Queer vitalism

Autumn 2009

Starting from Deleuze’s and Guattari’s distinction between passive and active vitalism as set out in their last book, What is Philosophy?, this article posits the possibility of a new conceptualisation of political bodies outside notions of individual will, intent and agency: mobilising forces of change from within in the act of encountering. Moving away from the active vitalism of resisting and overcoming - acts that always imply new normative images/representations of ‘being otherwise’, being thus aligned to what Deleuze and Guattari would call majoritarian politics - passive vitalism mobilises forces of change from within the act of encountering, understood as the emanation and interaction of potentials always already found in the forces, percepts and affects that constitute actual bodies. Contrary to an active vitalism that strives to overcome the imposed norms that would reduce an individual’s autonomy, but that also takes into account the vitality of traditions, cultures and practices that constitute bodies as individuals and agents in the first place, a passive vitalism is one of re-singularisation or counter-actualisation: this means that it takes bodies as they are, with their identifying and determining features, and then asks how the potentials that enabled those features might be expanded. It is within this new suggested framework that the article revisits gender and sexual politics: in terms of potentials and the virtual, and in radical distance from politics of recognition and theories of subjection. It thus suggests a new post-human articulation of the ‘I’ as a second, belated perceiving, understood not as a transcendent grasping but as one affectuation among others.

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