project : the conference centers around deleuzian approaches to questions of history and writing, bringing together scholars from the fields of history, cultural studies and literature.
conceptual frame : The writing|history nexus is arguably one of the most fundamental ones in the architectures of deleuzian thought. [see here in particular 1000 years of non-linear history in which manuel de landa develops what a deleuzian historiography might look like]. offering a theory of ‚the event’ [both historical and literary; both real and fictional] that differs decisively from other poststructuralist theories [derrida, lacan], a deleuzian reference can help develop a new understanding of the relation between history as material fact and [its] representation [in relation to varying versions of ‚eventuality’ see in particular the work of alain badiou].
although the relation between event|fact and representation is seminal in the historical and literary sciences, it tends to be, if at all, defined in purely discursive terms and thought from within a discursive logic [if materiality is treated at all, it is the materiality of language. In the field of literary and cultural studies, the work of judith butler, itself based on foucault and derrida, marks the probably most advanced positioning of such a logic. Although she deals with ‚bodies that matter,’ this does not lead to a true ‚materialism’]. although the realization that history is transported in culture as historical narratives has been crucial in developing critical historiographical projects [needless to say, such projects have vast advantages over projects that aim at uncovering something like the ‚objective truth’ of a historical event or process], they have had certain disadvantages, most importantly that of excluding certain aspects of ‚the production of history’ from investigation. in particular, these are the fields of the body [in reference to conceptualizations by foucault, derrida and lacan, historical, cultural and literary studies have treated bodies predominantly as body-images and as surfaces inscribed by culture. as butler notes, the materiality of bodies is always already produced by discursive norms and regulations] and the field defined by both historians and literary scholars, in an ultimately defensive gesture, as ‚the natural’ [the twin spectres of ‚essentialism’ and ‚determinism’ preside, also in butler, over this gesture].
deleuze is innovative precisely in bringing these fields once more to the attention of scholars. his concept of an inherently ‚machinic’ [here especially in the sense of ‚productive’] nature [“nature is never natural, it is machinic“ (Anti-Oedipus)] allows for a coupling of the material field [what deleuze calls the ‚state of affairs’] and the representational one [what deleuze calls the ‚state of propositions’] from within a general machinics that is defined and conceptualized without recourse to any form of essentialism or determinism [see here especially references to the theory of complexity and non-linear dynamics in the work of deleuze; an interest taken up in de landa’s title]. importantly, both of these machinic fields are traversed by regimes of signs and codings; a fact that assures their correlation. at the same time, these fields differ in their structural logics [production vs. representation]. what this means is that from within a deleuzian logic, the representational logic does no longer have a hegemonic position [language as the master code of literary, cultural and historical studies].
history, in the ‚production of events,’ is related to a large number of semiotic regimes, many of which function according to non-representative logics [it spans the realm from molecular coding to historical narrative]. In the same way in which the meeting of two cultures produces contact zones that include the meeting of bacterial cultures and, say, any number of bio-chemical regimes, the production of history operates on a ‚thousand plateaus’ simultaneously. to zoom into the machinics that produce historical events, one needs to account for the complexity of the interactions of these codings and contacts, [the relation between regimes of production and regimes of representation]. in this light, to consider only the directly narrative side of history seems ultimately too reductive, especially at a time when the life-sciences provide more and more references about these other regimes of signs and about their structurations. [an attempt to ‚read’ history as an in itself complex, often non-linear process has been provided by fleck]. deleuze’s work might be a way to couple these reference to the fields of history, cultural and literary studies.
in short: deleuze, as
an immensely ‚historical’ writer, who is interested in both representational
and material logics, can become an extremely useful reference in the aggregate
of theories of history as well as in theories of representation; references
that are, up until now, largely untapped. this implies a revisionary re-reading
of deleuze, who has for too long suffered from the fact that he was understood
as an apostle of chaos and anarchy [in the german context, see for instance
manfred frank]. nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. one aim of
the conference would thus be to come, indirectly, to a reassessment of deleuzian
thought in the light of its inherent complexity.