start of a conversation!

Thought it might be useful to share an email conversation me and Robert Deuchars have been having (warts and all, it’s a bit un-nerving to put up our insecurities and inadequacies and brain dumps in public, but fuk it) . We are challenging each-other to read Glissant and Deleuze and to see where that goes.

ROBERT:

The Panel that Alina has put up now looks very good.  I’m reading Glissant today – there is plenty of Deleuze here – Glissant mentions the baroque early on – you know that Deleuze’s book the Fold had the subtitle of Liebniz and the Baroque – I have a feeling this is going to be very fruitful – the latest issue of Substance is on Deleuze – that’s the third one they have done on him – this interplay between postructuralism and decolonialism, if addressed carefully could prove very enlightening for our retarded discipline methinks.

ROBBIE:

Wicked man! Sounds great! I want to caution, or at least set a grounds of debate: Glissant is not a deleuzian, or a derivative of: i.e. part of our challenge is to find ways of engaging that are not on “this is deleuzian”, or this is “glissant-ian”. I know that’s not what you saying but we have to find some other way than to use or implicitly fall back into tropes of comparison. What links the two is quite simply France’s colonial past: Martinique is a department of France! So of course, there is going to be a franco economy of knowledge circulating. But its core is not necessarily or only in paris. Colonialism is not derivative of la republic! It’s the thing that makes the republic impossible to itself! And the republic is the thing that makes self-determination for martiniquans after slavery impossible – still waiting for meaningful self-determination, or as Fanon put it, a “national culture”. Glissant is arising first and foremost out of an engagement with the Martiniquan – and Caribbean slave legacy – problem of rootedness/rootlessness. He is a CONTEMPORARY of deleuze, these ideas for Glissant go back to 1950s and also in that sense he is a contemporary of Fanon too both of whom are addressing Cesaire. And in just the same way, Fanon is not like Sartre or ponty, even though he read them, and he’s not a derivative of them either. He is from his own “core”, or to put it better, situated position from which he enters into this economy of (imperial) knowledge and weathers the storm. Do you get what I mean? I know you aren’t saying this, I’m just putting up the challenge there for all of us and for the project as a whole: we can’t use either recognition or comparison as tropes for exploring the relation between decolonising, devanguardising, – so what do we use…

ROBERT:

yeah this makes sense and you’re right I wasn’t trying to squeeze Glissant into Deleuze or vice versa and no I don’t want to compare – Each is faced with a problem context as you say but they ( because they obviously didn’t share the same intellectual culture or friends even) have clearly different concerns but concerns that must have spaces where they meet – or maybe and most likely on the part of Deleuze a different problem ie of avoidance.  It would be disastrous to say “here is the great Deleuze with his war machine, rhizomes and extolling the virtues of nomadic thought, he understands your problems, so off you go and resist Deleuze style – arrgh – that is what Deleuze is so clear about.  He utterly refuses to say stuff like that – he was totally against totalities in any form and against the idea of his concepts being universalised.  Well obviously I’ve only started to read Glissant so will be a bit better informed soon.  By the same token it would disastrous to say “here is the great Glissant who, like Fanon, can only truly understand the problem of the French Empire and it’s colonies because he experienced it as Other etc etc – I’m not doing that at all but it is good to keep the cautions coming as I am wont to drift off into Deleuzeland – it’s a problem but so long as I am reminded of it I’m sure I won’t stray too far….

ROBBIE:

YES! AGREE! ” a different problem ie of avoidance” – interesting man, that’s really interesting.. SWEEET!

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing with us this conversation with us.

    Just a reaction to Robbie’s point about Republicanism and Empire: can you elaborate more? I have been reading Laurent Dubois’s 2000 piece in Cultural Studies “La République Métisée: Citizenship, Colonialism and the Borders of French History” for my undergrad IR seminar and he is making very interesting points about the impact of the French Caribbean on French ‘Universalism’ and, by extension, on French R/republicanism and citizenship. It seems to me you are mixing la République as a metaphor for French government (which wasn’t always a République in the 19th c.) and république as a principle of government that very much is at the core of the French conception of national identity and citizenship since 1789 through a variety of articulations (see Noiriel); articulations that, Dubois and other argues, have been early on influenced by the experience of colonialism and some of the earliest form of de-colonization (in the French Caribbean).

  2. just a thought, not a response : I’m trying to keep things loose but i have a fear ( maybe unjustified that this is heading way too early into a French conversation – just cos the protagonists ( so far) happen to be well a wee bit French) – but it’s much more muddled/complex than that e.g. here in NZ one can’t have this conversation with Pakeha ( ie born here white peeps) – they are subject AND object of Empire….they have probs with Maori/Polynesians AND the English (Brits etc) – not much diff as far as many NZ Pakeha are concerned and when caught off guard – we ( i mean scots, english, welsh Irish ( well north) can fall into this empire trap when we say “we” – I get caught out all the time “hate those English bastards” oh yeah when WE did this and that THERE”

  3. yes! i am now thinking that the best idea for us to do as a blogging collecitve (kind of), might be to read Alina’s paper on Algeria/France. it would stop us becoming to easily French!

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