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19. Deterritorialization and Reterritorialization

Yi-Jinkyung, Professor

Seoul National University of Technology



The concepts of deterritorialization and reterritorialization first appear in Anti-Oedipus, which, since then, are among the concepts most frequently used by Deleuze/Guattari. The concepts of territory, territoriality, and territorialization should be added here. In terms of linguistic form, the word 'territory' seems to be primary, but what is the most important and primary in the problematization that activates this concept is ‘deterritorialization movement.’ This is why they chose ‘Deterritorialization’ as the title in the conclusion of The Thousand Plateaus where they describe several core concepts as if they summarize them.

As you may have guessed, the concepts of territory and territoriality originally came from ethology. A territory is a specific area for ​​inhabiting, getting food, and mating, and territoriality is the disposition to form and defend the territory, and to move from territory to territory. It is well known that dogs, wolves, and birds excrete feces or urine or use sounds or visual markers to mark their territories. Humans are more powerful in this regard. They use legal rights guaranteeing the exclusive disposal of their territories, build fences to prevent trespassing, and create 'gates' to select those who enter and exit. They also sometimes extort money from those in there. Human being is horribly territorial animal.

Territorialization is turning what did not originally belong to one into one's own territory. Deterritorialization is leaving from what used to be one's territory. It is “the operation of the line of flight”(A Thousand Plateaus, 508). Reterritorialization is taking what has not been one's territory before as one's new territory. As there can't be a territory without a leaving movement even when seeking a territory, paradoxically, the most primary is deterritorialization. Just as the one who has never left one's hometown has no notion of ‘hometown’, there is no notion of territory without a movement to leave and move. In other words, territory is the product of territorialization, and territorialization is territorializing what has not been one's territory before. In short, territorialization is always reterritorialization. This presupposes a movement to leave the given territory, a movement of deterritorialization. Therefore, the movement of deterritorialization is more primary than territory or territorialization.

The modes and intensities of these movements are associated with different lifestyles. As with animals that hunt, for example, hunters own territories where they hunt. Gatherers also own their territories. The extent of his territory is determined by how far he travels from his place of residence for hunting or gathering. In other words, the movement of deterritorialization determines the size of the territory. Because, for hunters and gatherers, the territory itself is not the direct object of desire or production, the extent of the territory is flexible and variable. Conflicts over territories do not occur except under special situations such as catastrophic disasters. As with animals, they live with respect for each other's territory under normal circumstances. The same is true of nomads doing livestock farming. There's no reason to secure territories because they live by migrating according to seasons and conditions. Since they only stay for and until another movement, even reterritorialization can be said to be part of deterritorialization. Agricultural life triggered the rapid increase of territoriality. This is because securing the condition for survival exactly equals securing territory as the ground is both the direct object of labor and the source of product.

As agriculture begins, the earth not only becomes the object of labor and the register of the production factors, but it itself becomes a core asset that produces products. As the ground, as both the object of appropriation or utilization and that of possession, becomes distinguished from the earth in this way, territory becomes an important object on which human production and desire are concentrated. Securing and protecting territory becomes important, and there appears the society-machine that organizes and manages arms forces. Deleuze/Guattari name this 'territorial machine.' “The territorial machine is therefore the first form of socius, the machine of primitive inscription, the ‘megamachine’ that covers a social field”(AO, 140-141). On the surface of the earth as the body without organs, the society-machine that is the complex of desiring-machines is built along the lines of deterritorialization and reterritorialization

In fact, the earth, which is the surface of the Earth, is originally nobody’s territory. The earth is the mother(ㅡ>matrix?) of the milieu, meaning the virtuality that will become the survival condition of ‘someone.’ There is no earth unless one leaves the given milieu. There’s only one’s own milieu. The earth is discovered as the potential to be some other environment. Therefore the earth appears as the earth only to the eyes of those who leave their own milieus and go somewhere. It is deterritorialization that makes the earth the earth. A territory become a territory when those who left the given territory territorialize part of the earth. In other words, the earth is both the field and the prerequisite for territorialization. Territorialization is driven by the desire for survival, and is also the moment of the beginning of production.

On the other hand, the earth erases the territorialized field of production and returns it to the surface of the Earth through earthquakes, floods, etc. To put it like the expressions in Anti-Oedipus, it can be said to be a body without organs in that it is both the prerequisite of production and the field of anti-production that erases production machines. “The earth is the primitive, savage unity of desire and production. For the earth is not merely the multiple and divided object of labor, it is also the unique, indivisible entity, the full body that falls back on the forces of production and appropriates them for its own as the natural or divine precondition.”(AO 140).

Humans and other living things alike live on the surface of the body without organs called the earth. In particular, humans draw lines on the surface of the earth, register production factors, and divide the earth in the solid form of ownership to territorialize it in order to secure stable survival conditions. But there often occurs 'anti-production' that erases them all. The recent climate crisis makes us wake up to realize the term anti-production that neutralizes human production capacity and returns the territorialized field of production to the surface of the Earth.

The concept of deterritorialization, which originated from ethology, is soon extended to more general concepts of behavior and ethos. It becomes a concept that analyzes and describes not only the literal territory on the earth but also various movements and flows with a certain size and direction. The "front leg" of upright animals such as humans or monkeys, for example, become "hand" when deterritorialized from the earth and reterritorialized on a tool. Whenever the mate of the hand changes, from a club to a hammer to chopsticks and to a pen, the movement of deterritorialization and reterritorialization occurs. The movement of sexual desire that moves towards 'phallus in the end' after turning to various objects, and the flow of capitalist desire that moves towards 'money in the end' even though one can do 'anything' because one is free from identity code, alike show the movement of deterritorialization that returns to 'the One in the end.' The metonymy of desire that changes objects infinitely, and individual choice called freedom, all are, in fact, a part of the mere busy deterritorialization movements that are reterritorialized on new transcendent.

We talked about hands and tools, but the face is related to a slightly different type of deterritorialization. The face was originally a part of the body in that it is the surface of the head, but it is deterritorialized from the body as the facial expression created on the surface gets to have expressive power. Corresponding to the deterritorialization of the face from the head, the 'landscape' deterritorialized from the 'milieu' is born. The milieu is the corporeal condition of survival, whereas the landscape occurs when expressions can be read from the surface of the milieu. A landscape is the facialization of the milieu. Conversely, the close-up in film treats the face as a landscape. The phrase “the face has a correlate that is the landscape”(TP, 172) came out in this context. As the face is deterritorialized, hands, feet, and fingers also become expression-machines. When you swear with your finger up, your finger is deterritorialized from your body and becomes an expression machine. The same goes for clothes. What protects the body from the cold or physical contact is garb, but it becomes ‘clothes’ when it gets to have an expression with the use of buttons, pockets, collars, etc.(TP, 181).

The deterritorialization of the hand always has the object being deterritorialized by it as the other side of the pair. When the hands cease to be forelegs and lift a branch to pick a banana, the branch stops being part of the tree and becomes a ‘club.’ It is deterritorialized from the tree and reterritorialized on a tool. As such, deterritorialization is always dual. This, of course, is also a dual reterritorialization if seen from the opposite side. As the branch becomes a club, it is reterritorialized on a tool, and as the hand uses a club, it is also reterritorialized on a tool. When writing on the ground with that club, a dual deterritorialization-reterritorialization movement occurs as well. Therefore, deterritorialization and reterritorialization always proceed in pairs. “There is no deterritorialization of the flows of schizophrenic desire that is not accompanied by global or local reterritorializations... the one is the reverse side of the other.”(AO 316) As such, the deterritorialization that has the mate to be reterritorialized is referred to as 'relative deterritorialization.'

This deterritorialization of the hand occurs within the stratum of the body or organism. On the other hand, the deterritorialization of the face is, in Spinoza's terms, a deterritorialization moving from the corporeal that is the head to the noncorporeal that is the sign, and to put it after the fashion of A Thousand Plateaus, a deterritorialization going from the stratum of organism to that of signification or subjectification. In other words, it is a deterritorialization traversing different attributes, different strata. This kind of deterritorialization is much more intensive than that occurring within one stratum. This can be said to be an absolute deterritorialization in that it doesn't do any reterritorialization within the stratum to which it belonged(TP #). This is the same with the raised finger or clothes.

Here, it is very important to distinguish between the body and the non-body, the head and the face. The two are very different in that what controls the head is one's own body, whereas what controls the face is the power which is concerned with high and low and demands 'decency.' The politics of body suggested by Foucault in Discipline and Punish seems to be aiming at the control of the 'surface' deterritorialized from the body rather than at the 'body' itself. The power acting on the body is 'productive' because it produces bodily ability, but the power acting on the surface of the body hardly seems to be 'productive' because it produces expression-machines disciplinied to order. It may seem to be one and the same power aiming at the same goal, but there are different kinds of powers aiming at different goals.

The reason the concepts of deterritorialization and reterritorialization are important is that they can traverse between the corporeal and the noncorporeal or between different strata. For they can cross different attributes or different strata and hold them together in one assemblage. For example, the corporeal such as the stage, seats, and musical instruments and the noncorporeal such as the gestures and expressions of performers or singers, melodies, and tones are held together to make the assemblage of the performance. An outstanding performer emerges when the performer hold the physical machines and the expressive machines together into one to create a distinct territorial color. Holding components with different attributes together into one is territorialization, which is to deterritorialize each component from the stubborn corporeality or physical sound and reterritorialize them as 'one's own sound.' In short, it is deterritorialization and reterritorialization that hold things belonging to different strata together in one assemblage.

However, the deterritorialization of the face is absolute deterritorialization within a single stratum, but it is certainly not a deterritorialization that does not accompany reterritorialization. It is deterritorialization that traverses from one stratum to another, and a deterritorialization that is reterritorialized in another stratum. Therefore, the word 'absolute' has only limited meaning, and perhaps should be a sort of ironic expression. The deterritorialization of the face indeed becomes a territory that reterritorializes things with a low degree of deterritorialization. As the face becomes the landscapified expression machine, the hand, foot, buttock, and nape of the neck also come to have expressions, and cars and kettles also are facialized. The phrase "the least deterritorialized is reterritorialized on the most deterritorialized”(TP 174) can be understood in this context.

Saying that these two kinds of deterritorializations should not be confused, Deleuze'Guattari write: ”These relative movements should most assuredly not be confused with the possibility of absolute deterritorialization, an absolute line of flight, absolute drift. The former are stratic or interstratic, whereas the latter concern the plane of consistency and its destratification."(1, 62; TP 55) According to this, the deterritorialization of the face belongs to the relative movement because it is interstratic, even though the degree of deterritorialization is high.

Absolute deterritorialization in the true sense of the word is a territorialization movement that doesn't have any territory. It is a movement towards the pure virtuality which doesn't have any territory but at the same time is open to all territories, and a movement that abstracts all forms and leads to the plane of consistency. A movement leading to the virtuality of 'intensity=0,' and to the positive body without organs full of numerous determinabilities. They emphasize that this is not an ideal or Idea that doesn't exist in reality, but a movement that always exists. “Absolute deterritorialization is there from the beginning, and...a plane of consistency...is everywhere, always primary and always immanent”(1, 76; TP 70), just as the body without organs is primary and always exists at the base of all machines. The phrase "the earth, as deterritorialized, is the strict correlate of absolute deterritorialization, and deterritorialization can be called the creator of the earth" should be understood in this context, as was the case with the description of the earth and territory quoted above from Anti-Oedipus.



translated by Jung Ki Lee

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