Jeune-Fille and becoming-woman in contemporary screens
When I say ‘Alice becomes larger’, I mean that she becomes larger than she was. By the same token, however, she becomes smaller than she is now. Certainly, she is not bigger and smaller at the same time. She is larger now; she was smaller before. But it is at the same moment that one becomes larger than one was and smaller than one? becomes. This is the simultaneity of a becoming whose characteristic is to elude the present. […] Alice does not grow without shrinking and vice versa.
G. Deleuze, Logic of Sense
Alice’s becoming, as becoming simultaneously larger and smaller, provides the opportunity to diagnose the present through a phenomenon more “current” than ever: Tiqqun’s “Jeune-Fille” (young girl), which today is amplified by social networks. At the same time, Alice’s becoming indicates a political strategy that is rigorously untimely, which means inclined to find singular virtualities that escape the chronology of the commodification of the time of existence.
It is indeed from Aiôn’s point of view that the becomings of Carroll’s Alice are to be understood, Aiôn being the extra-corporeal and ineffectual modality of Time itself, split between past and future, escaping for this reason from the trap of identity. If it is with Chronos? that one can tell the story of what happens to him and of his gestures as a succession, it is only Aiôn that allows us to deal with the events happening on another plane, that of Thinking, which experiments with, counters the effects of and, by this, extracts the sense of, our actions and passions within that which occurs: “the Event is in what happens”. Furthermore, as The Logic of Sense teaches us, this Thought moves through paradoxes, that is, by overcoming opinion, common sense and all the images imposed or suggested by philosophy, politics, science, power (from religion to the market, from the state to culture). These are the images that indicate to us how to think and how to watch ourselves in the mirror.
In this sense, La Deleuziana desires to think Alice’s becoming as a becoming-woman both in its a-chronological theoretical paradoxicality and in the political paradoxicality that is expressed in actuality. Aware of and enthusiastic about the inseparability of the two dimensions (theoretical and political) within Deleuze’s writing and thought, the journal suggests a pathway to sense the entrance to which resides in the most general recognition of becoming, as the movement of thought unfolding through its conceptual personae?. It deals with a particular entrance, or a precise paradox, inasmuch it immediately opens onto that middle ground between philosophy and literature, from which comes Deleuze’s Alice herself. It is indeed in the interstices between concepts and writings, from which “one comes back with red eyes”, that there occurs both the becomings (becoming woman, child, animal, imperceptible, etc.) and the creation of conceptual personae. Hence the front door to becoming allows us to enter the Outside, to “breathe some possibility”, that is, to feel and observe the lines of flight that Deleuzian thought makes available confronted with a present that it wishes to elude, but only so as to be able to survey and overfly it, and in this way to invent strategies capable of critiquing it.
Why Alice? Because she becomes both young girl (Jeune-Fille) and woman at the same moment. It should be remembered that, amongst all the becomings, for Deleuze and Guattari becoming-woman is the pre-condition and the unavoidable starting point of the entire process of minoritarian becoming.
The reasons for such an incipit are essentially political, and they refer to the phallogocentric valency inscribed in the constitution of Western subjectivity. The man (male) is indeed “the privileged referent of Subjectivity, the standard-bearer of the norm/law/logos [that] majority represents, the dead heart of the system” (Braidotti). Consequently, the masculine can be nothing but a site for deconstruction and critique – becoming is only minoritarian – and moreover becoming-woman is to be understood as «“a fundamental step in the process of becoming, for both and for all sexes»1. It is in this sense that, according to Deleuze and Guattari, “even women must become-woman”», while today, from the Alps to the Pyramids, from the Manzanares to the Rhine, it seems that the trend is that of becoming young girls – and the selfies or the self-/auto-exposing use of subjectivity’s digital showcase, with Facebook representing the symptoms of this “infantility”.
Certainly, La Deleuziana, a woman and young girl within the same becoming as Alice, does not intend to lash out either at a mass phenomenon or at the tendencies of a gender that would also include her – not to mention the fact that she is on Facebook as well… Thus the moment has come to explicate the sense of being a young girl today, by returning to Tiqqun’s theory (conceived at the end of the last century), for whom the “Jeune-Fille” is a sort of updating of this anthropomorphosis of capital (Cesarano), which is the result of a phenomenological description that concerns the anthropophizing and anthropopoietic process of Capital. The latter makes itself human, incarnates itself in it, and by this makes every man a part of itself – building the human starting from its axioms. In this sense, we feel obliged to add, we must also investigate, at a conceptual level, the paradoxical feminization of work, which colors or affects and abuses cognitive capitalism beyond and within any gender distinction. Moreover, and in line with the “Postscript on the Societies of Control”, the Jeune-Fille best allows us to understand the valorization of individual differences by marketing and Data Behaviourism (Rouvroy), inasmuch as they are objects of promotion and exploitation, as used in post-disciplinary societies.
Why the Jeune-Fille? First, because “she” is not a sexuated or generational concept (and thus to be confined within a singular social figure, precisely that of the young girl), inasmuch as she can be identified with every subject – in primis the male – that embodies the becoming-commodity of human being. Because, therefore, she “is only the model citizen such as commodity society has defined it since world war one, as an explicit response to revolutionary threats against it”2. Because, definitely, as a product of the valorization of difference, the Jeune-Fille becomes a singularity perpetually in the mirror, and she ”would be that being that has no more intimacy with itself except as a value, and all of whose activity, in all of its details, will finally come down to self-valuation”3. Here it is thus the selfie, as the current mirror of the Jeune-Fille, the contemporary screen that, in the auto-valorization of the user, gives vent to the symptom of presence’s and the present’s neurosis, a neurosis that marries the symbolic misery generated by the hypertrophy of communication grown on social networks and through their communicative models.
Selfie and social network: these are almost incompossible words for some martian attempting to learn English, but they are nevertheless functional, each in relation to the other, for the capitalist exploitation of relationships and paired together by His Holiness Communication. The fact that the selfie, as a monadography of the 21st century, has captured so much territory as to become the most used practice of social networks gives pause for thought. Perhaps it is a kind of reaction to something that no longer exists. And precisely because this is what it lacks, capitalism – which is an artist of lack – flaunts its presence. Deleuze, following Klee, already said long ago that “the people are missing”; today one could say that “the social is missing”. The social of digital technology seems indeed to be substituting itself for the social itself, emptying it of its meaning, to the point that psychic and collective individuation (Simondon) gets lost in the cracks of individualization, while “taking care of the self and of others” (Foucault) – without which there can be neither complicity nor solidarity – degen-erates into taking care of selfies and avatars. This is the ground zero of sociality, in which one is tied with another only in being driven to adhere to what is offered to us, as monads that can touch each other only through screens – it is not even a matter of profile, but of profiling.
If the mirror, like that composed of water within which Narcissus is entombed, was the first screen, in the case of the myth it was neither a selfie nor stupidity, because the two, as we know them, are products of the most soporific of powers, i.e. capitalism, which today stirs up the drives to annihilate desire. The Jeune-Fille in selfie and per selfie thus expresses regression to the drive to commodify the process of subjectivization, which works like a kind of walled path dedicated to an essentially blind and entropic jouissance, inasmuch as it is entirely flattened into consumption.
If desire is for Deleuze and Guattari a productive social power, negentropic and vital, it is not by chance that Tiqqun describes the Jeune-Fille as a corpse wearing flawless makeup – and this is even more true thanks to the filters and the tweaks of Instagram, Photoshop or smartphone apps. Instead, Alice, even in front of a mirror, has no need for makeup, or for sexy or cheeky poses, or tags and sharing; nor does she need an identity or a nickname, her becoming escapes from cookies and profiling, and she has no need to login, because she already has her “intensity card”. Hence we would love to suggest that Alice, between her becomings, also becomes La Deleuziana, and vice versa.
Furthermore, with this issue we would like to attempt to concretize what we wrote in the Manifesto of this journal: “La Deleuziana is above all a figure of thought, or a conceptual character: a girl, a woman, or even a becoming-woman – of concepts, of authors, of a century that otherwise will never be Deleuzian. As a woman, La Deleuziana is a response to the Jeune-Fille of capitalism, who is the commodified subjectivity through which desire is systematically addressed, which means destroyed, in favour of the algorithmic computation of behaviours. If one must dare once in life, we hope that La Deleuziana would be a bit like L’anti-Œdipe of this age: l’anti-jeunefille that tries to trace a line of flight from the sad passions to which thought is often led”. Hence we dare, even if only for a moment, and with those who desire it, to unleash a barrage of concepts that attempt to incise the present. In short, it seems that the moment has come for La Deleuziana, too, like (the) woman, to become deleuzian.
Why, finally, do we choose woman? Because the only weapon that we hold, that is, critical sense as the power of creation, can be shaped only by writing – in any form, even digital – and for Deleuze to write is to become-woman, “a becoming-woman that could be obtained only through a fight”4 against the forces attempting to degrade and dissolve us into the ever-increasing current of stupidity and micro-fascism. And the woman can be everything, but not fascism. More generally, the vital and emancipatory gesture of writing consists in conjugating the molecular fluxes crossing the subjects and their identitarian segments (genders, species, ethnic groups, ages, classes, etc.) in order to bring them to the thresholds of dis-identification, which alone allows for revolutionary alliances to form between minorities. And one can be sure that as long as there is life, there is minority. Furthermore, the becoming-woman of writing – that is, being in the minority even if in front of one’s own identity and that Deleuze sees in many writers (Kafka, James, Lawrence, Miller and Virginia Woolf herself) – does not consist in “writing as” a woman (just as becoming-animal is not reached by “imitating” the animal), but in making alliances with those who suffer the effects of a majority.
So here, then, is a first step towards rebuilding the “social that is missing”: writing as the tracing of a line that dis-identifies us and as the encounter with an other with whom we would be able to join. And for this reason, too, Woman seems to us the name to give to the strategies of transformation and counter-effectuation of the torrent of events that is annihilating critical thought. Woman as Greece, as Lampedusa, as the Moon and the Earth, as (geo)philosophy.
1. The subject of Deleuze’s philosophy is the woman. This is so in a literal way, because in his thought the role of the woman is not merely that of an object for reflection, but is rather its engine, the agent of becoming, that is, of the very movement that underpins the making of philosophy. As the philosophical and conceptual character par excellence, woman needs no specification: if the masculine is the thought of identity, the feminine is the thought of difference, the beating heart of the creation of concepts. More than the description of any particular female figure, what most interests Deleuze is a kind of power, a strength and a valency that allows his own thought to become woman, through which he reworks the entirety of (and the whole history of) philosophy, submitting it to a mutation that minors it, that is to say, that makes philosophy capable of engaging a dialogue with her own outside. What we propose, and in accordance with the spirit of this journal starting from its very title, is to conduct an exploration of this valency: where is la deleuziana, within philosophy’s body? In what circumstances does the woman become a conceptual character, if not, indeed, the very event that forces us to think?
2. Becoming-woman is in Deleuze not just a concept, but something that concerns the genesis itself and the structure itself of every philosophical concept. That is to say, there is a becoming-woman of the concept that allows further understanding of what, for Deleuze, a concept actually is from an historical and interpretative perspective. Indeed, in his works on the history of philosophy during the 1950s and 1960s, Deleuze methodically exposed the concepts deriving from the great philosophers of the past to a becoming-monstruous that made them unrecognizable to the priests of Spinozian or Kantian orthodoxy, while in the 1980s he reconsidered his own concepts, exposing them to an equally methodical becoming-woman capable of revitalizing them, in each case finding within them new and unexplored shades. In The Time-Image and in his course on cinema (1985, lesson of 28 May), for instance, Deleuze goes beyond an examination of the technique and style of Marguerite Duras’ filmic narration in terms of the becoming-woman of the cinematographic image, utilizing these aspects as a prism with which to survey the becoming-woman of the concept of ‘desire’ that he had previously developed with Guattari. In this way, Deleuze and Guattari’s desire, taken into a becoming-woman for which Marguerite Duras is the most timely mediator, becomes – more than 10 years after AntiOedipus – ‘absolute desire’.
3. From his first essay on Sacher-Masoch from 1961 to his final psychoanalytic text Anti-Oedipus (1972), Deleuze sought to question Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis’s “inflation” of the importance of the father. By 1967, in Coldness and Cruelty, this criticism was becoming centred primarily on Lacan’s “Name-of-the-Father” – the linguistic and symbolic-cultural function which represses early libidinal attachments to the mother. Deleuze’s turn to Melanie Klein in particular – from The Logic of Sense onwards – can be understood in terms of this deflation of the father’s importance in infantile development and as a structuring force in the unconscious. Klein’s emphasis on the maternal imaginary space of early development has long been seized on by feminists – perhaps above all Julia Kristeva with her notion of the “semiotic” – as a counterbalance to the perceived phallocentrism of Lacan. Building on these and related connections, we encourage paper submissions engaging the feminist undertones of Deleuze’s work on psychoanalysis, both with and before Guattari.
FURTHER TOPIC SUGGESTIONS:
- Gender and difference in contemporary philosophy
- Selfie and social networks
- Women’s Studies
- Becoming-woman and literature/arts
- Jeune-Fille and anthropomorphosis of Capital
- Consumerism, stupidity and infantilisation
- Feminisation of work
- Desire, drives and schizoanalysis in the 21st century
- Becoming minoritarian
- Becoming molecular and asexuality
- Identity and femininity
Deadline: September 20th, 2015
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