Review: Deleuzian Encounters: Studies in Contemporary Social Issues

Deleuzian Encounters: Studies in Contemporary Social Issues. Ed. by Anna Hickey-Moody and Peta Malins. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Pp. xv + 270.

What can bring together whales, dancers, refugees, and Deleuzian theory? Answer: Deleuzian Encounters, a collection of essays from various authors that seeks to give readers a practical way to apply Deleuze’s philosophy, “[affirming] the capacity of individuals to effect change in the social issues with which they are concerned” (1). Hickey-Moody and Malins work throughout the book to break down Deleuze’s work into something accessible and “life affirming” (2). The book begins with a concise yet helpful introduction to Gilles Deleuze, his philosophy and social ethics, and the impact of his ideas across various fields of study. Breaking down these areas into four sections, “Politics Beyond Identity,” “Ethico-Aesthetics,” “Socio-Spatiality,” and “Global Schizophrenia,” Hickey-Moody and Malins succeed in providing readers sixteen manageable yet intriguing examples of how Deleuze’s work truly does “encounter” a range of other fields, clearly expanding the applications of affect theory for the reader.

Hickey-Moody and Malins give readers an overview of Deleuze’s applications and theories in the introduction. These explanations are concise enough not to bore those familiar with Deleuze but thorough enough to provide those newer to the field with a better understanding of his theory. The editors continue to give a brief description of Deleuzian theory to accompany each of the sections chosen for the book throughout the introduction, and this clear presentation of theory is one of the strengths of the book.

“Politics Beyond Identity” features four essays, beginning with Gregory Flaxman’s “The Politics of Non-Being.” Tackling the Deleuzian concept of “non-being,” Flaxman aims to help readers with creating a definition for being and how being political works in a time when capitalism and marketing dominate politics and philosophy. Tracing the origins of non-being from its Greek origins to Deleuze, Flaxman connects its contemporary significance to the concept of utopia, proposing that a utopian non-place gives philosophy a place to bring forward new things rather than be reduced to a negative position. “The Politics of Non-Being” fits within Hickey-Moody and Malins’ goal of connecting the practical and theoretical by showing how Deleuze’s philosophy can bring back hope in modern times. Exploring further the concept of utopia, Jonathon Roffe’s “The Revolutionary Dividual” examines the relationship between creativity and political subjectivity through the idea that “dividuality,” dismantling how capitalism constructs one as an individual, “divided rather than fundamentally unified” (41) . Roffe’s essay shows how creation and destratification to dividuality (division) work together to bring about new ways of doing life. Next, Edward Mussawir’s “Intersex: Between Law and Nature” focuses on the court case of a girl fighting for gender-reassignment hormone therapy with emphasis on her body and social status through the process. Mussawir uses Deleuze’s idea of Intersex as support for a non-binary understanding of sex. This essay also moves closer to the practical when examining how legal restrictions currently do not encompass the range of non-binary gender, not allowing for an adequate response to the child’s request in this case. The first section continues to examine the socio-legal production of gender through the question of suicide in Ashley Woodward’s “Deleuze and Suicide.” Woodward approaches the voluntary ending of life via Deleuze’s ideas of becoming and lines of flight. The first section highlights the limitations in current notions of subjectivity and identity, redescribing individuals and their relationship to the world around them so as to open up new possibilities for creation and growth.

“Ethico-Aesthetics,” the second section, moves from thinking about the political and social implications of individual lives to the relationship between ethics and aesthetics. The four essays reflect on how affect and aesthetics can be applied socio-politically. Hickey-Moody’s “Intellectual Disability: Sensation and Thinking Through Affect” seeks to re-conceptualize the bodies of those labeled “intellectually disabled” by examining the performances of dancers with intellectual disabilities. Seconding the goal of breaking down limiting categories, Hickey-Moody interprets these dancers outside of the “extremely select ways in which people with intellectual disability can be known” (79). Hickey-Moody links their performances to a notion of “becoming” through movement, as “bodies continuously evolve in relation to greater and lesser bodies” (92). The section then moves “Towards a Pedagogy of Affect,” by Jennifer Daryl Slack and Christa Albrecht-Crane, who present the classroom as a space where the affective idea of animation provides a lively chaos to the learning environment. Viewing the classroom space through an affective lens, Slack and Albrecht-Crane propose “develop[ing] a practice of teaching and learning with love” that allows for “tearing the classroom into pieces, getting to interact with other things, absolutely anything,” which is “learning and teaching with love” (107). This pedagogy through affect brings attention to the possibilities of new creative learning and teaching methods within a typically politicized arena. Next, Erin Manning’s “Sensing Beyond Security” urges a reaffirmation of bodily sensation while examining how security reduces the affective capacity of bodies. “Ethico-Aesthetics” concludes with Felicity Colman’s “Affective Terrorism,” which dwells further upon the idea of security. Colman argues that media portrayals of news events foster an overall lifestyle governed by “fear, hatred and individualized paranoia” (10), disrupting the way in which we view and react to events. This second section’s essays are connected by relating aesthetics and style to the ethics of social interactions.

The third part, “Socio-Spatiality,” moves from a static view of space to one where the aesthetic, social, and political aspects of space can be explored. The affective reading of space continues through the Deleuzian concepts of smooth space, striated space, and territorialization. Mark Halsey’s “Molar Ecology: What Can the (Full) Body of an Eco-Tourist Do?”explores how conservation and the natural world interact through an examination of whale watching at the Great Australian Bight Marine Park in South Australia. Halsey questions “at what socio-environmental cost…this management of bodies occur[s” and spotlights this problem to “encourage the creation of spaces that allow for diverse and intense interaction, as opposed to the proliferation of sterile and serialized ‘eco-experiences’” (137). “City Folds: Injecting Drug Use and Urban Space,” by Peta Malins, uses interviews with ten Melbourne women who use injection drugs. Malins discusses the idea of folding – the city enfolding bodies while simultaneously allowing the city to fold into bodies. Malin elaborates on how these folded pockets within the larger city interact with the city’s aesthetic overall and on the initiatives proposed to better the drug-addicted bodies caught in these pockets. Moving from drugs to refuges, “Holey Space and the Smooth and Striated Body of the Refugee” by Hélène Frichot builds upon the book’s explanations of smooth and striated spaces to look at the life of the refugee body in Australian detention centers. Frichot proposes a concept of “holey space” the space between Deleuze and Guattari’s smooth and striated space that serves a “connective and conjugal role” (169) – to provide a way to welcome refugee bodies rather than police them. Concluding the section, Kenneth Dean and Thomas Lamarre’s “Microsociality and the Ritual Event” looks at ritual practices in Southeast China and their political implications. Dean and Lamarre identify the situated economy of the region and its emphasis on institutionalized ritual as something different from, but not in opposition to capitalism. This essay bridges together microsociology and modernization theory, aiming to provide a new way to look at capital and its movement and the way that it is resisted spatially through non-capital exchanges.

The final chapters of the book on “Global Schizophrenia” turn from spatiality to movement, exploring the relationship between global flows and the bodies they impact. It pays special attention to movement in terms of how the desire for revolution works its way through bodies. Simone Bignall’s “Indigenous Peoples and a Deleuzian Theory of Practice” looks at the interplay of Indigenous and non-Indigenous bodies through narrative. Todd May’s “Deleuze and the Tale of Two Intifadas” focuses on different forms of resistance in uprisings, both rhizomatic and structured. Dimitris Papadopoulos and Vassilis Tisanos’s “The Autonomy of Migration: The Animals of Undocumented Mobility” and Graeme Chesters’s “Complex and Minor: Deleuze and the Alterglobalization Movement(s)” round out the final section, relating Deleuzian ideas to revolutionary thinking and investigating modern ideas of activism.

In these essays, Deleuzian Encounters accomplishes the goal Anna Hickey-Moody and Peta Malins to “show that Deleuze’s thought is eminently social and political, and that his concepts can – and do – have important practical implications” (2). This work helps bridge the theoretical and practical by providing multiple examples in each section that clearly illustrate how Deleuze can empower contemporary readers to effect social change.

Kandis H. Sisson