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On the Margins of History: Deterritorialisation in the Fiction of Niall Griffiths
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of English.
2015 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

My point of departure in this presentation will be an examination of the concept of deterritorialisation as developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in their final collaboration What Is Philosophy? (1994). This concept stands at the centre of these authors’ radically immanent ontology, suggesting a process of ongoing creation in which every form of belonging, in which every contingent crystallisation of being (or “territory”), is alternately disassembled (deterritorialised) and reassembled (reterritorialised). Deleuze and Guattari speak of “relative” deterritorialisation when the process of ontological creation results in concrete and identifiable historical formations, that is, when the act of reterritorialisation takes place within history (or, in 39TH AEDEAN CONFERENCE 112 other words, gives rise to precisely determined historical forms). On the other hand, deterritorialisation can be described as “absolute” when the ontological dynamic opens up history and ushers in a form of pure possibility (“becoming”) that manages to escape from the capture of historical circularity (of repetition, nostalgia and so on). Deleuze and Guattari suggestively refer to the latter as the creation of “a new earth” and “a missing people.” My aim here is to deploy this theoretical analysis in relation to fictional representations of proletarian exclusion and marginal belonging. While I will refer to a range of fictional texts, I will particularly focus on the début novel of Welsh writer Niall Griffiths, Grits. What Griffiths’ novel does, by inscribing its exploration of marginality and exclusion in a carefully constructed tapestry of geological themes and historical allusions (in which the figures of “sedimentation” and “stratification” rule supreme), is to sound the practical limits of any genuinely transformative project of absolute deterritorialisation. The geo-historical force that traverses Grits is a fundamental reminder of the phenomenon of capture (or petrification) that history can impose upon the dynamics of resistance and struggle against the interiority and control of each historical stratum, of each sedimented present. Central to this part of the analysis will be Deleuze and Guattari’s enigmatic claim in What Is Philosophy? that “we lack resistance to the present” (1994, 108). I will then analyse the consequences of an act of social construction on the margins of history that is ultimately pre-empted and abolished by history itself (and its operative figures of collective identification, such as nationalist and even fascist sentiment). Finally, I will propose a tentative reading of the concept of “minority” in the light of the preceding discussion and, especially, in relation to Deleuze and Guattari’s elusive notions of “the new earth” and “the missing people.”

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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-279666OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-279666DiVA: diva2:908557
39th AEDEAN Conference (Spanish Society of English and American Studies)
Available from: 2016-03-02 Created: 2016-03-02 Last updated: 2016-03-02

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