File spoon-archives/postanarchism.archive/postanarchism_2003/postanarchism.0307, message 21


Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2003 00:10:31 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [postanarchism] Day: "Citizen, Nomad, Smith: Political Spaces and Their Denizens"


Citizen, Nomad, Smith: Political Spaces and Their
Denizens

http://aspen.conncoll.edu/politicsandculture/page.cfm?key=238

by Richard Day

Before I proceed with the main argument of this paper,
I want position it with respect to my current research
in the area of radical social movements. In this work
I am focusing on the displacement of liberal and
marxist modes of social change, which are oriented to
counter-hegemonic practices, by a logic of affinity
that challenges hegemony as such. I see this logic
operating, not solely or purely of course, but
operating nonetheless, in practices being developed by
global movements for social justice, indigenous
peoples all over the world, queer theorists,
non-identitarian feminists, post-anarchists … a
disparate network of new struggles is emerging . The
link to my previous work on Canadian multiculturalism
is that I am interested not only in the integration of
racial and ethnic ‘others’, but in the attempt to
integrate all subjects on all axes of domination and
exploitation within what Michael Hardt and Toni Negri
call Empire (Hardt and Negri 2000). I argue that
understanding Empire requires multi-dimensional
analyses of how the effects of mutually reinforcing
systems of domination and exploitation are discernible
in specific contexts; while working against Empire
means developing new strategies and tactics for
resistance and the construction of alternatives within
and against these contexts. This paper relates to my
broader project by focusing on the role played by
dominant conceptions of political spaces and their
inhabitants in constraining or enabling radical social
change.

As I have already mentioned, a critique of the logic
of hegemony is central to what I have to say here.
Many writers from various cultural studies traditions
have worked hard to show that the hegemony of any
existing order is never total, that resistance is
always possible, even in situations that appear to
involve mere deterministic reproduction – watching
network television, for instance. I think this has
been a valuable contribution to western critical
theory, but I want to push things a little further.
While acknowledging that resistance is always
possible, and perhaps always actual, I want to look a
little more closely at what kinds of results can be
expect from various modes of resistance, using some
concepts derived from Deleuze and Guattari’s "Treatise
on Nomadology" from A Thousand Plateaus. I am also
interested in the styles of subjectivity and
conceptions of political space that are associated
with these modes of action. In this paper I will work
with three different, but related, articulations of
subjects, spaces, and practices: the striated space of
the productive citizen, oriented to the reformation of
an existing hegemonic order; the smooth space of the
destructive nomad, oriented to the replacement of an
existing hegemony with a new one; and the holey space
of the itinerant smith, oriented to circumventing
hegemony as such. The argument I want to advance is
that many of the ‘newest’ social movements can be best
understood as practices of what Deleuze and Guattari
call smiths, rather than as those of citizens or
nomads. The first step in making this argument is to
say exactly what is meant by all of these terms, and
how they relate to each other; and this is what I will
now set out to do, beginning with the symbiotic
relationship between citizens and nomads.

Citizens and Nomads
According to classical liberalism, the citizen is a
contradictory entity, existing in a ‘civil society’ as
well as being a member of a ‘political state’ which
takes on tasks of governance.   This situation
establishes a foundational tension between the citizen
as a free-wheeling ‘private’ individual seeking to
optimize his or her own self-interest, and as a member
of a ‘public’ community that must somehow maintain its
coherence and be representable as a whole. One stream
of current liberal theory, which follows Kant in
prioritizing individual autonomy, views the state as a
necessary evil and argues that it should be reduced to
enforcing a minimal set of procedural rules that are
not supposed to privilege any particular conception of
‘the good life" (Rawls). For others, generally grouped
together as ‘communitarians’, citizen and state are
seen as two necessary and mutually conditioning poles
of a neo-Hegelian or neo-Aristotelian identification
with a substantive notion of a common good (e.g.
Sandel 1982; Taylor 1991). Various feminist writers
have weighed in on this debate, arguing that both
liberals and communitarians operate with a malestream
conception of citizenship that maintains an illusion
of public universality by forcing all particularity
into the private sphere (e.g. Young 1989).
Postcolonial critics, for their part, have pointed out
a first-world, Eurocentric bias in liberal pluralism,
as well as a tendency to naturalize, objectify, and
dehistoricize cultural identities (Bhabha 1994; Parekh
1995). 

Drawing from these critiques, and pushing them
further, Chantal Mouffe has advocated a form of
citizenship based only upon "identification with the
political principles of modern pluralist democracy,
that is, the assertion of liberty and equality for
all" (1993:83). Well aware of the slippery nature of
signifiers like ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’, and of the
impossibility of ever establishing who is and is not
one of us "all," Mouffe notes that "there can be as
many forms of citizenship as there are interpretations
of those principles" (84). Her conception thus
explodes the liberal vs. communitarian dichotomy by
describing an emergent, multiple, and ever-changing
definition of citizenship. Here we can see signs of a
form of subjectivity that would be difficult to
accommodate within Empire. Indeed, Mouffe argues that
"new identities need to be created" in order to
facilitate "new egalitarian social relations,
practices, and institutions" (86).

One such identity is that of that of the nomad. In an
article entitled "For a politics of nomadic identity,"
Mouffe argues, following Derrida, that the existence
of a constitutive outside implies that "identity
cannot ... belong to one person alone, and no one
belongs to a single identity" (1994:110). Rather,
every identity "comprise[s] a multiplicity of
elements" (111). This process is also described by
Deleuze and Guattari, who give it the name of
"schizophrenization" (TP:113) and who, like Mouffe,
identify it with a "nomadic" mode of subjectivity.
This is not to claim, of course, that Mouffe’s
conception is identical to, or even intentionally
related to, Deleuze and Guattari’s. However, I do
think it could be productive to follow out some of the
entailments of nomadic subjectivity for radical social
change, by way of an examination of the place of the
nomad in social and political thought in general, and
Deleuze and Guattari’s work in particular.

Within the Western tradition, nomads appear as the
negation of all of the qualities attributed to the
citizen, as Barbarians who "sow not, nor have any
tillage; ... [are] without habitation, having no
dwellings but caves and hollow trees... (D’Avity,
cited in Hodgen 1964:201). In an archetypal nightmare
of European civilization, the nomadic war machine
gallops in off the steppes, sweeping away everything
that matters: fields, walls, houses, castles. That the
East has fared no better is suggested by that monument
to State insecurity, the Great Wall of China. What is
it about nomads that makes them so frightening to
sedentaries? Deleuze and Guattari provide us with a
whole series of dichotomies between these two styles
of subjectivity, but the most important for my
purposes here is the difference between the kinds of
space that they occupy. Citizens are at home in the
striated space of the state form, while nomads occupy
the smooth spaces of non-state relationships. As with
all of the concepts deployed by Deleuze and Guattari,
no stable definitions or oppositions can be sustained
with respect to these two spaces -- yet it is clear
that "they are not of the same nature" (ATP: 474). On
the plane of technology, striated space is associated
with fabric, while felt is considered smooth; using a
maritime model, the ocean prior to the invention of
latitude and longitude was extremely smooth, that is,
one navigated according to "wind and noise, the
colours and sounds of the seas" (479); finally we can
think literally in terms of territory, and distinguish
between the smooth space of the open prairie prior to
European colonization, and the striated spaces of its
division into a firm grid-like structure, fenced off
against errant flows of flora, fauna, and indigenous
peoples. 

With regard to the relation of striation to identity
formation, an extremely helpful pair of images can be
gathered from multiculturalism policy documents
produced by the Canadian state. First, we have the
‘full container’ image, which represents the ‘problem
of Canadian diversity’.

OVERHEAD: FULL CONTAINER
You will note the uncontrolled, amorphous diversity of
person-types, which fills the entire space claimed by
the Canadian nation – I never knew Baffin Island was
so densely populated! One can imagine non-linear flows
of all sorts at work here, hybridization,
miscegenation, and so on. Thus the field of
uncontrolled diversity is a smooth space, a nomadic
space.

OVERHEAD: NATIONAL JEWEL
Then we have what I call the National Jewel, which
illustrates the ‘solution’ offered by multicultural
recognition and integration of these problematic
person-types. As you can see, it is wonderfully and
perfectly striated. In the past I have used this image
to talk about Canadian identities. But it works even
better when we realize that Canadians are being called
not only to be good multicultural citizens of their
own country, but to become docile subjects of a global
Empire as well. The identically shaped triangles
represent the constraints of the emerging
neoliberal-capitalist society of control, while the
colours represent the ‘differences’ between subjects
that are allowed within it;, that is, the differences
that can be captured and put to use in the
construction of national, global, consumer, and other
identities. The form of the pact is that in ‘agreeing’
to become a citizen of a particular state / Empire,
one agrees to limit one’s difference so as not to
exceed the boundaries of the triangle to which one has
been assigned. That is, one agrees to respect the
regularities and disciplines associated with
capitalism, racism, heterosexism, the domination of
nature, and so on.

So as to avoid giving the impression that we are
dealing here with an absolute dichotomy, I want to
emphasize that the positions of the citizen and the
nomad are deeply inter-related, to the point of
reversibility. The inside and outside of any social
space are interdependent, each potentially giving rise
to the other, each warding off the other, in an
ongoing play of relations of co-operative and
competitive power. Thus Deleuze and Guattari argue
that "it is not in terms of independence, but of
coexistence and competition in a perpetual field of
interaction, that we must conceive of exteriority and
interiority" (TP:360-1). The citizen and the nomad in
fact share a space of contested de- and
re-territorialization, each attempting to instantiate
and perpetuate the conditions of possibility of its
own style of life. For example, the USSR appeared to
the USA as a horde of communist barbarians poised at
the gates of civilized capitalism, while at the same
time the Soviets feared the immense deterritorializing
power of capital. The same thing is happening now
between USA and Islam, or really, if one looks closely
at the arrangement of friends and enemies, with USA
and all that is not yet sufficiently USA. The beauty
of this formulation is that friends can be turned into
enemies and vice versa as need be, for example in the
demonization of Canada and the glorification of Poland
as a result of the exigiencies of the US/UK invasion
of Iraq. And, as the world is progressively
Americanized, the criteria for acceptance as properly
pro-American become ever tighter. One can already
imagine a situation in which most Americans will be
excluded, but one can also imagine that this will
hardly matter, for by then America and Empire will be
indistinguishable. There will be no more outside … or
will there?

Smiths
The question of the total conquest of the outside
leads us to consider how the smith exists in a complex
relation to both the citizen and the nomad, in one
aspect as their complement: "There are no nomadic or
sedentary smiths," Deleuze and Guattari argue. "The
smith is ambulant, itinerant: his space is neither the
striated space of the sedentary, nor the smooth space
of the nomad" (TP:413, emphasis added). In another
aspect, the smith takes up a contradictory position:
"[I]t is by virtue of his itineracy, by virtue of his
inventing a holey space, that he necessarily
communicates with the sedentaries and with the nomads
(and with others besides...). He is in himself a
double: a hybrid, an alloy, a twin formation (415,
emphasis in original).

OVERHEAD: HOLEY SPACE
Where the practice of the citizen is oriented to
‘staying on the road’, as it were, the smith is guided
by an alchemical, metallurgical will to the
"involuntary invention" (403) of new strategies and
tactics. Evidence of this kind of activity can be
found throughout the world, in communities of
resistance addressing a wide range of issues. I cannot
possibly discuss all of them here, and I cannot do
justice to those I do discuss. But I think that in
order to support the point I am trying to make, it is
necessary to mention a few concrete instances of what
I’m talking about.

In the case of certain elements of ‘the
anti-globalization movement’, for example, the goal is
not to create a counter-power around a new hegemonic
centre, but to challenge, disrupt, and disorient the
processes of global hegemony, to refuse, rather than
rearticulate those forces that are tending towards the
further establishment of Empire. As David Graeber has
pointed out in a recent article in New Left Review,
many of today’s activists have rejected "a politics
which appeals to governments to modify their
behaviour, in favour of physical intervention against
state power in a form that itself prefigures an
alternative" (2002: 62). John Jordan of Reclaim the
Streets [RTS] notes that:

RTS does not see Direct Action as a last resort, but a
preferred way of doing things… a way for individuals
to take control of their own lives and environments….
If global capitalism does not manage to destroy the
ecosphere and human civilization… and a new culture of
social and ecological justice is developed, RTS would
hope that direct action would not stop but continue to
be a central part of a direct democratic system
(Jordan 1997).

It should be noted that I am not claiming that RTS is
a ‘social movement’ in the sense that this term is
given within the relevant literature on either side of
the Atlantic. Rather, I see RTS as a non-branded
tactic that is being used by various groups and
communities to achieve various ends. 
There are other tactics which not only prefigure
non-hegemonic alternatives to state and corporate
forms, but create them here and now. The burgeoning
network of Independent Media Centres (IMCs) is an
excellent example of this kind of ‘productive’ direct
action. IMC aims to combat corporate concentration in
media ownership through the creation of alternative
sources of information, and in so doing to participate
directly in the negation and reconstruction of
mass-mediated realities. Like RTS, IMC shows the
possibilities of reconstructive community in action,
and deploys a model which can, and has, been adapted
to other institutions where corporate and state
control are endemic. Other examples of non-branded
tactics which prefigure or create autonomous
alternatives include social centre, Food Not Bombs,
and countless long-standing and newly emerging
co-operative social and economic experiments. What is
important about all of these approaches to social
change is that they take us beyond both reform and
revolution, that is, beyond the oppositional stalemate
between citizens and nomads.

It is also important to note that the use of
productive direct action to prefigure and create
autonomous alternatives is not limited to privileged
subjects of the global North. The Zapatistas have been
particularly adept in this regard, most famously by
making use of (relatively) autonomous means of mass
communication such as the internet to advance
awareness of their cause both within mainstream
Mexican society and around the world (Cleaver 1998;
Ronfeldt et. al. 1998 ). Indigenous decolonization
movements in Canada and Australia/New Zealand are also
interesting on this point. To supplement mainstream
strategies, some communities are pursuing forms of
self-determination that run counter to the dominant
paradigm of integration within the system of states.
These identities often shun both capitalism and
socialism, and their difference poses difficult
problems for Western theory, problems that have so far
not been adequately addressed (Day 2001).
The key point I want to make here, though, is that the
activities of smiths show us that no matter how
totalizing a system might be, it will never achieve
its ambition of totality – it is impossible to create
a system with no outside, even a system that appears
to cover an entire planet. For there will always be
holes, even when there are no longer any margins. And
out of these holes will spring all manner of subjects.

Conclusion
In closing, it should be noted that I am not denying
the utility of citizenship for achieving certain sorts
of change within ostensibly ‘liberal’ societies. Nor
am I willing to suggest that armed revolutionary
struggle is inappropriate in situations where not even
the rudiments of a ‘liberal’ political order exist. I
am suggesting, through an "both … and" logic, that
alternative subjects and paths to radical progressive
social change can, and should, be explored as well. I
am suggesting that an exclusive focus on social change
within or via the State form prevents us from
imagining and implementing modes of social
organization that are not only possible and desirable,
but are becoming ever more necessary as Empire
consolidates its hold on our bodies, minds, lands … on
our very ability to produce ourselves and the contexts
in which we encounter others.

Richard J.F. Day
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
Queen’s University, K7L 3N6
Canada
Email: dayr-AT-post.queensu.ca


===="The world is the natural setting of and field for all my thoughts and all my explicit perceptions. Truth does not 'inhabit' only 'the inner man' or more accurately, there is no inner man, man is in the world and only in the world does he know himself."

— Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 1945

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