February 15, 2015
By Mark Dyal
What happens when a pagan dies? He goes to heaven, silly.
Random entry-point I. The effect of words is not a matter of belief, let alone truth, but obedience and conformity – most of which is unconscious: “Language’s primary function is not to communicate or inform but to issue orders;” “Speech acts don’t establish, share, or communicate a truth-relation to the world, but establish or transform the sense of what can or must be said about the world.”
A. Asking whether or not the revolution can succeed is irrelevant to the man in revolt. This is because the question itself is only made sensible – or given sense – in the deeply non-critical, soft, and gooey center of the modern order of knowledge.
i. Order of knowledge: can one even say order, now that we make the critical distinction between Logos (and its state-sponsored thought) and nomos (and its Outsider, rebel, Übermensch thought) – the State/Academy/bourgeois media and a total, brazen, and hostile disregard for what makes the form of life/manner of being human that they peddle have any sense-value?
ii. Nonetheless, if one must speak, one must do so within a rule-based assemblage with distinct possibilities and parameters. Unless, of course, one desires to be misunderstood …
a. If even the perfectly academically disciplined man is made incomprehensible and thus irrelevant to the average working man, what can be expected from an encounter between the average and the Übermensch? How many levels of incomprehension can one create in, say, 5 minutes?
1. Purpose of language?
2. Purpose of State
3. Purpose of police
4. Purpose of capitalism
5. Purpose of discipline (in children, but also as a metaphor)
6. Purpose of metaphor
b. Ethnographic study is the saving grace of anthropology. Whereas the latter is a political institution designed to discipline minds and behavioral potentialities in the name of bourgeois modernity and the dominant contemporary conceptions of being human, the former has the capacity to be transvaluational of its institutional homeland. The student or master casts himself out – into a wild, an outland – to live amongst the savage, barbarian, and the minority – those whose stake in modernity is still up for grabs, and are thus capable of identifying the cracks, fissures, and weaknesses in what often appears to be a bourgeois liberalizing monolith.
1. Far too often, though, the ethnographer is too completely armed with a bourgeois conceptual apparatus to appreciate the minor barbarian on its own terms – to create a barbarian relationship with the barbarian: to become-barbarian! – and to be able to grasp the magnitude of the outsider’s critique. Some institutions are beyond reproach, after all. Being properly immured against following any such barbarian escape route, the ethnographer instead critiques the barbarian for failing to conform to the universalizing narratives of bourgeois humanness (identity, gender, race, kinship, economy, rationality, etc.).
2. Certainly, the anthropologically minded ethnographer can be open to the critiques of the minority, so long as these do not delegitimize the operative bourgeois conceptual apparatus: the minor economy can be understood in relation to liberal economics, just as gender roles, social aggregations, and images of thought can be shown to possess a particular disposition toward or away from gender, racethnicity, and rationality. The barbarian’s right to affirm its own form of life, though, is another matter.
3. Anthropology loves the savage, in other words, as long as he is a good anthropological subject. Likewise ethnographers. Proper disciplining of the ethnographic mind is the only thing that guarantees anthropology a future, as it ensures that (enough) ethnographers will preserve their allegiance to the bourgeois form of life and return from the outland with a lovely and exciting narrative of savagery that justifies, above all, the material and conceptual bases of modern lifeways. In other words, today’s ethnographers must become tomorrow’s anthropologists.
4. But what happens when an ethnographer refuses the right to become-anthropologist? What happens when an ethnographer refuses to accept anthropology’s orthodoxy? What happens when the ethnographer knows the history of anthropological ideas, but also knows that they have no use-value whatsoever? What happens to this heretical malcontent, too critical for his own good – too quick to dismantle the good sense that buttresses every argument for playing ball?
5. This derelict becomes barbarian. He no longer has a stake – nothing to defend, nothing to demand – in anthropology.
B. Orthodoxy is the only sovereign in the Academy, and it is the same orthodoxy that can be found in every nook and cranny of American life: from the far Left to the extreme Right, in every captured mind and overcoded life in-between. For what can be studied and thought on campus mirrors what can be publicly and safely discussed socially.
i. Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal make sense as long as they protest about social justice and the hierarchization of the racial human (i.e., as long as they protest racism but celebrate – nay, create! – their legitimate claims to humanity in terms viable to the bourgeois form of life: ALWAYS A MOB, NEVER A PACK – always in numbers great enough to make altruism universally codifiable so as to increase policability, profitability, and market stability – race will do then!
ii. The gnawa narrative: former slaves seeking to maintain their own authenticity in the tourist bazaars of Marrakech – Good! GREAT! That sells. Likewise, notable non-Western (the conservative in us snickers at such an idea, while the derelict remembers how much non-Western space exists in his own modest household) musicians that must face audience scorn in Los Angeles for straying too far from a set of sounds deemed authentic by the bourgeois other face a form of discipline unknowable beyond America. RETURN TO TOP OF PAGE: Authenticity as order-word. Revolution as order-word. What does it take for either word to make sense? How many assumptions of the relationship between mind and body/conception and world? What is the purpose of language? Can language’s purpose in a bourgeois world be subverted? What assumptions would be its being-subverted possible?
iii. But what about gnawa as nomadic former slaves whose local particularity is understood in terms inseparable from the destructive forces of the arabization of North Africa? What happens to peoples/packs/bands/nomads when the State imposes a universalizing narrative on men and women in order to ORDER them? Are they to become-wage-slave and policable citizen – like children in a daycare, being led from place to place in a silent orderly line (making order sensible to a 3-year old so as to begin guiding all of his or her potential toward a life-as-political-subject [subjectification: one of the most brutal concepts ever devised – if you love the State]) – animated only by the needs of the State, thereby giving up their own micro-politics (its all politics, after all) for the sake of a general estimate that allows them safe passage into the world of truth, morality, racethnicity, etc. (see below) … Or, do they forgo their rightful place in the multicultural Logocentric pantheon – always safe, cozy, and properly dialectical: oh how lovely is the world when you have someone to blame … and remain incomprehensible?
iv. The National: soundtrack to Obama’s America – but also enjoyed by raptorous Übermenschen who run in “new barbarian” circles. Sorry boys, the author has no control … what are signs and signifiers to men without need of morality? … Content and expression assume an almost limitless amount of affect, assuming one has the (instinctual) capacity for such a thing … if you only wanted one use-value, you shouldn’t have gotten capitalism involved.
v. War machines are only functional. They work or they don’t – they bust through roadblocks, or they don’t; and when they don’t, one abandons them for another. (A sword is a tool. When it is dull, it is sharpened. When it cannot be sharpened, another is procured.)
a. This orthodoxy makes itself known both conceptually and topically. Conceptually, continuity and stability reign, as a common language and uniformity of critique must be sustained, as the authority of the Academy and its ability to represent the interests of liberal modernity must not be undermined. Thus who and what can be studied – blacks, Latinos, whites, women, men, transsexuals, homosexuals, heterosexuals, asexuals, psychopaths, sociopaths, orthopaths, immigrants, nationals, transnationals, elite, bourgeois, proletariat – already and always conforms to already and always dominant categories and conceptual schemas – racethnicity, gender, sexuality, psychology, and political ecomony – of liberal bourgeois modernity.
b. So, the question is perhaps not so much who and what can be studied, but who and what can be studied in such a way that justifies and solidifies the universalizing tendencies of bourgeois man. Ultimately this reduces inquiry – indeed, what is possible to know, think, feel, and do – to a series of tropes – race, class, gender – that not only conform to the needs of bourgeois gentility and market activity but also set the parameters of being human. When this tendency is observed politically it reduces all differences to a search for and rightful demand of Agency (!).
c. Minorities of every shape, color, and creed all seek their rightful place at the majority’s table. Academically this tendency functions similarly, especially as the practitioners are slightly more aware than the laity of how their conformity to the concepts and tropes ensures their place at the table. After all, there is always room for racial, ethnic, gendered – and otherwise liberally identified – humans at the table – those who understand themselves precisely in the terms given them by the bourgeois form of life – but … no room for nomads and barbarians.
 Eugene Holland, Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (London: Bloomsbury) 2013.
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