters in the book. I might cover (some) of them, but it really depends on if there’s enough to comment on. I mean the point of me writing about them is not to replicate them, nor to review them, but rather to comment on them, to give my take on them.

One to Many, Many to One

Included in the same 2020 book edited by David Malinowski and Stefania Tufi, ‘Reterritorializing Linguistic Landscapes: Questioning Boundaries and Opening Spaces’, William Amos and Barbara Soukup address categorization of data in quantitative linguistic landscape studies in their book chapter ‘Quantitative 2.0: Toward Variationist Linguistic Landscape Study (VaLLS) and a Standard Canon of LL Variables’. This is the book chapter that led me to this book and it’s actually the one I intended to check out first, but, following the introduction, I got distracted by a couple of other book chapters (that I covered in the previous essay).

So, to quickly summarize this book chapter, it has to do with quantitative approaches and the data annotation categories, as evident from the chapter title. To be more specific, their chapter focuses on data annotation and suggests certain categories that would be useful to incorporate to all quantitative linguistic landscape studies. This would help with comparing data and conducting meta-analyses. If everyone does things their own way, it’s not that it becomes impossible to compare studies, but it’s difficult nonetheless. This is very much a practical issue and I agree that it would be beneficial in the sense that I’d be less of a hassle to compare the results of different studies.

To get on with this, Amos and Soukup (56) summarize how things were in the past and what’s the current situation. It used to be the case that many linguistic landscape studies were quantitative, but, as they (56) point out, this ‘first wave’ of studies was followed by a turn toward qualitative studies. Following the shift from quantitative to qualitative, those opting for the quantitative were heavily (if not harshly) criticized for applying methodology that results in “undue simplification of their data’s character and context, to the point where the approach has been dismissed as merely ‘counting sings’”, as they (56) go on to point out. I agree and, to be clear, I am one of these heretics. I’ve got a lot of flak from my ‘peers’ who, behind the veil of anonymity, appear to have opted to quell such heresy. Nothing like getting feedback where it is apparent that there’s nothing wrong with one’s work, as such, except that it’s not done the orthodox way. I’m actually quite surprised that Amos and Soukup managed to get this text published. Maybe it’s just a slip up and future copies will have this chapter torn from the book when you open it. Nothing to see here!

Anyway, joking aside, Amos and Soukup (56) state, boldly and bravely, that they are on a mission to challenge such ‘criticism’, to show that quantitative approaches “are capable of capturing and explicating details regarding the appearance and context of LL signs and their function in public space, by their power to throw into relief general patterns and trends of distribution and co-occurence.” I want to emphasize the last word here, co-occurence, because it’s something that has not been given due emphasis in many studies. Like I’ve explained in my essays and in my published work, it’s one thing to work with a single variable and a whole other thing to work with two or more variables at a time. Sure, dealing with multiple variables does not, in itself, tell us why this and/or that occurs alongside this and/or that and, conversely, why that isn’t the case some other phenomena, but it does tell us that, somehow, these things seem to be linked, that there seems to be a pattern. This is something you can’t do with qualitative analyses. Or, well, maybe you can, but then we need to have a serious discussion as to what counts as qualitative and quantitative. On a general level, I’m a bit puzzled why people like me, Amos and Soukup, among others, have to even explain the usefulness of quantitative analysis. Hello, ever read heard of Gabriel Tarde or, if he’s too obscure, Pierre Bourdieu? Oh, and if your response to that is that, well, they are not linguists or sociolinguists, not to mention linguistic landscape scholars, and thus that proves nothing, then what can I say, except, that how parochialist and dogmatist of you, how convenient that their work doesn’t count just because they are not part of your crew.

While I’m not 100 percent onboard with having an “agreed method”, nor canonizing anything, as I like to think everyone should get to do their own thing, be creative with their work, Amos and Soukup (56) make another good point when they state that there was some discussion, some proposed categories that would work in all quantitative studies, the discussion got muddled when, all the sudden, there was basically no room for quantitative studies. I think it’s great that they get to even discuss this, no matter how ‘wrong’ others think it is. As I pointed out already, there is something to this, being able to compare sets of data, rather than having to parse them in various ways before being able to compare them. At least it saves time, if nothing else.

To justify their project, why they propose what they propose in this book chapter, Amos and Soukup (57-58), cover how things were in the past. The gist is that back in the day when the first special issue dedicated to what became known as linguistic landscape studies (LLS) came out, in 2006, much of the work was actually quantitative but the data categorization was rather simplistic. This ‘first wave’ or ‘empirical-distributive’ approach was criticized for being overly reductive. For example, authorship or agency, whatever you want to call it, was presented as a binary, ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’, as in ‘public’ or ‘private’. As they (58) point out, this criticism was actually warranted, that is to say, constructive. Classifying something as this or that language was another point of criticism, not in the sense that you have much trouble distinguishing, let’s say, Finnish from English, but in the sense that how do you decide between two very similar languages, let’s say Finnish and Meänkieli, especially when what you are dealing with may be limited to a couple of overlapping words. While that may seem trivial, it’s not when you have to deal with a large set of data and be consistent with the data annotation.

However, if you ask me, none of that was, nor is, the main issue that led people to opt for qualitative over quantitative. As Amos and Soukup (58) go on to point out, the biggest issue was the unit of analysis itself. In short, the biggest issue (no pun intended, you’ll see) was that size does matter (or does it) and if it does (or doesn’t) matter, to what extent it matters (or doesn’t matter)? As each unit or instance is, by default, valued as ‘1’ in the data, something like a small sticker is thus seen as equally important as large billboard. That’s an obvious issue. Then again, for some reason there seemed to be only talk of size, not other properties that may, in fact, cancel out the importance of sheer size. For example, let’s examine a billboard the size of a football field (to exaggerate things, just a bit) which has what’s depicted on it in very low contrast. Let’s say it consists of a white background and writing on it in light yellow. It’s like looking at a blank canvas. Conversely, we can have something much smaller that is nothing in comparison to the humongous billboard, for example a poster, yet the expression of its content is in high contrast. Which one is now more important? We could do similar things with orientation. Let’s assume that we have ten billboards, placed near one another. For the sake of simplicity, let’s also assume that the content is the same. They are all same size, but one of them is vertically orientation (tall > wide), whereas the others are horizontally orientated (tall < wide). Which one of them stands out? We can even make the others bigger than the vertically oriented one and we’d still be paying attention to the vertically oriented one. We could even flip that vertically oriented one on its side, make it horizontally oriented, but it would still stand out from the nine others because it is smaller than them. We can also extend this discussion to the conditions that pertain to the observation, such as reflectivity of the materials used, how something may, for example, shimmer, thus catching your attention, or be lit, so that you pay attention to it, regardless of its features, but not to something else. I actually mentioned this issue in my own methodology article a couple of years ago. It used to have a segment dedicated on this issue pertaining to visual attention, the different factors involved, but, for some reason, it got axed as unnecessary and thus reduced to a mere mention.

Anyway, Amos and Soukup (58) argue that instead of addressing these issues (which, I acknowledge to be quite daunting), most researchers opted to go the qualitative route, because “[i]n this strand, discrete elements of a given LL are selected and discussed individually, and are not typically compared with other items in that space or elsewhere in terms of quantitative distribution patterns.” They don’t say this but I reckon that many opted for the qualitative route because it’s just less work. No need to spend your time figuring solutions to the aforementioned issues. No need to spend that much time gathering the data. No need to spend that much time processing that data. No need to make sure that the data was processed consistently. This is not even just about who wants to dedicate their time to doing arduous and often simply boring task, but about productivity. You do not need all that data to produce an article, which is now a standard measurement of productivity in universities. I mean it only makes sense to do one-off studies. They are self-contained. Quantitative studies tend to need a lot of time for preparation, execution and processing, so they don’t have high initial turnover. When contracts are like half a year, a year, maybe two years, you need to produce in that time. It took me, what, a week to gather the data, and a couple of weeks to process it, add a week or two to going through it, again, and again, and again, for the sake of consistency, for a total of couple of months. Then again, those were really long days, something like 14 to 16 hours a day going through the data. At a more relaxed pace, that would have taken me like half a year, give or take. This doesn’t mean that qualitative work is easy. All I’m saying is that it takes way less time to work with the data because the assessment of linguistic landscape data is always manual, dare I say, qualitative. It’s not like you have an online form that people complete with two to five options that people select from per question, so that a database is formed automatically. You actually have to analyze each item, one by one, multiple times, often just for the sake of consistency. In terms of effort and efficiency, yeah, I’d also pick a handful of items to analyze instead of thousands of items to analyze. Then again, as also pointed out by Amos and Soukup (56), you can’t really say anything about patterns or trends, how systematic something is, by looking at a handful of items, which is why I went through all that.

Amos and Soukup (59) acknowledge the limitations of the so called ‘first wave’ of studies, noting that they were, indeed, simplistic and rather unsatisfactory, when compared with what the qualitative assessments dealt with. They (59) gather that the simplicity of these studies had to do with how the data handling becomes more complex the more categories you deal with. I can’t say if it was intentional or not, I wouldn’t know, but it would make sense. I mean the more categories you deal with, the more work it involves. For example, if you annotate 100 items, you have to make 100 annotations per category. That means that if you have two categories, you have to go through 200 annotations, involving 200 clicks. If you have three categories, you have to go through 300 annotations, involving 300 clicks. On top of that, you probably have to go through them again and again, to make sure you were consistent. This issue becomes greater the more data you have. So, yeah, it would make sense that prior studies had only a limited number of categories because the more categories you have, the harder it becomes to manage that data. It’s sort of obvious that if you deal with a small set of data, assessing it in multiple ways is easier.

Amos and Soukup seek to rework the quantitative side (hence the 2.0 in the chapter title) by taking cues from variationist sociolinguistics. They (59) state that the goal is to better understand the “interactions between linguistic and social structures and dynamics” by exploring “the relationship between written language use in public space and its social character, context and contingencies.” What I’d like to emphasize here is contingency. This is not a matter necessity. There’s nothing inevitable about this. What you are looking into is just that this occurs alongside this, in this data, gathered in this time and place. You can, of course, infer all kinds of things based on that, but it doesn’t mean that things will still be that way. Maybe, maybe not. You might also want to compare the findings with other findings from some other study conducted elsewhere, hence the interest in comparable sets of data.

Anyway, they (60) state that the proposed variationist approach has three basic requirements. Firstly, they (60) indicate that “an objectively imposable, ex ante definition of unit of analysis under study … that is ideally applicable across a wide variety of research settings is necessary.” I agree that the unit of analysis should not be defined too narrowly. That said, I don’t really know what is meant by objective in this context, some transcendent truth or just what is considered truth in a regime of truth? I don’t think it is possible to be objective, nor subjective. Both presuppose the self as a starting point. To me, what matters is that it makes sense and what makes sense is always a collective matter (that pertains to collective assemblages of enunciation, as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari would put it). It may seem a bit crazy, but, in a way, it’s a matter of intuition. You can’t really explain it. Either you get it, or you don’t (like with the Möbius strip). Secondly, Amos and Soukup (60) state that the data should be clearly defined and delineated. This is known as sampling. What’s important here is that all data points should be recorded. In other words, you shouldn’t be picky with what you include in the data. This is known as the count-all procedure, as they (60) point out. Oddly enough, I’ve received flak for that specific wording, because, apparently, for a detractor, it means that there is just these things, a fixed number of them, waiting for me to record. Now, coming from a detractor, that comment was, of course, in bad faith. What is meant by it should be rather obvious. It just means that you aren’t skipping data points because you couldn’t be arsed to do a better job. That’s all. Thirdly, they (60) state that the data categories should be relevant to the study, whatever it is that one is studying.

Following the set criteria, what they think should be the basic requirements, they (60) further elaborate on these three requirements. They (60) endorse what is known as the physical definition of unit of analysis, arguing that it “sets a reasonable, satisfactory, and workable precedent” and that it “is required for a true count-all collection of items in an LL if surveyed at a comprehensive level.” In the notes (72) this is also referred to “spatial (material) delimitation”. I’m actually quite surprised that they propose the much criticized physical, material or spatial definition as the basis. I mean it’s so easy to tear apart, as I’ve pointed out in my own published work. The gist of the definition is that each unit of analysis is contained in its own spatially definable frame, which may or may not be the same thing as its carrier. For example, a road sign is typically a sheet of metal bolted to a pole that is stuck to the ground. The sheet of metal is the frame. The pole is the carrier. What’s depicted on the frame is often painted on the sheet of metal, albeit it could also be taped/laminated on to it (I’ve seen both types). In some cases the frame and the carrier can be one and the same thing. For example, if something is applied directly to a wall, then the wall is the frame and the carrier, unless one considers the paint on the wall as its own frame and the wall the carrier of that frame. They (72) refer to this as layering, how in problematic cases each layer is considered its own frame and thus its own unit of analysis. Now, to be fair, this makes a lot of sense, but I’m still not convinced, because, as they (72) point out themselves, “this particular operationalization remains subject to grey areas and ad hoc judgement calls.” It’s kind of hard to assess whether, for example, graffiti is one layer, one unit, or a number of layers, multiple units.

Things get way more problematic when we consider encountering a number of frames that seem to form a larger whole but aren’t connected to one another physically. For example, I’ve encountered writing on taping that is contained on that frame, the tape itself, only to encounter the same taping, made from the very same material, containing the same writing, but split into two pieces of tape. In the latter case the tape is split in two is because it appears to have been retrofitted, put into place to replace prior taping. Because there’s a protruding object, it would have been impossible to replace the original tape without cutting the tape that replaced it in half. The thing is that both pieces of tape are necessary because they pertain to health and safety: the same information must be provided in Finnish and Swedish. If we apply the physical definition, there are three units of analysis, one that contains Finnish and Swedish, one that contains Finnish and one that contains Swedish. Applying this definition ends up obscuring this requirement. This may be only a minor thing in the data, inconsequential, but if there are many instances where the two languages are presented on separate frames, it may end distorting the results, giving a wrong impression of the situation. This is by no means the only issue with the physical definition.

This becomes even more of an issue when we address something like taping on a carrier/frame, such as a door. Let’s say that the door has writing on it, applied to it in the form of taping. Each letter is a physically separate entity, distinct not only from the door, but also from the other letters. If we go with a strict physical definition, each piece of the tape is, by all logic, its own unit of analysis. The problem with this is that it just makes no sense. It’s not wrong. It’s just absurd.

They (60) further comment on the second basic requirement. They emphasize the point I made about how the so called count-all procedure has to do with accountability, taking into account not only what strikes your fancy but also what doesn’t. I agree. I remember gathering data, being drawn to by all that’s unexpected, only to subsequently realize that these cases were actually fairly rare in the data. Had I focused solely on such aspects, I would erred to present what I was studying as far more linguistically heterogeneous than was actually the case. In fact, the data was actually highly homogeneous in this respect. So, yeah, I agree with Amos and Soukup (60) that it is important to assess what patterns emerge, what features are and aren’t salient, as well as in what contexts they are or aren’t salient.

With regard to the third basic requirement, they (61) comment it by adding that one needs to be careful when selecting the area that one seeks to study. It’s unwise to attempt to do more than what’s possible. It’s unlikely that a researcher or even a research team has unlimited resources, so it’s recommendable to focus on something that one can actually pull off. Trying to cover a whole city or a town will likely result in something that never gets done. They (61) suggest a problem oriented approach, basing the choice on hypothesis or research questions. For example, one might focus on an area that is considered tourist oriented. This also helps with coming up with data annotation categories, as they (61) point out.

Following the first part of their book chapter that focuses on prior research and addresses basic requirements for conducting research, Amos and Soukup (61) turn their attention to the data annotation categories that they propose to be common across studies in order to make it easier to compare findings of different studies. In summary, this second part introduces categories that pertain to the material or physical aspects and discursive or symbolic aspects. The former pertains to the material and spatial aspects, the appearance of an item and its placement, whereas the latter pertains to what the item is about.

The first category pertains to the physical location. For them (62-63) it has to do with where something is located. They (62) suggest that, if possible, one should input details such as country and municipality (city, town, village etc.) and, if possible, the street name and number. Now, I have a better idea. If located outdoors, why not just use GPS coordinates. It’s easy to do. I did such marking in undergrad geography like a decade ago and I bet the tools are much better and easier to use these days. Cameras tend to have to have GPS these days as well, but the problem with that is that it records the location of the camera, not the location of what it is that you photograph. In addition, they (63) suggest indicating whether the item is, for example, on a wall, on the ground (pavement, road, grass) etc. They (62-63) also propose taking into account the physical dimensions of the items, indicating whether they are, for example, in square meters or larger/smaller than … but not smaller/larger than … in terms of ISO standardized paper sizes. They (62-63) suggest a quick on the spot approximation of size, to get a rough idea of the size. I’d add here that if one wanted to be more accurate, one could use a laser distance measurement tool to figure out the surface area. That of course depends on the available resources, whether one has the budget for such and the time to do the measurements. That’s probably not doable for solo projects, but it should not be much of an issue for a well coordinated team. Their (63-64) third category deals with the actual material that the items are made out of, for example, glass, metal, paper, plastic or wood. Their (63-64) fourth category has to do with how whatever is displayed is presented, whether it’s, for example, embossed, engraved, written on the surface or printed. The third and the fourth categories also include the option of indicating whether the item is a digital display. While I consider the third and fourth categories useful and rather easy to implement in a study (which is exactly why they suggest these categories), I think I would separate the digital/non-digital into its own category, because not all digital displays are alike. In terms of material durability, it makes a difference whether we are talking about a flimsy LCD panel meant to be used indoors or a more robust LED display meant to be viewed at a distance outdoors. I would also separate lighting from the materiality to indicate whether the item is illuminated and how it is illuminated, from within (lighting incorporated into the item) or from without (separate lighting).

The third part of the book chapter deals with what they call the discourse level categories. They (64) propose three categories: authorship, contextual setting and discourse type. Firstly, instead of going with the ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’ classification, they (64-65) argue in favor of having three options to choose from in the authorship category: ‘official’, ‘private’ and ‘unauthorized’. The first two options match the binary classification but they are also considered ‘authorized’ whereas the third is not, hence the moniker ‘unauthorized’. They (65) acknowledge that it is possible to further differentiate these categories, but leave it up to people to figure whether their work warrants such or not. Their (66) interest lies in adding or enhancing compatibility between data sets, to make it easier to do subsequent meta-analyses. Secondly, they (66) indicate that ‘contextual setting’ pertains to the discursive context and “thus provides important metadata about the roles of certain types of places and groupings in the LL and their relationship(s) with specific objects, authors, and languages.” The purpose of this category is to go “beyond the official/private and authorized/unauthorized dichotomies”, as they (66) go on to clarify. Without going through the specifics, they (66-68) propose categorization that is based on an existing classification of economic activities known as ISIC (International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities) with 21 options. The ISIC documentation includes further information that can be used to select the appropriate option. The obvious strength of using this preset is that there’s no need to start from scratch. It’s also connected to anything else that uses the classification, so one can draw from those statistical resources as well, as they (68) point out. The obvious negative is that the listing is rather generic (yes, I know, it’s also kind of the point here), unless one implements the further levels of categorization presented in the ISIC documentation. Be as it may, I can’t vouch for its usefulness though, but that’s only because I have not assessed it myself, to see if something is missing or contradictory in the classification. Thirdly, they (68-69) they state that the ‘discourse type’ category functions to indicate the type of discourse one is dealing with in the case of each item, for example, artistic, commercial, infrastructural or political discourse (to name some in their non-exhaustive list). This is what I’ve called genre in my own work.

What I like about what Amos and Soukup propose in this book chapter is that the classification is simple enough and that it is not presented as an exhaustive, one size fits all approach. It serves more as a template that is intended to facilitate subsequent meta-analyses. I also like the general emphasis on co-occurrence, assessing two or more categories or variables at a time. Things get particularly interesting when you can assess the co-occurrence of phenomena context sensitively, as promoted in this book chapter. I like that they have the guts to go against the grain by advocating for quantitative studies. I think people don’t really understand what the point of quantitative social studies. I think issue has to do with the definitions of qualitative and quantitative.

I subscribe to Tardean definitions of qualitative and quantitative, which are, more or less, the exact opposite of how they are typically understood. Bruno Latour explains this well in his book chapter titled ‘Tarde’s idea of quantification’, contained in a book published in 2009, titled ‘The Social After Gabriel Tarde: Debates and Assessments’ edited by Matei Candea. I’ve covered this issue in a previous essay, but I’ll summarize the main points here because it’s highly relevant here. He (147) states that:

“In the twentieth century, the schism between those who dealt with numbers and those who dealt with qualities was never been bridged. This is a fair statement given that so many scholars have resigned themselves to being partitioned into those who follow the model of the ‘natural’ sciences, and those who prefer the model of the ‘interpretive’ or ‘hermeneutic’ disciplines.”

In other words, there’s this deeply ingrained notion of natural sciences as being the ones that deal with numbers, that is to say hard, cold facts. Conversely, social sciences (or arts and humanities) are often referred to as the soft sciences that deal with what can’t be quantified or generalized. In Latour’s (147) words:

“All too often, fields have been divided between number crunching, devoid (its enemies claim) of any subtlety; and rich, thick, local descriptions, devoid (its enemies say) of any way to generalize from these observations.”

Which means that (156):

“The division between a qualitative and a quantitative social science is in essence the same as the division between individuals and society, tokens and type, actors and system.”

And (149):

“In the tired old debate pitting a naturalistic versus an interpretative social science, a strange idea appears: that if we stick to the individual, the local, the situated, you will detect only qualities, while if we move towards the structural and towards the distant, we will begin to gather quantities.”

Now, if you’ve read Tarde, you know that he isn’t not buying into this. As explained by Latour (149):

“For Tarde the situation is almost exactly the opposite: the more we get into the intimacy of the individual, the more discrete quantities we’ll find; and if we move away from the individual towards the aggregate we might begin to lose quantities, more and more, along the way because we lack the instruments to collect enough of their quantitative evaluations.”

Make note of how Latour points out that the issue with aggregation was for Tarde an issue of not having appropriate instruments. Latour (159-161) expands on this issue, noting that we need to keep in mind that there were no computers when Tarde was around (1843-1904). I mean typewriters were a recent invention in later 1800s. Now “we can produce out of the same data points, as many aggregates as we see fit, while reverting back at any time, to the individual components”, which also means that “the whole has lost its privileged status” as it’s “now nothing more than a provisional visualization which can be modified and reversed at will, by moving back to the individual components, and then looking for yet other tools to regroup the same elements into alternative assemblages”, as elaborated by Latour (160-161).

To make sense of this, Latour (148, 160) points out that for Tarde everything is a society (which, by the way, reminds me of how for Deleuze and Guattari all they know are assemblages), be it molecules, cells or people, “ants, bacteria, cells, scientific paradigms, or markets.” There’s no need to think otherwise, which, I realize will come across as a monstrosity to many on the qualitative side because it undermines their starting point, that the individual is a given, autonomous and free of any constraints to thought and action. The point is to abandon objectivity and subjectivity and replace them with collectivity. Humans are components of society, just as cells are components of humans. Importantly, as Latour (148) points out, you cannot separate the components from what they are components of. The gist of this is that you cannot explain anything with recourse to society (as that’s an abstraction that needs to be explained) or to the individual (as that’s yet another abstraction that needs to be explained). You can’t explain what people do by stating that it’s because of social structure (society, culture, etc., they are all abstractions that need to be explained) or free will of the individual (it’s the same problem again). As explained by Latour (148), we “should not be (mis)led into imagining that there could be a strict distinction between structural features and individual or sub-individual components.”

To make more sense of this, Latour (156) points out that “[t]he quantitative nature of all associations will seem bizarre if we mistakenly impute an idea of the individual element seen as an atom to Tarde.” In fact, Tarde is against “the very idea of an individual as an atom” as it “is a consequence of the social theory he is fighting against”, how “quantification starts when we have assembled enough individual atoms so that the outline of a structure begins to appear, first as a shadowy aggregate, then as a whole, and finally as a law dictating how to behave to the elements”, as clarified by Latour (156). It’s therefore crucial to emphasize that neither one, nor the whole, enjoy any privileged status in how Tarde conceptualizes a society. To put it bluntly, “[t]he reason why there is no need for an overarching society is because there is no individual to begin with, or at least no individual atoms”, as stated by Latour (156). If we do not have ones (atoms) and/or the (overarching) whole, what do we have then? Well, as aptly summarized by Latour (156), instead of an atom, one, “[t]he individual element is a monad, that is … an interiorization of a whole set of other elements borrowed from the world around it”, and the whole is merely “a vast crowd of elements already present in every single entity.” You still have ones and wholes, but they function in reciprocal presupposition. So, as I already point out, we can certainly think of a human as a whole, but the whole is only an aggregate of elements, such as cells, that have come together. We can also think of the human cell as a whole, consisting of elements. We can also think of humans as cells of a whole, such as a society. However, what’s crucial here is to understand that there’s no overarching or all encompassing whole that covers everything (no fixed structure, no law that we can uncover). It’s equally important to understand that there are no wholes that have fixed elements. In summary, as explained by Latour (157), “if we are able to quantify an individual ‘one,’ it is because this instance is already ‘many.’ Behind every ‘he’ and ‘she,’ one could say, there are a vast numbers of other ‘he’s’ and ‘she’s’ to which they have been interrelated.” So, paradoxically, one is simultaneously an individual, in the sense that one is indivisible (a haecceity), but also a dividual, in the sense that one is divisible into many (quiddities) , as he (157) points out.

To get back to the book chapter, to wrap things up, for now, there are some things that I’d do differently, as I pointed out on a couple of occasions, but nothing major when it comes to the proposed categories. It’s more like fine tuning. My biggest gripe concerns the units of analysis. While I think that the physical definition may serve as a starting point, it just doesn’t work across the board. It works in many cases, but it still runs into issues way too often. There are just too many cases where it fails to make sense. It results in absurdity.

Support your global + Swerve

In my previous essay, I covered the introduction of recently (2020) published ‘Reterritorializing Linguistic Landscapes: Questioning Boundaries and Opening Spaces’ edited by David Malinowski and Stefania Tufi. In summary, I both agreed and disagreed with their statements. I was happy to see the work Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari being discussed in the introduction, but I didn’t end up endorsing their take (not that they need my endorsement, of course). My main gripe was, in the end, that ‘landscape’ wasn’t discussed in their introduction, despite being discussed by Deleuze and Guattari in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ (1987 translation by Brian Massumi) in plateau seven, ‘Year Zero: Faciality’, and being conceptually highly important to their take on how reality is constructed or assembled according to the abstract machine of faciality/landscapity that sets its parameters so that people come to see the world in a certain way and desire to identify through this way of seeing. In short, faciality (face) and landscapity (landscape) deal with how people’s identities come to be constructed. That said, I noted in the first paragraph of that essay that, perhaps, the editors, Malinowski and Tufi, left some of this to other contributors, so as to not to steal their thunder.

So, this time I’ll look at a couple of the book chapters, those indicated by the editors as building on the work of Deleuze and Guattari (albeit not exclusively so, of course). These include chapter nine, ‘F/Anfield: Banners, Tweets, and “Owning” Football’s Linguistic Landscape’ by Frank Monaghan and ‘The Semiotics of Spatial Turbulence: Re/Deterritorializing Israel-Palestine at a South African University’ by Natalija Cerimaj, Tommasso Milani and Dimitris Kitis. I won’t go into detail in this essay as I’m sure you can do yourself a favor and read the book chapters yourself, as you should, instead of simply taking my word for it. That’s what I’d do (as I’m exactly that type of a person who looks up some reference, only to end up reading that text instead, followed by looking up something referenced in that text, and so on, and so on, and, perhaps even writing about some seemingly random stuff).

Anyway, to summarize Monaghan’s book chapter, he deals with who gets to define the everyday encounters with football, wherever that may take place, for example at a stadium, at a fan shop or online. He (177) uses the Deleuzo-Guattarian concepts of de- and reterritorialization to explain this. The gist of this is that due to capitalism (that mixed regime of signs discussed in the previous essay) much of what used to be considered as ‘owned’ by the people who support football clubs, in the sense that they consider them their clubs, has now been commodified, turned into something that anyone can buy into, assuming that they have the capital to do so, you know kinda like the ‘oh-how-rebellious-of-you’ Che Guevara t-shirts that I alluded to in my previous essay. It turns the clubs that people consider(ed) theirs into something like global brand of soda. People are used to identifying themselves through these clubs by supporting them, but the trend is that supporting a club is treated like buying a globalized product. As he (182-183, 191-192) goes on to point out, the supporters are not keen on being treated as mere customers.

His book chapter is not about explaining how all that works, in general, that’s just the gist of it. He (178-179) turns his attention to how people seek to counter or subvert this trend that seeks to commodify their beloved clubs, in this case the Liverpool Football Club (LFC or just Liverpool). It’s rather obvious that this has to do with identify formation, should the supporters get to have a say what a club stands for or should the club owners and investors get to do that for the supporters. This is very much a question of ‘who’ gets to have a say, to exercise power, which leads us to ask the question of ‘why’ that might be the case.

When accounting for his own position in all this, he (179) refers to an assemblage as “‘A semiotic system, a regime of signs and content [that] becomes a pragmatic system, actions and passions’”. This is parsed from the conclusion of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ and I say parsed because it’s a mere fragment of the original sentence, in which Deleuze and Guattari (504) state that:

“The reason that the assemblage is not confined to the strata is that expression in it becomes a semiotic system, a regime of signs, and content becomes a pragmatic system, actions and passions.”

The problem with Monaghan’s (179) use of this statement is that it conflates the two sides of assemblages. The original is very clear about distinguishing a semiotic system, a regime of signs (aka collective assemblages of enunciation or semiotization), and a pragmatic system, actions and passions (aka regime of bodies and machinic assemblages of bodies or desire). The former has to do with forms of expression and the latter with forms of content to use the terms they use in the context of stratification. In Foucauldian terms, the former has to do with discursive formations (statements) and the latter with non-discursive formations (visibilities). This is becomes very clear when take into account the two previous sentences by Deleuze and Guattari (504):

“Inasmuch as they are territorial, assemblages still belong to the strata. At least they pertain to them in one of their aspects, and it is under this aspect that we distinguish in every assemblage content from expression. It is necessary to ascertain the content and the expression of each assemblage, to evaluate their real distinction, their reciprocal presupposition, their piecemeal insertions.”

Indeed, one should not reduce assemblages to only one side of the assemblages. They (504) add this in the following sentence:

“This is the double articulation face-hand, gesture-word, and the reciprocal presupposition between the two. This is the first division of every assemblage: it is simultaneously and inseparably a machinic assemblage and an assemblage of enunciation. In each case, it is necessary to ascertain both what is said and what is done.”

So, if you follow them, how they (504) define assemblages, you can’t just address one or the other. You have to do both. They (504) continue:

“There is a new relation between content and expression that was not yet present in the strata: the statements or expressions express incorporeal transformations that are ‘attributed’ as such (properties) to bodies or contents.”

In other words, on one side you have intermingling of bodies and on the other side surface effects, which, while distinct, cannot be neatly separated from one another, as I mentioned in the previous essay. You need this in-between the two (think of the Möbius strip). They (504) go on:

“In the strata, expressions do not form signs, nor contents pragmata, so this autonomous zone of incorporeal transformations expressed by the former and attributed to the latter does not appear.”

They (504) specify this by stating that “regimes of signs develop only in the alloplastic or anthropomorphic strata”. For them (504), this includes territorialized animals as markers of territory, such as territorial-pissings, because for that to make sense (yes, sense, like I discussed in the previous essay), there needs to be some system or a regime, otherwise it’s just random urination. Conversely, regimes of signs “do not permeate all of the strata, and overspill each of them”, as they (504) go on to point out. Elsewhere in the book, they (65) explain this:

“Should we say that there are signs on all the strata, under the pretext that every stratum includes territorialities and movements of deterritorialization and reterritorialization? This kind of expansive method is very dangerous, because it lays the groundwork for or reinforces the imperialism of language, if only by relying on its function as universal translator or interpreter. It is obvious that there is no system of signs common to all strata, not even in the form of a semiotic ‘chora theoretically prior to symbolization.”

At this stage, it’s worth making note of what they (65) call “the imperialism of language”. Anyway, they further clarify this:

“It would appear that we may accurately speak of signs only when there is a distinction between forms of expression and forms of content that is not only real but also categorical. Under these conditions, there is a semiotic system on the corresponding stratum because the abstract machine has precisely that fully erect posture that permits it to ‘write,’ in other words, to treat language and extract a regime of signs from it.”

Make note of how they emphasize that signs only appear when there’s not only a real distinction between forms of expression (discursive formations) and forms of content (non-discursive formations) but also a categorical one. To use an example that they (41) use, when we are dealing with a geological stratum, the process of sedimentation, followed by the process of folding (or cementation, hardening and welding of sediment into rock), signs are not involved. Anyway, the latter sentence here (65) deals with the imperialism of language, how it appears to be the case that signs are on all strata, even though that’s not the case. They (65) further specify this problem by arguing that it’s not only that we have to confront the imperialism of language but, more importantly, the imperialism of the signifier which operates within language and thus threatens all (alternative) regimes of signs (hence their aim to go beyond signification, as exemplified by their use of different terminology, content, expression, substance and form). The (65) rephrase the whole issue:

“The question here is not whether there are signs on every stratum but whether all signs are signifiers, whether all signs are endowed with signifiance, whether the semiotic of signs is necessarily linked to a semiology of the signifier.”

They (65) add that if you go with semiology (mainstream linguistics), this may happen:

“Those who take this route may even be led to forgo the notion of the sign, for the primacy of the signifier over language guarantees the primacy of language over all of the strata even more effectively than the simple expansion of the sign in all directions.”

This results in all illusion that everything takes place within language, that all there is is language, to use the mangled version of the claim made by Jacques Derrida (to be clear, he never actually said such). This is what Deleuze and Guattari combat in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ as they insist on addressing bodies (corporeality) in all analyses. Their (66) take on signifier can be summarized by this statement:

“There is only one thing that can be said about the signifier: it is Redundancy, it is the Redundant. Hence its incredible despotism, and its success.”

Here they (65) refer to what is known as the (infinite) chain of signification or deferral of meaning. This is also pertains to how the signifying regime of signs is said to have a central figure, a despot, as they (115) point out elsewhere in the book. They (65) also warn no to simply consider words as signifiers and things as signifieds.

Right, back to the conclusion where it is added by the two (504) that in addition to this first (horizontal) axis that pertains forms of expression (collective assemblages of enunciation or semiotization, regimes of signs) and forms of content (machinic assemblages of bodies, regimes of bodies), there is another axis (vertical) that pertains to their territoriality, de- and reterritorialization. As expressed elsewhere in the book by the two (41), one axis deals with forms, which “imply a code, modes of coding and decoding”, and the other axis deals with substances that “refer to territorialities and degrees of territorialization and deterritorialization.” Then there’s also the abstract machine (or diagram, if we use the Foucauldian term for it), double-articulation and plane of consistency, but I won’t explain these here. I just wanted to clarify things with regard to assemblages, how they are tetravalent, as expressed by the two (89). To make sense of tetravalence, imagine a horizontal line cut by a vertical line, which results in these four squares: substance of expression, form of expression, substance of content and form content.

Right, back to Monaghan (179) who relies on another definition of assemblages, as “‘complex constellation of objects, bodies, expressions, qualities, and territories that come together for varying periods of time to ideally create new ways of function’”, as defined by Graham Livesey (18) in the ‘Deleuze Dictionary’ edited by Adrian Parr (pagination from the 2010 revised edition). I mean this is not a bad definition, in the sense that it does include both sides of assemblages and how it’s not static, but rather dynamic (or metastable). That said, I’m not really convinced. It’s hard to say whether Monaghan grasps the tetravalence of assemblages and how it is related to abstract machines, planes of consistency (or immanence) and double-articulation. Maybe. Maybe not.

To explain what he means by ‘linguistic landscape’, he (179-180) refers to an existing definition provided by Adam Jaworski and Crispin Thurlow in ‘Introducing Semiotic Landscapes’ as included as the introductory chapter to their 2010 edited book ‘Semiotic Landscapes: Language, Image, Space’. Jaworski and Thurlow (2) state that they “take semiotic landscape to mean, in the most general sense, any (public) space with visible inscription made through deliberate human intervention and meaning making.” Monaghan (179) opts to retain the moniker linguistic landscape but adopts this wider definition that is not exclusively concerned with language. What I find problematic with this definition is that it still echoes the frequently cited definition by Rodrigue Landry and Richard Bourhis, as included in their 1997 article titled ‘Linguistic Landscape and Ethnolinguistic Vitality: An Empirical Study’, as published in Journal of Language and Social Psychology. Jaworski and Thurlow (2) just replace the area in question, “territory, region or urban agglomeration” as defined by Landry and Bourhis (25), with “(public) space” and visible linguistic elements with visible semiotic elements. While I think the definition is improved, it still ignores how landscape is not a bounded entity, as I discussed in the previous essay. Okay, space is not, in itself, a bounded entity, but I get the sense that in this use it is, considering that it’s not just space but public space, that is to say not private space, thus delineating it as this and/or that space that is open to the members of public, regardless of whether it is privately or publicly owned (that is to say, excluding areas not accessible to everyone, thus delineating it). In short, similarly to many other linguistic landscape studies, this is the weak point of this book chapter.

What I liked about this book chapter is how it makes use of de- and reterritorialization, to point out that people can deterritorialize the system, in this case a football club, in order to reterritorialize it, as Monaghan (192-193) goes on to point out. In other words, they can counter the deterritorialization of their club and its subsequent reterritorialization by deterritorializing it again in order to reterritorialize it into their club, instead of buying into a corporate vision of the club. He (189) also provides examples of how one subverts corporate presence by blocking it (covering it) and/or mocking it (mimicking the corporate look but with certain alterations). Maybe I would have wanted more examples of the corporate side and how that tends to get its way, perhaps a wide angle shot comparison of the stadium with and without a crowd of supporters. Then again, it’s his book chapter, he can do as he likes. I don’t expect writers to cater to me.

I also appreciate how he (193-194) is, nonetheless, suspicious of whether such acts of resistance will have an impact beyond what’s immediate, considering how capitalism tends to displace its limits, to accommodate for something which it only seeks to incorporate into itself. I think faciality/landscapity could have been used to explain how the various landscape elements (faces), such as advertisements and supporter banners, function to inform the stadium landscape, how they inform the preferred identity, what the people are expected to identify with and, conversely, what they are not expected to identify with though this biunivocal inclusion/exclusion mechanism, discussed by Deleuze and Guattari (176-177) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. This is, of course, implied by Monaghan (181-182). I’ll give him that.

I also liked how he (185) is explicit about his position, how he considers himself a long time fan, which puts him in the supporter camp and thus at odds with the ownership, inasmuch the ownership does not share the views of its supporters. I also like that he (185) points out that there is no such thing as impartiality, as everything is political and personal, one way or another. I reckon he is actually a bit unnecessary polite about this when he (185) adds that his readers are welcome to think otherwise. I mean he could have just stated that if this works for you then great, if it doesn’t then, well, too bad, read something else instead. I don’t agree with everything that’s stated in this book chapter, as I’ve discussed in this essay, but that doesn’t mean that I think that it’s all shit then. I don’t think one needs to buy into the views of someone else wholesale.

Moving on! So, what about the book chapter by Cerimaj, Milani and Kitis? Right, let me see. Firstly, they (117) introduce the concept of turbulence and suggest that it is particularly apt for addressing order and disorder. They (117) refer to a 2012 article ‘On Turbulence: Entanglements of Disorder and Order on a Devon Beach’ by Tim Cresswell and Craig Martin, as published in ‘Tijdscrift voor economische en sociale geografie’ (Journal of Economics and Social Geography). Me being me, I could not help myself and so I had to take a look at this article myself. I’ll do that first and then return to Cerimaj, Milani and Kitis.

Cresswell and Martin (517) advocate for turbulence. They (517) acknowledge the value of what they call “assemblage theory” (I don’t think it’s a theory though) but prefer to go with turbulence instead, for two key reasons. Firstly (517):

“It foregrounds a set of decidedly mobile metaphors, with particular stimulus coming from fluid dynamics[.]”

Secondly (517):

“[T]he language of turbulence in the popular lexicon continues to foster an image of negativity: instead we want to dispel such representations and address the complex entanglements of creative, discordant events and eruptions of re-orderings which are fostered by theorisations of turbulence.”

They (517) go on to justify their choice:

“It is not simply the case that order (or disorder) prevails, rather turbulence produces new forms of complexity and thus, like assemblages, demands that we attend to the shifting interactions between the variegated forces of contemporary mobility.”

Okay, but what is turbulence? Based on this, I’d say that it’s, perhaps, virtually the same as metastability. Anyway, I dig the boldness of this. I mean they acknowledge Deleuze and Guattari, as well as number of others, in reference to assemblages, yet think that the concept of turbulence works better. Sure, okay. The thing is that based on this, I’m not buying it, no matter how much they speak of mobility and the mobile. I’m not really convinced by the introductory story either, where they (516) state that, for example, a ship wreck and what follows from it, such as clean-up, looting, investigations, insurance premiums going up for the shipping company, “are all testimony to the shifting registers of order and disorder, neither of which is permanently stable, always locked in disjunctive interplay”, in other words, turbulence. Okay, so turbulence is not order or disorder, nor is order or disorder stable. So, everything is … metastable? Haha! I told you it was about metastability! I mean, that’s what it is, if we go with what I wrote in the previous essay. So, we might consider order as stability (equilibrium) and disorder instability (disequilibrium). Then again something is only as stable (or unstable) until it isn’t. In other words, it’s better conceive everything as metastable instead of stable or unstable. This is something that Deleuze and Guattari (19) address in ‘Anti-Oedipus’ (1983 translation by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen Lane) when they state that:

“In a word, the opposition of the forces of attraction and repulsion produces an open series of intensive elements, all of them positive, that are never an expression of the final equilibrium of a system, but consist, rather, of an unlimited number of stationary, metastable states through which a subject passes.”

Boom! I told you! Now, of course, you need to understand how this relates to intensities, as well as extensities, but let’s not get tangled up in that here. Let’s see what else Cresswell and Martin have to say, before I return to Cerimaj, Milani and Kitis. Right, Cresswell and Martin (518) make a good point how turbulence is an apt word for what we are dealing with here, and, perhaps, sexier than metastability, considering that turbulence is often depicted as negative thing, in the sense that it’s out of control, you know, like turmoil. In short, it gets associated with disorder, which troubles most people, even if some may consider it an opportunity, as they (518) go on to point out.

To be serious, for a moment, they (518) refer to the work of Manuel DeLanda and Michel Serres, as well as Epicurus and Lucretius (I had a feeling ‘the swerve guy’, that’s how I know him, is going to make an appearance!). Anyway, as they (518-519) point out, the ‘proper’ name for this swerve is clinamen, “a small, almost unmeasurable deviation in movement that becomes the source of all turbulence and thus of all substance ad life”, which, for Lucretius “is the interaction of atoms as they fall through the void that is the wellspring of life” and “the deviation, or swerve, from the fall”. I shit you not, I’m writing this as I’m reading this text (and I love writing this way because it’s an encounter!), so the point about calling him ‘the swerve guy’ came right before Cresswell and Martin called the deviation, the clinamen, a swerve. Haha! Thank you cosmos! Anyway, as they (519) point out, if there was no swerve, there’d be no collision, even if there’s movement, because there’d be just fall, that is to say one direction. This is one of those things which makes you wonder if a line is ever straight or if it is actually curved.

They (519) move on to point out that while it may seem like this would mean that there is only disorder (cough, cough, chaos), that’s not exactly the case. What we get instead is, again, I shit you not, “a form of metastability, a temporary balance between them”, as they (519) point out. This is familiar to me because this is very issue is discussed by Deleuze and Guattari (361) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, in reference to Serres. This is also familiar to me through the work of Gilbert Simondon.

Cresswell and Martin make an important point (which, I’d say you can find in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ as well), when they (519-520) state that this defies “the calculative logic of predictability” with its “instances of systemic self-organisation” (which makes me think of autopoiesis, as defined by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela in ‘Autopoiesis and Cognition: the Realization of the Living’ and as subsequently redefined by Guattari in ‘Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm’, but that’s another story), with its “dynamic possibility of things becoming different and distinguishable”, negating “the efficacy of all-encompassing and unilinear theory.” More importantly, as they (520) go on to clarify,“[t]he political power of this line of thought”, what I’d call a way of thinking or an image of thought, “is not to be underestimated” because the “emergence of singularities” (remember how I discussed haecceities, i.e. singularities, in the previous essay) “makes any single frame of reference redundant.” They (520) summarize this by stating that “turbulence produces singularities – localised objects and events that are not intelligible within generalising or universalising frameworks”, which means that “order is secondary to turbulence.” To explain this is Deleuzian terms, turbulence is difference and order is identity and thus difference is primary and identity is secondary. Moreover, whatever is considered order or identity is, in fact, always in the making and thus, at best, metastable. This is also the Heraclitian stance on this. And, it’s only fitting that it is, considering he’s the ‘flow guy’ or the ‘flux guy’ who steps into the river (or at least talks about it, I mean, at least supposedly talked about it).

I also have to admit that I must have forgotten how Deleuze and Guattari also talk of turbulence in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ when they (353) discuss nomadism and it works contra state-ism, as Cresswell and Martin (520) go on to point out. I’d still use metastability though. I’ll have to give them credit for making this explicit thought (not that they need my endorsement though). They (520) summarize it well how we are in the habit of thinking mobility, what I’d call movement (because it also works well in the political sense), as secondary to being stationary. That makes people on the move, aka nomads, the deviation from the norm, being sedentary, while, frankly, there’s no reason to give primacy to being sedentary. They (520) warn us not to consider movement as something that happens between points, from one point of being sedentary to another point of being sedentary, because that’s exactly what treating movement as secondary to being sedentary looks like as an image of thought. They (520) argue in favor of mobility, what I’d call movement, or, more broadly speaking nomadism or transversality. This is also related to my gripe about calling linguistic landscape a field (or a discipline) in the previous essay, because setting up boundaries relies on that dominant image of thought that builds on on that illusion of sedentism, as Cresswell and Martin (520) characterize it.

Right, back to Cerimaj, Milani and Kitis. They (117) state that they work with the notion of turbulence (or metastability) to analyze “the complex dynamics of order and disorder, and how these two registers play out through forms of spatial semiotics.” To summarize this book chapter, as you can surely read it yourself in detail, they (117) deal with two groups of protesters at a South African university, one that is pro-Palestine and another that is pro-Israel. They (117-118) point out that what differentiates their work from prior work is that their take is on how the Israel-Palestine issue is “perceived, represented, and reimagined through language and other meaning-making resources”, whatever they may be, but, importantly, not in Israel or Palestine, but in a foreign context.

They (118) comment that, for them, on its own, turbulence is not enough to explain something like political protests that involve people taking over certain areas, typically built environments, and utilize various semiotic resources, including but not limited to “cardboards, slogans, t-shirts, and their own bodies”. Therefore they (118) opt to draw from the work of Deleuze and Guattari, namely ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, and Multimodal Critical Discourse Analysis because it (MCDA) offers “a readily available framework for scrutinizing linguistic and visual data”. Here they (118) refer to the work of Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen, namely the ‘Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design’, and David Machin and Andrea Mayr, namely ‘How to Do Critical Discourse Analysis: A Multimodal Introduction’, of which I’m more familiar with the former than the latter.

From ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ they (118) pick up the conceptual pair of striated space and smooth space, or striation and smoothness. They (188) aptly summarize these, noting that striated space is easy to comprehend by thinking it in terms of sedentism, how people plough fields, turning soil over, cutting furrows, narrow grooves on the ground that, well, look like striations if you look at them from a distance. Of course, it doesn’t mean that striation is just about ploughed fields. It applies to any feature of sedentism, staying put, both material and semiotic, both sides of the assemblage, really. It’s about being static or state-ic, in the sense that one stays put, you know, like a state, always within its borders (even when it conquers territory, it’s within its borders, it just expands or, conversely, contracts, in relation to another state, which operates the same way). Another apt moniker for this is grid, hence the importance of geometry (which takes us back to the Greeks and, subsequently, to Renaissance Italy, which is highly relevant to landscape, but let’s not tangled up in that here).

In contrast, smooth space is directional, “like the wind-swept, grass vastness roamed by the nomad”, as they (118) summarize it. Whereas striation is about geometry and dimensions (closed space, closing space, fixing it), smoothness is about arithmetic, based on numbers (useful for organizing the war machine, aka the horde, as the sedentaries would call it, into functional units, which form the basis of modern military organization). Nomads roam in smooth space, traversing it, occupying it, staying on it, until they don’t. The nomads are marked by movement, so that, perhaps counter-intuitively, they are the ones who travel the least, because they never leave home, they never travel, they never go anywhere, as explained by Deleuze (‘V’) in ‘Gilles Deleuze from A to Z’ (2011 translation by Charles Stivale). For Deleuze (‘V’) this is an important point because, conversely, from a sedentary point of view the nomads appear to be in constant movement, always on the move, always mobile (to use the term preferred by others), somewhere out there, haunting the fringes of civilization (what sedentaries think to be civilization, that is), yet, one could argue that, in fact, they are as immobile as anything can be as from the nomad perspective they are not going anywhere nor do they want to go anywhere. He (‘V’) also points out that we like to think of migrants (emigrants/immigrants, voluntary travel) and refugees/exiles (forced travel) as doing what the nomads do, but, as also noted by Cresswell and Martin (520), their movement is from one point to another, from home to a destination, directly or through other intermediary points, and a mere symptom of sedentism, being displaced by other sedentaries. That’s not mobility or movement, turbulence or metastability, as defined in this essay, because it’s subordinated to the illusory notions of stability (equilibrium, order) and instability (disequilibrium, disorder, chaos). In short, unlike the nomads, the migrants and the refugees/exiles engage in what Deleuze and Guattari (363) call constrained, restrained, disciplined or local movement, going from one specific point to another. They deterritorialize, voluntarily or involuntarily, but only to reterritorialize, whereas the nomads remain deterritorialized. They (381) clarify this:

“It is in this sense that nomads have no points, paths, or land, even though they do by all appearances. If the nomad can be called the Deterritorialized par excellence, it is precisely because there is no reterritorialization afterward as with the migrant, or upon something else as with the sedentary (the sedentary’s relation with the earth is mediatized by something else, a property regime, a State apparatus).”

Only to further specify the deterritorialization of nomads (381):

“With the nomad, on the contrary, it is deterritorialization that constitutes the relation to the earth, to such a degree that the nomad reterritorializes on deterritorialization itself.”

So, yes, one could argue that also the nomads reterritorialize, but on in the way that sedentaries do. In contrast to the sedentaries, they do not. They (381) continue:

“It is the earth that deterritorializes itself, in a way that provides the nomad with a territory. The land ceases to be land, tending to become simply ground (sol) or support.”

Moreover, they (382) add that this can be thought as functioning both ways, the nomad deterritorializing the land and its forms, and vice versa:

“The nomads are there, on the land, wherever there forms a smooth space that gnaws, and tends to grow, in all directions. The nomads inhabit these places; they remain in them, and they themselves make them grow, for it has been established that the nomads make the desert no less than they are made by it. They are vectors of deterritorialization. They add desert to desert, steppe to steppe, by a series of local operations whose orientation and direction endlessly vary.”

Before I move on, to connect this to landscape, they (382) state that:

“[T]here is no intermediate distance, no perspective or contour; visibility is limited; and yet there is an extraordinarily fine topology that relies not on points or objects but rather on haecceities, on sets of relations (winds, undulations of snow or sand, the song of the sand or the creaking of ice, the tactile qualities of both).”

They (382) rephrase this as:

“It is a tactile space, or rather ‘haptic,’ a sonorous much more than a visual space.”

This does not, however, mean that smooth space is not conceived visually, but rather that it is not as important or central as it is in striated space. The problem with landscape is that, historically, it builds on geometry (dimensions, closed space) and utilizes vision to legitimate sedentism (plus much more within it).

Right, back to Cerimaj, Milani and Kitis (118) who note that, following Deleuze and Guattari (474-475), this distinction is, however, only conceptual (or virtual), and, in actuality, smooth and striated spaces exist only in mixture, one always shifting or morphing to the other, smooth space being captured and striated and striated space being dissolved into smooth space. Cerimaj, Milani and Kitis (118) add that striated space and (re)territorialization “produces spatial arrangements according to categorical markers such as nationhood, class, ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, and so on”, whereas smooth space and deterritorialization “delink[s] space from identity categories.”

I would add here that, as already discussed in this essay, sedentaries can and do operate by deterritorializing, as exemplified by Monaghan in his book chapter, but this is always followed by a reterritorialization. So, in terms identity or identities, sedentaries may well change what counts as what, but they stay within the confines of the system, hence the point I made about how capitalism displaces its limits. Revolutions may take place but they fail because the mixed regime always captures them and incorporates them into the system. In contrast, the nomads do not have this issue because, for them, revolution is not overturning this for that, a change understood in terms of identity, but a matter of becoming-revolutionary, being indifferent to such terms that have been “conceptualized in terms of past and future”, as explained by Deleuze and Guattari (292). The nomads are always in the middle of things. They do not conceive themselves by looking to the past, nor to the future. So, when I go against conceiving linguistic landscape studies as its own field, as discussed in the previous essay, it has to do with this, engaging in nomad thought, not sedentary thought that seeks to establish territories and hierarchical power structures within them, such as a system of disciplines in academics. Related to this, to amuse you for a moment, there’s (almost) nothing like discussing something like discipline and how power is exercised in contemporary societies, how that’s a major issue, only to be disciplined by your ‘peers’, for doing something ‘wrong’ or doing it the ‘wrong’ or ‘incorrect’ way, that is to say in some way that is not deemed ‘right’ or ‘correct’ by them, those who are in positions which allow them to exercise power over you. It’s so ironic that you can only laugh at it. It’s like are you for real?

Cerimaj, Milani and Kitis (118) move on to discuss multimodality, that is to say modes of semiotization, as Guattari calls it in ‘The Machinic Unconscious: Essays in Schizoanalysis’ (2011 translation by Taylor Adkins), noting “visual elements such as color, shapes, and images constitute a ‘pool’ of affordances with meaning potential, and text producers need choose among them every time they want to create a textual artifact.” They (118-119) add that it is of little consequence whether the producers intend something or not, as “such choices are never random but depend on a variety of factors which include inter alia the historical associations that, say, a cor has with a specific nation-state”, in this case blue being associated with Israel and red, green and black being associated with Palestine. They (119) also note how personal pronouns can be used inclusively/exclusive. This is what is also known as the Us vs. Them, Othering or Alterity. It creates a binary, a dichotomy or a biunivocal relation, how one term is explained according to the other term.

Cerimaj, Milani and Kitis (119) state their goal in the book chapter is to illustrate how the pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters use visual elements, semiotic modes and resources. They set out do that, in combination with the concepts of (re)territorialization and deterritorialization. It proves to be interesting reading with good examples, mainly posters. For example, they (121) indicate that a poster utilizes the colors associated with Israel and Palestine, accompanied by text and image, in short visual choices, “territorialize the image making it uncontroversial that the walls and high towers in the picture represent the Israeli-West Bank barrier built by the state of Israel after the second Intifada in 2000, allegedly to work as a security barrier against terrorist attack on Israeli soil.” In summary, they (121) argue that the poster creates a dichotomy, a positive and rather innocent portrayal of Palestine and the Palestinians who long for freedom beyond the walls, accompanied by a negative portrayal of Israel and the Israeli who have set up the walls. They (121) add that there is an added element, the contemporary South African flag, which links the apartheid history of South Africa to contemporary Israel-Palestine, de- and reterritorializing it, working both ways, as they (122) go on to add.

I don’t have a lot to say about the analyses in this book chapter. I mean, yeah. What I would have done is to point out how Deleuze and Guattari (531) rework Charles Sanders Peirce’s index, icon and symbol, cutting them from their signifier-signified relations and pasting them into (re)territorialization-deterritorilazation relations. For them (65), there are thus “three kinds of signs: indexes (territorial signs), symbols (deterritorialized signs), and icons (signs of reterritorialization). I think discussing or even just mentioning this would have clarified the analyses. Then again, I have no trouble understanding the analyses of Cerimaj, Milani and Kitis. The same applies to Monaghan’s analyses. Some may think otherwise, but they make sense to me. That’s what matters to me.

What I find lacking in this book chapter by Cerimaj, Milani and Kitis is the talk of landscape. I mean parts of it clearly deal with it. For example some of the posters depict landscape, which relates to landscape studies that deal with paintings as a (supposedly) representational practice (depicting the world as like this and/or like that, assuming that people will buy into the depiction being a faithful rendition of reality, which, they never are, but that’s another story). Then there are other parts which, to me, don’t really deal with landscape because my understanding of landscape has to do with the absence (if not erasure) of people (which also has to do with painting, how there are typically no people in landscape paintings, hence the profound inhumanity of landscape, despite being, of course, a human invention). The point of this is that it’s like the world itself is telling who the people who look at it (or depiction of it) are. How could you challenge an identity that is based on the world itself? How do you argue against that? How do you argue against reality itself? Exactly! You don’t! Now, it should be obvious that the world and its depictions are, of course, made to look the way they do, which means that it is possible to manipulate people through them. For example, if you look at landscape paintings, they are typically rather sanitized, if you will, probably because they were typically commissioned by people who thought that the riffraff should not be seen (the irony being that they did need these people to maintain their premises/land that the paintings depicted). The depictions therefore functioned to legitimize their views, that they own the land, not the people who live and work on it, and the manipulation of actual surroundings (what is also known as landscaping), to match their views, which in turn reinforced the depictions (which we never faithful to the world to begin with, obviously). It’s becomes feedback loop that functions to reproduce certain identities (but not others, which is why it’s biunivocal), including but not limited to ethnic or national identities and economic identities. It’s relevant not only to the appropriation of property (namely land), as done by the Patricians (Bourgeoisie), but also to propriety, what is considered proper within a society, which, is typically defined by those who have most influence in a society. Surprise, surprise, those who have had most influence in societies have been wealthy people, for example the Patricians (Bourgeoisie), which means that the social is intertwined with the economic, according to the interests or desires of some people. Ain’t that convenient!

There are a couple of more texts that deal with Deleuze and Guattari, but I’ll have a closer look at them sometime in the future. So, in summary, I found these two book chapters to engage more deeply with the work of Deleuze and Guattari, namely ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, than the introduction. That said, similarly to the introduction, these two book chapters don’t really deal with landscape, which is a bit of a letdown (for me, others probably disagree). It’s not a big issue in the case of Cerimaj, Milani and Kitis as they bypass the issue and focus on something else, almost ignoring linguistic landscape, perhaps intentionally, perhaps because I don’t see why they’d need to connect their work to linguistic landscape studies. Their study works on its own, just fine by building on Deleuze and Guattari, as well as Serres (via Cresswell and Martin). I think Monaghan’s chapter would have benefited from that more. That said, interesting stuff nonetheless. These chapters also led me on a couple of fascinating tangential encounters, so, yeah, well worth reading.

Questioning the very notion of boundaries – How outlandish!

I was looking forward to ‘Reterritorializing Linguistic Landscapes: Questioning Boundaries and Opening Spaces’ edited by David Malinowski and Stefania Tufi, to check if there’s some interesting book chapters. Anyway, I can’t recall exactly when that was, but I noticed that the book was slated to come out in early 2020. So it’s early 2020 now and it’s out. Let’s have a look at what the editors have in store for the reader. Now, this is a preliminary look at this, considering that I’ll be looking at only the introduction, not the book chapters, so there’s that to keep in mind (the editors may have left some stuff for the writers, as to not steal their thunder). I’ll see if I have the time to comment the book chapters later on.

Right, the introduction chapter of the book is about some eleven pages, nine pages plus two pages for the list of references, containing the usual segments on how the book came to be, how it is organized and who contributed to it, one way or another. Now, I won’t cover the usual stuff that one expects in an introduction in detail, because it’s sort of pointless to reiterate what the other parts of the books deal with (most introductions are, in fact pointless in this sense). What I’ll mention is, however, that according to the editors, this book came to being building on the themes of two linguistic landscape workshops, as mentioned on the first page by the two (1). They (1) note that the second part of the book title of the book refers to the theme of the first workshop and, as you might guess it just by looking at the title, questioning boundaries has to do with … the problems that come with boundaries, regardless of whether they are conceptual boundaries, like how one distinguishes this from that, or concrete boundaries, like borders between two states or physical barriers that separate people, such as walls. When it comes to academics, disciplinary boundaries are the ones you can run into, unless, somehow, you really keep to the supposed core of your discipline. They (1) add that the first part of the book tile comes from the second workshop where the (Deleuzo-Guattarian) concept of reterritorialization was addressed, among other things.

What I find interesting, if not strange, is that there is this indication of questioning boundaries, that is to say of territoriality (considering that de- and reterritorialization deal with territoriality), what ‘linguistic landscape’ is and what its components ‘linguistic’ and ‘landscape’ are, yet, somehow I get the feeling that its boundaries are (to be) retained. In other words, one is to question boundaries, to challenge them, to be interdisciplinary, as mentioned by the two (1) in reference to the first of these two workshops, but not the notion of boundaries itself. For example, they (1-2) refer to linguistic landscape as a field (aka a discipline) that has continued to grow beyond its boundaries, as advanced by the workshops, among other things, of course, and indicate that there’s been much discussion pertaining to the theory and methods ever since people started to consider it a field (or a discipline), since people started calling whatever they were doing ‘linguistic landscape studies’ or ‘linguistic landscape research’.

The editors (2) address the issue pertaining to the core concept of the field (or discipline), noting that “it has been regularly scrutinized for the non-determinacy of its referent”, a fancy way of saying that people have criticized those who use the concept for not being able to explain what it is. They (2-3) move on to give some implication what it might pertain to, whether it’s something situated like a geographic place, “physically or symbolically built environment”, or a field of study (aka a discipline) that has been emerging ever since the early 2000s, as already mentioned, but they abstain from giving their own definition. They (3) only point out that this issue “remains unresolved.”

To me ‘linguistic landscape’ is, at its worst, a hollow abstraction, a buzzword that people like to throw around, to come across as if they are doing something novel, unheard of, something that others should be doing instead of doing whatever stuff they are doing. It’s remarkable how this conceptual issue has a rather famous parallel in geography, how Richard Hartshorne criticized other geographers for introducing ‘landscape’ as a geographic concept. In his 1939 publication titled ‘The Nature of Geography: A Critical Survey of Current Thought in the Light of the Past’, as published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, he (327) called its introduction into the English speaking geography circles “little short of a scientific crime” and argued that the concept is simply too obscure, culminating in his (334) rant about the importance of explaining the concepts that one uses:

“The fundamental requirements of logical reasoning in any science demand that the basic terms of methodological discussion must be precisely defined and the definitions adhered to in the discussion.”

To be clear, I am not this pedantic. Anyway, he (334) continues:

“To presume that the reader will know what the word means, is, in the case of ‘landscape,’ to presume the impossible. If a writer is unable to state precisely what he means by the term, his use of it is a confession that he does not know just what he is talking about, but is using a more or less conventional word to hide that fact, if not to permit him to perform conjurer’s tricks with logic that would not be possible in straight English.”

Now, as I pointed out, I don’t agree with this 100 percent. That said, he does have a point, which is exactly why landscape studies faded into obscurity in the English speaking circles of geography for decades. The thing is that while this may seem like Olympic level pedantry (which I think it is; he’s being a … here), this became not just an issue, among others, something that you can happily ignore as pedantry, but the issue in landscape research. If you look at subsequent landscape research, you’ll find it that it didn’t really exist until the late 1970s and only became a thing in the 1980s. On top of that, landscape research only became a thing at that time for that very reason, for seeking to understand what landscape is and, more importantly, what it does, as well as how it came to be and why it came to be, why it came to function the way it does.

This is most certainly not the first time I’ve brought this up in my essays, but I’ll happily do it again, to point out why Hartshorne’s criticism still matters eighty years later. So, in summary, Hartshorne’s criticism was really directed at one guy, Carl Sauer. He (25-26) defined the concept in his 1925 publication ‘The Morphology of Landscape’ (pagination from his 1929 compilation ‘University of California publications in geography. Vol. 2’) as derived from visual observation and stated that (25):

“The term ‘landscape’ is proposed to denote the unit concept of geography, to characterize the peculiarly geographic association of facts. Equivalent terms in a sense are ‘area’ or ‘region.’”

He (25-26) further specified it as:

“It may be defined, therefore, as an area made up of a distinct association of forms, both natural and cultural.”

Right, it’s time to compare these definitions with the definitions of linguistic landscape, as introduced by Rodrigue Landry and Richard Bourhis in their 1997 article titled ‘Linguistic Landscape and Ethnolinguistic Vitality: An Empirical Study’, as published in Journal of Language and Social Psychology. They (23) state that:

“Linguistic landscape refers to the visibility and salience of languages on public and commercial signs in a given territory or region.”

They (25) further specify the concept:

“The language of public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, and public signs on government buildings combines to form the linguistic landscape of a given territory, region or urban agglomeration.”

Now, you have to be willfully ignorant to not see the striking similarity between the definition of landscape by Sauer and the definition of linguistic landscape by Landry and Bourhis. Both definitions equate landscape to region (we could add area, as well as territory, any bounded entity really, but to be precise, only region appears in both here) and deal with its visual forms. The only real difference is that Sauer’s definition of landscape is that it includes all visible forms, not only visible forms of language.

Oh, and yes, I am fully aware that the Landry and Bourhis definition is no longer used that much in linguistic landscape studies, but I’d say it still haunts it. I reckon that ghost will keep haunting linguistic landscape studies until the concept is addressed. The problem with not addressing the issue has to do with how successful Hartshorne was in his criticism, like eighty years ago, mind you. To be clear, Hartshorne (344) is open to using the word ‘landscape’ but he just isn’t buying it:

“Non-geographic readers will not therefore find our usage strained – as they certainly do if one tells them that a ‘landscape’ is an area – but may be expected to acknowledge the usage as justified.”

So, the problem is not that one uses the word ‘landscape’ but that it is used as a mere synonym to something else which it clearly isn’t. This is the obscurity that he finds problematic. He (344) goes on to further elaborate this issue:

“It is both unnecessary and confusing to use the word as synonymous with ‘area’ or ‘region’ since each of those terms is far clearer. To use ‘landscape’ as a label for the material objects of an area is to ascribe to such a selection of phenomena out of a larger total an attribute that it does not possess namely, of constituting in itself a single reality. The same would be true if we should arbitrarily apply the word to the total of all visible objects in an area, including that is, all objects that man can see by looking under other objects. The actual single and concrete reality which, we believe, underlies the thought of many who have used this term without attempting to define it, is the external visible surface of the earth.”

Note how he is not objecting to addressing the visual forms, what can be seen or observed. He is, in fact, objecting to treating landscape as a bounded entity, you know, like an area, a region or a territory. He (344-345) continues:

“This is the reality which produces visual landscape sensations in us. It is a continuous reality, constituting, for the whole world, a single unit whole. It is however literally a surface; it includes only that which we can see or feel from the outside.”

So, to be clear, he (344-345) is keenly aware that landscape is something that has to do with land but it is not land itself, something that appears to be capable of producing visual sensations in us. In short, landscape is always continuous, a surface effect, if you will. You do not move from one landscape to another. Instead, you always see landscape, because, well, that’s the way it works, as I’ve pointed out numerous times in my essays and in my published work. We can, of course, reify landscape into a landscape and that’s fine, inasmuch as it is done for the sake of argument. I don’t mind speaking of this and/or that landscape as long as it is not understood as referring to some actual entity that has these or those qualities can be recognized by an observer and then taken as if that was the case, that we’ve now uncovered hidden truth. This is the same with anything really, me, you, this keyboard that I’m writing on, this table that it rests on, this floor that supports it etc. That’s how ‘things’ work, you know, like discursively, as well as non-discursively, between the two. Strictly speaking everything is just flow and we are just capable of treating it all as list of separate entities, as this and/or that, which, of course, has its pros (I mean it’s pretty convenient, even thought it’s strictly speaking inaccurate) and cons (people really think that you just have these things, these objects, as recognized by the subjects, which leads to all kinds of problems that follow from that way of thinking).

Anyway, now that I’ve established that landscape isn’t strictly speaking a material entity, this or that landscape, nor a mere list of items in an area (to me they do, however, inform landscape or landscapity, but let’s not get tangled up in that at this stage), why would anyone use the word ‘landscape’ if it is so imprecise? Okay, fair enough, you could still call it that, think of it as a bounded entity, but then you have to deal with Hartshorne’s criticism, which is exactly what landscape scholars eventually did, as I already pointed out. So, right, why would you ignore the issue and still use ‘landscape’?

Well, there’s another reason for using that word. As pointed out by Hartshorne (331), ‘landscape’ just comes across as “more impressive, more imposing” than the alternatives. I mean, it has buzz value to it. It’s way sexier than ‘land’, ‘area’, ‘region’ or ‘territory’. Landscape is so elusive that you can just throw it out and not get called for using it. I mean people use it all the time and typically it’s not exactly clear what is meant by it, like, at all. I roll my eyes every time someone uses it because it’s just an empty abstraction that is used for its supposedly given explanatory value, just like God, culture, nature, ideology and structure (there are others, but I can’t remember all of the ones that are on my growing list of words not to be used to explain anything, without explaining them first).

As a side note, to my knowledge, taking pot shots at the Landry and Bourhis article is something of a rite of passage in (the inner circles of) linguistic landscape studies. Oddly enough, it used to be the case among landscape scholars to make fun of Sauer’s work, to mention it only in a negative fashion, as a token of being one of the guys, or so to speak. As far as I know, this no longer the case in geography. I think there’s a lot of good to say about Sauer’s work, despite its shortcomings. James and Nancy Duncan (227) seem to agree with me, as they point out in ‘Doing Landscape Interpretation’, as included in ‘The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Geography’ published in 2010:

“A strength of such an approach is that it takes data seriously. This is in contrast to much of cultural geography during the past three decades which has been theory-driven, with too little research yielding only thin empirical examples, and much of the theoretical apparatus underutilized.”

So, yeah, at least Sauer used to take data seriously. They (227) also note that:

“Although Sauer was inductive in his approach, he nevertheless formulated testable hypotheses and took contradictory evidence seriously.”

In other words, despite its flaws, namely how landscape is, supposedly, just given to the observer, on an as is basis, without any mediation, whatsoever, so that its characteristics can be identified and contrasted with observations made elsewhere to constitute a general system of landscapes, to create a definite set of landscapes that match certain bounded areas, as explained by Sauer (20, 26-27), the Duncans actually commend his approach for being rigorous when it comes to data. Of course, that does not mean that they recommend conducting research like Sauer did. They (227) point this out:

“Having said this, we believe … that all interpretations are necessarily theory-laden, and that to be unaware or uncritical of one’s theoretical borrowings is highly problematic.”

Now, to be fair, I could counter this by stating that, strictly speaking, all theory is abstracted from data and therefore everything is actually data-driven. Then again, that’s not entirely accurate either because the observations are always influenced by prior observations, by prior experience. We are always in the middle of things, so our practices, whatever they may be, are always based on prior practice. This is also why and how landscape functions the way it does on people (as I’ve discussed this in my past essays and in my published work), so, yeah, I can only agree with the Duncans on this one. That said, I do appreciate how seriously data was taken by Sauer (and the emphasis on interdependence and relationality, but that’s another story). To provide yet another parallel, I think this is something that got lost in linguistic landscape research when it shifted from quantitative to qualitative. Interesting developments were made, sure, but I reckon the empirical side to took a massive hit. I mean some of the stuff I’ve read is borderline anecdotal. It’s like, okay, right, interesting but where’s the work that was done? And then some of it is just uncritical, of its own foundations, as well as of its social and political implications (actually these tend to go hand in hand). I don’t actually mind it that much, that there’s been shifts or developments, whatever you want to call them. What bothers me is that the underlying issues, what is landscape and what it does, not to mention how and why it came to being, haven’t been addressed in linguistic landscape research.

Right, back to Malinowski and Tufi (3), who summarize this issue in reference to Bernard Spolsky’s (25) question in his contribution to ‘Linguistic Landscape: Expanding the Scenery’ (edited by Elana Shohamy and Durk Gorter), titled ‘Prolegomena to a Sociolinguistic Theory of Public Signage’:

“Whatever we call it, is linguistic landscape a phenomenon calling for a theory, or simply a collection of somewhat disparate methodologies studying the nature of public written signs?”

This question was posed back in 2009 when the book was published, over ten years ago, and, despite all the developments in between, somehow this question is yet to be answered. I mean, come on! I started my doctoral studies in, what, 2015 and quickly figured out that this was an issue and sought to address the issue, crawling through book after book, article after article, until I was able to explain to myself what I’m dealing with when I use the word landscape, what it is, what it does, how and why it came to be. Sure, it took a lot of time and effort, going through all that material to be where I am now, to be able to conceptualize and problematize landscape, as well as to come up with a solution to how one might overcome the problems that come with landscape. Yeah, it took years of dedication, reading all kinds of stuff, much of which for sure wasn’t directly relevant to landscape, but, hey, at least I did it.

Moving on, there’s a bit that I don’t fully agree with. Malinowski and Tufi (5) indicate that, following Gilles Deleuze’s and Félix Guattari’s definition of assemblages, as defined in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ (1987 translation by Brian Massumi), we should not think of reality as consisting of discrete entities that have fixed qualities. I agree. For Deleuze and Guattari (2), there are only assemblages. However, Malinowski and Tufi (5) state that “an assemblage is a semiotic system or regime of signs, a set of conditions that turn possibilities into realizations”. I also agree with this statement, but only in part. Firstly, this is only one side of assemblages. Assemblages have two sides, the machinic side (machinic assemblages of bodies or desire, regimes of bodies) and the enunciative side (collective assemblages of enunciation or semiotization, regimes of signs). In Foucauldian terms, the former is the non-discursive side (pertaining to non-discursive formations or visibilities) and the latter is the discursive side (pertaining to discursive formations or statements). While I can see why one would reduce it only to linguistic or semiotic side, it goes against what Deleuze and Guattari set out to do with assemblages, to counter mainstream linguistics that relies on signification (Saussurian linguistics). Secondly, to my understanding, the sets of conditions pertain to actualization of the virtual, not the realization of the possible. The former is open ended, whereas the latter is a closed set. For example, when something is virtually so, it means that it might as well be the case but isn’t the case actually. It’s a matter of function. It’s also rather ingenious because it allows us to speak of something without knowing what it is, because what matters is that it functions as if it was actually the case, but it isn’t.

I agree with Malinowski and Tufi (5) that “the discreteness and countability of entities is that this vision tends to universalize moments of stability, whereas reality is unpredictable because assemblages have the tendency to move toward change.” This is, pretty, much the definition of metastability, that nothing is, strictly speaking, ever stable because even what may be considered as stable is subject to change. As durable as this keyboard might be, for the purpose of typing at least, it’s evident that it is not the way it used to be. Now I won’t notice the change as I type, but it does change. It’s just imperceptible to me. Taken to its logical conclusion, this is the view of Cratylus, how you can’t enter a river even once, as mentioned in Aristotle’s ‘Metaphysics’ (1010a, translation by 1933 Hugh Tredennick). To me, this does not, however, negate that we are dealing with what appear to us as entities or bodies, whatever you want to call them. I’m still typing this on a keyboard, this thing that we’ve come understood as such, no matter how much I insist that, strictly speaking, it’s inaccurate to speak of it as such because it changes as I type and even in the absence of me typing on it. This is also the Heraclitian approach to this issue, how, you can only step in to the same river only once, as also mentioned in Aristotle’s ‘Metaphysics’ (1010a). That said, that’s not a problem for me. I reckon what he is dealing with, the river that is no longer the river that he stepped into, is still considered a river, and what I’m dealing with, the keyboard that is no longer the keyboard I just typed with, is still considered a keyboard.

What changes in this way of thinking is just that difference is primary to identity, that everything, whatever it is, is continuously differentiated and individuated. Therefore everything is individual, singular, unique, one of a kind, even though they might not appear to us as such because we’ve been taught think the exact opposite way, that identity is primary and difference is secondary, that difference is derived from comparing two instances. That’s actually what individual means, or rather used to mean, that something is not dividual, divisible. Compare individual (OED, s.v. “individual”, adj.) in its obsolete sense, its etymology being in classical Latin:

“One in substance or essence; forming an indivisible entity; indivisible.”

And dividual (OED, s.v. “dividual”, adj.):

“That is or may be divided or separated from something else; separate, distinct, particular.”

Following John Duns Scotus (d. 3, p. 1, q. 4, n. 76) in ‘Ordinatio II’, another way of explaining this would be in terms of haecceity (haecceitas, thisness) and quiddity (quidditas, whatness). Haecceity (OED, s.v. “haecceity”, n.) is:

“The quality that makes a person or thing describable as ‘this’; the property of being a unique and individual thing; particular character, individuality.”

Whereas quiddity (OED, s.v. “quiddity”, n.) is:

“The inherent nature or essence of a person or thing; what makes a thing what it is.”

So, in other words, haecceity has to do with whatever this is, let’s say this keyboard that I keep referring to (or is it the same keyboard in each instance?), what makes it individual (non-identical with anything else), which does not, however, negate quiddity, whatever it is deemed to share, to have in common with something else conceptually, whatever that is. I reckon this keyboard is, for sure, one of a kind, despite being mass produced. You could argue that it used to be the same as the other keyboards, when it was made, but is it really? It’s a Logitech K120 (I know, how cheap of me), a black keyboard featuring a ‘Nordic’ layout, three lights, a usb-cable and 16 screws that hold the bottom and top plastic frames together. I’m sure other K120s share those features, even if the layout might be different. When this was assembled, it must have looked ‘virtually’ identical (note how I’m calling it ‘virtually’ identical, not ‘actually’ identical, because it functions as if it was the case, but isn’t) with the other K120 keyboards. Let’s assume that the components used to make these keyboards were ‘actually’ identical in each case (which, of course, they weren’t), they might still have been assembled so that each keyboard was slightly different from the other keyboards because, for example the frames have certain tolerance to make it easier to assemble the keyboard, to put all the other component in place, or the person who put in the screws didn’t apply the same pressure in each case (yes, I’ve actually worked at an assembly line, doing just that). Now, as the components were only virtually identical to one another (and still are), it doesn’t even matter if there’s a bit of wobble caused by the frame tolerance or if the screws weren’t done properly in each case (yes, scratched paint on screw heads was an issue that had to be remedied!). Of course, none of that matters as they all function as if they were identical, despite being unique. And, yes, I just explained how assemblages work, how everything is merely a partial object of another partial object, which is a partial of object of another partial object, a machine within a machine, within a machine, and so on, and so on. They function in unison, as a specific unity of those specific parts, but never as a pre-existing whole or a totality. I mean it’s pretty obvious that this keyboard is not based on some pre-existing whole or a totality, a transcendent idea, that the company that made it used as its blueprint. Sure, they must have had some blueprints, but were just historical.

The way I explained this is hardly how people tend to think of this. Nowadays, dividual is hardly used and individual is, ironically, a matter of division or dividuality, about defining this and/or that, including oneself, primarily in terms of identity, through shared qualities or properties, that is to say whatness or sameness. I know that it’s rather inconsequential to talk about how this affects this keyboard, but it’s another story when we speak of people defining themselves as this or that, having these or those qualities, as if they were built in a factory. To me, that’s really problematic.

To get back on track, I give primacy to difference over identity, but I have no qualms calling this thing that I type on, that I have used to type this essay, a keyboard. The sense of this is always immanent and emergent. No problem. To me, the problem is rather with the dominant way of thinking in which objects are appearances of things-in-themselves (in Kantian sense) or transcendent forms or ideas (in Platonic sense). So, when I do research, I’m interesting in the order of things, how things are, the way they are, inasmuch as they are, as long as they are, historically and geographically, and, most importantly, why they might have become the way they are. I’m not seeking to explain some true reality, how things really are, or to uncover their true origin or foundation.

Moving on, Malinowski and Tufi (5) indicate that linguistic landscape scholars struggle with “the uprootedness of causality” and “the continuous slippage of meaning”. Now, firstly, I cannot speak for others, only myself, but at least I don’t have issues with the displacement or removal of causality, which I take to be about cause and effect in this context, as it is typically understood. I mean, the way I understand how Deleuze and Guattari deal with it is that when it comes to bodies there’s just cause, no separate cause and effect, because that’s like saying that things happen one after another, rather than at the same time. This is what they (86) call “intermingling of bodies” in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. Just think of it. If you look at a video, frame by frame, it appears that things simply exist in relation to one another. For example, if two hockey players collide on ice, who is to blame? The one that moved or the other that moved? If you look at the footage, frame by frame, what changes between the frames is their position in relation to one another. One player is no more the cause for an effect than the other player. The bodies are just drawn together differently, that’s it. Secondly, again, I cannot speak for others, but, the slippage of meaning doesn’t really bother me. It’s actually something Deleuze and Guattari account for, as Malinowski and Tufi (5) point out. They not only account for this slippage, what is, perhaps, best known as the chain of signification, how signifier actually only leads to another signifier instead of a signified, but also move away from it, so that language is no longer considered autonomous, universal, transcendent or self-enclosed. It’s not actually even that radical a move, because what they do is to shift our attention to pragmatics. The question is no longer what something means, but whether it makes sense, hence the title of Deleuze’s book ‘The Logic of Sense’ (1990 English translation by Mark Lester and Charles Stivale) or ‘Logique du sens’. In that book Deleuze (20) explains how a Möbius strip is irreducible to a meaning:

“It is difficult to respond to those who wish to be satisfied with words, things, image, and ideas. For we may not even say that sense exists either in things or in the mind; it has neither physical nor mental existence. Shall we at least say that it is useful, and that it is necessary to admit it for its utility? Not even this, since it is endowed with an inefficacious, impassive, and sterile splendor. This is why we said that in fact we can only infer it indirectly, on the basis of the circle where ordinary dimensions of the proposition lead us. It is only by breaking open the circle, as in the case of the Möbius strip, by unfolding and untwisting it, that the dimensions of sense appears for itself, in its irreducibility, and also in its genetic power as it animates an a priori internal model of the proposition.”

This is further explained in the notes, where Deleuze (337) clarifies that a Möbius strip has but one side, plane or surface, yet it appears to have two sides, planes or surfaces, as if it was twisted. If one cuts the strip, it now has two sides, planes or surfaces. If you connect its ends, you can create a loop that still has two sides, planes or surfaces. If you twist it and connect its ends, you have a Möbius strip and now it only has one side, plane or surface. It’s kind of hard to explain, which is exactly the point Deleuze (20) makes. You should be able to get it, intuitively, if you fiddle with a piece of paper. It can’t be put into words. When you fiddle with it, let it pass through your fingers, you are, quite literally, experiencing how words and things can only be separated from one another quite violently (cut the strip) as language functions on the surface of bodies, as surface effects, not separate from them, as indicated by Deleuze (7-8). These surface effects are events or incorporeal transformations of bodies that do not alter the body as such, corporeally, but nonetheless have an effect on it, as noted by Deleuze (4-5) in ‘The Logic of Sense’ and Deleuze and Guattari (86) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. That’s sense for you. To put it bluntly, either you get it or you don’t.

The upside of this, what Malinowski and Tufi (5) refer to as “[a] rhizomatic view of reality”, is that it indeed “uproots causality and accounts for the continuous slippage of meaning”. It does, however, make much of mainstream linguistics more or less pointless, which I reckon is going to upset a lot of people, namely linguists. I don’t mind, at all. I’m all for this. That said, something tells me that people are not going to be happy with the promotion of pragmatics from being considered “a ‘trash heap’” and, conversely, making everything else dependent on it, as pointed out by Deleuze and Guattari (86-87) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. A lot of people stand to lose in such a move. It would go against their immediate interests to have their work invalidated. I mean, duh! My own experience confirms this. I’ve already lost count how many times I’ve run into this issue. Good old dogmatism!

I think that Malinowski and Tufi (5) overemphasize the dynamism in Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy. As I’ve pointed out, I agree with how we deal with metastability, but I’m not sure that I completely agree with them (5) on the following:

“As regime of signs developing in close interaction with other assemblages, elements of change, unpredictability, and inherent transformations of LL should not be seen as discrete entities, but as assemblages converging to create meaning continua which are slippery and unstable, therefore replicating the (non)pattern of human experience in start contrast to the discrete, the countable and the predictable.”

Firstly, I don’t think linguistic landscape is an assemblage, nor a regime of signs. As already mentioned, this definition of assemblages is missing the other side, the machinic assemblages of bodies or desire, the regimes of bodies. In ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ Deleuze and Guattari (138) indicate that the contemporary mixed regime of signs combines signification (the signifying regime) and subjectification (the postsignifying regime), forming a sticky mixture (meaning that is is very tough to get outside it, to think otherwise). To give this mixed regime a name, it’s capitalism, as discussed by the two (33-34) in ‘Anti-Oedipus’ (1983 translation by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen Lane). This side of assemblages is, however, highly relevant to what is known as linguistic landscape studies. No doubt about it. I agree on that. I just don’t think linguistic landscape is its own assemblage or its own regime of signs. Secondly, while I agree that meanings are slippery and unstable, I think this risks ignoring how the mixed regime of signs works, how it offers an illusion of stability, a sense of security, rootedness and territoriality, and how it operates by capturing everything that escapes or resists (what deterritorializes) it in order to rework it into something tolerable, something that doesn’t change how the regime works (forcing what is deterritorialized into reterritorializing). In fact, it feeds on that. In ‘Anti-Oedipus’ Deleuze and Guattari (230) explain this as capitalism displacing its own limits, appropriating whatever it can and incorporating it to itself by reconstituting its own limits. This is how even anti-capitalist icons like Che Guevara become commodities. The mixed regime makes it so that everything appears to be highly stable, almost static, so that everything conforms to dominant social categories and that they appear as discrete entities, as this and/or that. What seeks to threaten it, it captures and reworks to fit the big picture (which is also why it is so hard to get outside it, to think otherwise).

Related to this, I’m puzzled by how ‘landscape’ is not addressed in this introduction, like, at all (besides in passing to Denis Cosgrove’s work), despite the multiple references to ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. I mean, landscape is something that is explicitly discussed by Deleuze and Guattari in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ in plateau seven, ‘Year Zero: Faciality’, as part of the abstract machine of faciliaty/landscapity, also known as the “white wall/black hole system”, as they call it (167) in reference to the white wall of signification (key feature of the signifying regime) and the black hole of subjectivity (key feature of the postsignifying regime). To summarize this plateau (I’m not going to go into detail here as I’ve done that in the past, a number of times already), as an abstract machine it acts as an immanent cause to how people come to see the world and how they come identify themselves through landscape. It creates a sense of normalcy, what is to be expected, and makes people desire what is deemed normal, which is why they end up taking it for granted. It results in a feedback loop. It reinforces itself and the mixed regime that made it possible in the first place. Faciality does not overrule landscapity nor vice versa. In fact, faciality, extending to basically everything we see, not only human faces, but also all the inanimate objects, this and/or that, is what informs landscapity. The same works the other way around, for example, if we take an extreme closeup of a human face, we end up seeing it as a landscape, populated by these features, these little faces that inform the landscape.

Of course, if one follows Deleuze and Guattari in their definition of landscape, linguistic landscape ends up subsumed by it. There’s no longer a need for a field or a discipline called linguistic landscape studies. This does not, however, mean that what’s been studied becomes pointless. Nothing changes really. In my opinion, it only makes more sense now, as the focus is on those elements that come to set the parameters of normalcy, what we come to expect and desire. It has been that way already. It also addresses how problematic landscape is as a mechanism of the mixed regime. I mean it’s a mechanism of conformity and, conversely, of exclusion. It should push people to reconsider whether they want to subscribe to the dominant image of thought that it builds on, which is what I’ve done. You’ll end up questioning not only boundaries but also the very notion of boundaries itself, hence my earlier gripe about how Malinowski and Tufi keep calling linguistic landscape studies a field. You’ll no longer care about disciplines or fields. You’ll end up embracing nomadism or transversality instead.

There’s also a minor error in the end, in the note(s) section where Malinowski and Tufi (9) indicate that ‘plane of immanence’ was developed by Deleuze and Guattari in ‘What is Philosophy’. They do discuss it in that book, but it was developed way before. It was already discussed in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. It also appeared in ‘Anti-Oedipus’ and in their other works, albeit it is called either plane of consistency or body without organs. Sense is also yet another way of explaining it.