Archive for November, 2012

There exists a need to engage in a provocative enterprise that upsets the Western mode of thinking, particularly in academia. which follows conceptually from the literatures of Dipesh Chakrabarty, Walter Mignolo, Sandra Harding, Rosi Braidotti and Vandana Shiva among surprisingly few others. There is a tendency in Western scholarship and science to accept the post-/de-colonial mode of thought into their (academic) discourses and the subjects that enunciate post-/de-colonially who are or were located geo-/bio-graphically situated  in these discourses into the Western institutions (universities) – however, they do not accept post-colonial modes of thought or epistemic divergence/difference from those who were not ‘originally’ located so  geo-/bio-graphically. Thereby, they merely tolerate the ‘others’, and tolerance becomes, again, just the act of violence of othering, two-fold: in othering the geo-/bio-graphically differently situated ones and in excluding those who think differently; thereby they only reify  the patriarchichal, parochial, racist operation of the colonial (center-margin) matrix of power  that exists in economy, authority, gender and sexuality, and knowledge/subjectivity). To genuinely become different, comprehensive, integrative and genuinely innovative, Western academia must accept difference in their own ranks and stop tolerating and instead comprehending post- and de-colonial modes of thinking, indeed, a n entirely different mode of thinking is required that manages to radically historize, radically de-colonialize and radically immigrate/integrate in practices of epistemic discobedience.

Read Full Post »

4S Guerilla Paper on Nomadic Statehood: Toward a theory of the question ‘When are States’?

EDITORIAL NOTE: This is the notes of the actual talk. The paper version is longer, and will be uploaded at academia.edu and also published properly.

  1. Introduction

What is now on the agenda is a ‘futurist’ or ‘constructivist’ opening-up of fields of possibility.

The unconscious remains bound to archaic fixations only as long as no assemblage exists

within which it can be oriented towards the future;

and in the future that faces us,

temporalities of both human and non-human nature

will demand just such an existential reorientation.


Our objective should be to nurture individual cultures,

while at the same time inventing new contracts of citizenship:

to create an order of the state in which singularity, exceptions, and rarity

coexist under the least oppressive possible conditions.

– Felix Guattari The Three Ecologies

Thank you for having me here today, outside of the official program of 4S 2012, to deliver my paper, which serves a second purpose as a protest against the disappointing lack of social justice, accountability, and transparency within our own organization.  In response to a series of inquiries and complaints regarding the tripling of conference fees from last year from myself and others, the organizers of this conference have been dismissive and parochial, refusing to engage our concerns or to even provide a reasonable explanation for the cause of the price hike. We must never forget, in our scholastic endeavors to critique the ways of the world, to remember to turn our gaze inward to ensure that we enact the virtues we wish to see in others.  This presentation, as a gesture, is therefore best called a guerrilla paper – it is fitting that its subject matter, as a matter of the political imagination, is the notion of nomadic statehood..

If I were not presenting here on short notice, if, indeed, I had had time for a prolonged preparation – and perhaps, it is for the better then, that I did not – I would have perhaps asked of you to tell me who of you could dance, have asked one of the responders down here to the podium and made you dance to the music. Indeed, when talking analytically about the State (and the same goes for body-mind, the two are connected in mutual intra-action through the political imagination1), the question we really have to ask is: How do you separate the dancer from the dance?2

Unlike the fine presenters who have preceded mine with their fantastic, insightful and inspiring papers, I will not be presenting you a final result of a research project or a finalized version of a theory, but I – no, we – shall partake in theoretical discourse in becoming: We do not yet and will not for quite some time have a theory of the State for our times.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we can’t say or use for analysis or intervention – indeed, there has always been a strange relationship (or should we rather say: strange attraction) between political theory and practice.

Our task is to appraise/assess theoretical contributions we have, let go of those that don’t hold up, and graft useful tools onto our current discourses: We need to (re-) how to ask the questions. Nothing brilliantly novel I am saying here, I know, but how about we did it for real this time around? So, let’s bring the State back in – as if it had ever left.

Recent scholarship in international law and systems theory3 focused on regime collisions, that are considered the result of functional differentiation on a global scale. Because of these differentiated regimes cannot call on an original foundation of practices of conflict resolution such as would eb found in the constitution of a nation-state, it is argued that the state of and practice of law is now a fragmented affair (the state of affairs): Global legal fragmentation is supposedly the mirror result of global social fragmentation, and as such fragments are only ‘weakly compatible’. Hence, no constitution, no State, good-bye. We have all heard that story, now, have we not; but, hey, let’s cut the crap, shall we? Passoth and Rowland begin their seminal paper on the actor-network state4with the very one question that really seems to matter in this discourse, or that, at least, should have matter: What are states?

  1. What are States?

I criticize the use of the concepts ‘The Market’ and ‘The State’.

Not because they are a duality, but because both are reified generalities that do not really exist.

Adding a third term, like “The People,” would not help.

What we need is to replace the reified generalities with concrete assemblages:

many bazaars, many regional trading areas, many national markets…

each with a date of birth and (potentially) a date of death.”

– Manuel Delanda (in Dolhijn/van der Tuin)

…. a hot mess.”

– Chromeo, Business Casual

In looking at what it means to view the State as an actor and/or as a network, Passoth and Rowland begin their argument by taking away the monotlithic character of statehood, instead discussing the performativity of statehood. I agree with them for the most part5.

My main concern, however, might be that their account, while progressive and inspiring and highly useful, might still be ‘too contained’, too limited, too constraining as a result of some specific limitations of ANT (actor-network theory) in the realm of political theory: ANT does inherit a certain obsession with spatiality from its discourse with the theories of Michel Foucualt and A. Greimas.

This notwithstanding, Passoth and Rowland do indeed manage the impressive feat of decolonizing the state-concept; meaning, it is not necessarily bound to the quality of actor-hood described in nation-stateness, but it can be captured in richer concepts such as Foucauldean gouvernmentality6, however, thereinthe governed, the techniques, the measurements, and histories are still geometrically and geographically bounded. This has to do with Foucault’s conceptualization of language in a dialectical relationship with spatiality7.

As they themselves say about key concepts in ANT (826f.), such as the concept of translation8, which has “a geometric meaning that refers to attempts to mobilize human and non-human resources”.

The socio-technical assemblages that ANT deals with refer to markets, bodies, states, these are not abstract entities but “concrete localities”, which, by way of their assembled relations in borders, taxes, pink forms, actual bodies, etc., constituted state actorhood.

States ‘have’ sizes as actor-networks – size is also another spatial concept. Let me emphasize: I am not against analyzing spatiality. What I am trying to say is that we cannot focus on spatiality alone, because we would be missing something. Harold Innis made this point, in reference to the use of the ‘fallacy of misplaced concreteness’ (Whitehead) in his “Plea for Time”9, arguing that a monopoly of time was followed by a monopoly of space. In political theory and practice since Innis ‘plea’, 1950, we have not seen much of a pendulum swing away from spatiality. Moreover, I argue, we do not need another monopoly, but we need to stop the reification of these generalities and to think space and time.

So, what are states? States are topological, a relationscape in space, local, in situ. They are relationscapes10: of course, this is just another technical term, but it is intelligible and useful for the future development of this issue:

Topological spacetime refutes this dichotomy between the abstract and the concrete. Topo-logical spacetime is not 1 + 1 but n + 1, always more-than.[…] Topology refers to a continuity of transformation that alters the figure, bringing to the fore not the coordinates of form but the experience of it. Topologies suggest that the space of the body extends beyond Euclidean coordinates to more abstract spacetime. In topological geo-metry, I am both here and there, actual and virtual, real and abstract. Topology potentially deforms linear progression, rendering the concrete abstract.” (2007: 142)

Being in space is, therefore, not all.

You can guess what I am getting at: I want to talk about something to do with time but more than (the monopoly of) time.

  1. When are States? (How are States?)

The idea that we know already how all past discourses have been generated,

that we have the secret of all past conceptual systems,

and that we can therefore engage in meta-theorizing based on that knowledge

is deeply mistaken.


I also reject the neo-Kantian thesis of the linguisticality of experience.

To assume that human

experience is structured conceptually is to dehistoricize the human species:

we spent hundreds of thousands of years as a social species, with a division

of labor (hunters, gatherers) and sophisticated stone tool technology.

Language is a relatively recent acquisition. Are we to assume that those

ancient hunter gatherers lived in an amorphous world waiting for language

to give it form? That’s Creationism again, you know: ”

– Delanda in Dolphijn/van der Tuin

States can be translocal or they can exist because of a translocality. This, translocality, is my first suggestion for the deterritorialization and transformation of the discourse on the State.

Translocality means broadly that stake-holders and stock-holders do not share the same space of cause and effect, however, they share the temporality of affect, only resolutions are usually localized in specific sites – in this fragmented constitution lie both the discontent and hope for a future grounding of an epistemic and communal concept of democracy and the State): States perform the negotiation between stake-holders and stock-holders, they are brought into play,

into existence through the performativity of this negotiation. Yet, the problem is not spatial but the fact that negotiation is necessary lies in the double separation of stake and stock, and cause and effect. And the events enacted are a narrative of sorts. I say that because stake-holders and stock-holders have separate narratives, conflicting narratives aka conflicting of practices that need to be negotiated.

Practices, even conceptual practices, are not exhausted by linguistic practices. Lingusitic practices are practices, too. But I use the notion to mean more than linguistics aka textual practices. I see practices as discursive and non-discursive, and among discursive practices there are textual and non-textual ones. The theory of semantic agency that I have outlined elsewhere11 refers to the comprehensive notion of practice not to the reduced one.

I like things simple, so I’d like to go here with the simplest concept of narrative possible and sufficient, which is Barabra Tversky’s concept12 which states that “narrative is the sequentialisation of (at least two) events in time.”

So this is my problem with the focus/monopoly on spatiality, that in the monopoly, the focused gaze through a singularized lens,13 there is no space, pardon the pun, for temporalities.

Temporalities14 are the sequentializations of events in time. Various temporalities coincide and need to be aligned:

Boiling water, cutting15 mushrooms, heating pan, adding cream, etc; well, aligned, we get a tasty Pasta with ‘shroom’n’cream-sauce when it’s all done. Wanna have omelet you gotta break some eggs16.

When are States? I don’t know but I sure want to find out.

When we bring the State back in, the question is was it away? Where was it in the meantime? Or was it ever? Did it, perhaps, never stop?

I find these questions wildly confusing, yet vitally important, and I feel like we have been missing out on something in not asking them.

So this, temporality, is my second suggestion for the deterritorialization and transformation of the discourse on the State.

  1. Quasi-States

[S]tates as we know them will not last forever,

and may soon lose their incredible hegemony.”

– Charles Tilly

In the recent discourses on neo-liberalism and post-democracy, Colin Crouch has created a vital argument by pointing out that a ideologically informed comments and analyses of late have been blind-sided by their focus on two actors, market and State, while there should be a minimum of three actors under consideration: States, markets, and corporations.

I do agree with Crouch that with regard to a plethora of political and social theoretical questions, ranging from power and influence to structuration and (social) agency, we need not only bring the State back in, or need to accept that it has never left, we also need to accept that the corporation is in, and may have been in for a long time17. Secondly, we need to address the concept of the corporation the same as we did the State, beginning with the question what18 are corporations and moving towards the questions of when.

Think about it19 : Are corporations their corporate headquarters (a location), or are they their corporate identity, are they management or the stockholder? Are they the performativity of the relations between management and the stockholders? What/who are stockholders and who/what are stakeholders? What are events that are sequenced/sequentialized in time?

Mono-causal and linear logic of production and location?

Cause: Production

Effect: Stock prize

Production: China

Stock-Exchange: London

Event Reactions:n Stock plummets in London, job loss in China

Temporalities, matter, you see. Nation-states, as we know them, do intervene in these logics, they create conditions, reactions, potentialities, agencies20. So yes, territorial states do matter, But there is more to reality than just this: corporations do need well-educated staff and workers that embody a particular form of the companies memory through tacit knowledge they both construct and acquire in performance, and corporations do need to hold on to them, bind them and their competencies for lenghty periods of time. Sure, they also have a Mitt Romney styled fun time in firing people, but they simultaneously have a hard time hiring also: Labor vs. skilled labor!

And yet, specialization has that kind of price-tag: skilled laborers need incentives to come and work for you, and more so to stay.

At the same time, corporations expand into more and more markets, not just through a monopolization mechanism21, that too, but also by sucking up more and more previously ‘public’ aka state functions (health care, education, research, infrastrucutre, etc.) by way of public-private partnerships and privatization22.

It is not unusual that corporations offer health care services or higher education and training to their employees directly, or education and care for their offspring.

They offer services to their (internationally migrating) employees that nation-sttaes used ot offer to their citizens, sometimes to help circumvent nation-state’s influence sometimes because the bureaucracies of health care, education, and pension systems of nation state’s just have found themselves unable to process internationally mobile professionals. At the same time, corporations help turn these services into products and structure them as markets. For example, Most Ivy League universities are now major corporations, and corporations buy into or fund universities, such as in Britain and the US – or try to influence the the way ‘universities think’ by introducing the ideology of ‘creative destruction’23. Corporations offer services that were once deemed functions24 of the State. Corporations offer services to their employees and recreate them as markets while they seem to ‘take them away’ from the state – the nation-state, that is – through privatization and lobbying. In doing, so, I argue, corporations are becoming (already have become) quasi-states. They are not states in the ‘conventional’, the territorial sense; but in assimilating more and more state functions, they become more and more ‘like states’. As a consequence, are they actually becoming states? Can this process be reversed or, at least, controlled? Are they maybe already states?

  1. Nomadic Statehood

This, then is my third and final suggestions – all good things come in threes – the concept of statehood itself must be reconceptualized, with the the territorial state being merely a special branch. Any future theory of the State must conceptualize statehood as nomadic statehood. The challenge that quasi-states and the question ‘when are states?’ pose in the issue of temporalities will lead us, perhaps via Deleuze and Guattari, to the insight that we must embrace nomadism, that we must learn to think in deterritorialized ways, and this is hard. Perhaps, we begin by dancing, and ask how to separate the dancer from the dance? Perhaps we can’t, and perhaps our question must be? How do we dance the State?

[The Guerilla Talk ended here]

1See: Hengehold, Laura The Body Problematic. Penn State UP, 2007

2On this question, see my STS Italia 2012 paper, “’My body is dancing with a yodeling dog’, the STS scholar said.”, available via academia.edu


Teubner, Guenther Verfassungsfragmente. Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2012; Teubner, Guenther. “Constitutionalising Polycontexturality.“ Social and Legal Studies 19, 2011: 17-3; Teubner, Guenther. “Fragmented Foundations: Societal Constitutionalism Beyond the Nation State:“. In: Petra Dobner und Martin Loughlin (Hrsg.), The Twilight of Constitutionalism? Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010: 327-341. Fischer-Lescano, Teuber. Regime-Kollisionen. Frankfurt aM:Suhrkamp. See also my ASA 2012 paper ‘Seeing ourselves and the State through the Heteroscope’

4Passoth, Jan-Hendrik, Nicholas Rowland. ‘Actor-Network State’ International Sociology Vol. 25, 2010: 818-841

5The agency of States is not the agency of actors. With Karen Barad, I think, we need to begin by conceptualizing agency at a different level first before we can include ideas of choice and politics – which should, however, not go unnoticed:

Agency is “not something that someone or something has to varying degrees, since I am trying to displace the very notion of independently existing individuals. This is not, however, to deny agency in its importance, but on the contrary, to rework the notion of agency in ways that are appropriate to relational ontologies. Agency is not held, it is not a property of persons or things; rather, agency is an enactment, a matter of possibilities for reconfiguring entanglements. So agency is not about choice in any liberal humanist sense; rather, it is about the possibilities and accountability entailed in reconfiguring material-discursive apparatuses of bodily production, including the boundary articulations and exclusions that are marked by those practices.” (Barad in Dolphijn/van der Tuin)

Once this is clear, we can go on to conceptualize the matter ot of how humans affect and are affected by agencies and ecologies, including their own. This is what Sabrina M. Weiss and I have been doing in the concept of anthropocology

see: Stingl with Weiss “Before and Beyond the label” in: Dellwing, Michael, ed. Krankheitskonstruktion und Kranheitstreiberei. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, 2012; Restivo/Stingl/Weiss Worlds of ScienceCraft. Surrey:Ashgate, 2013

6I do disagree with their passing note, taken from Thomas Lemke, that linking ‘govermentality’ to mentality is a misconception. Indeed, many interpreters who have done so have created this account as a misconception and misconstrual. However, to deny a certain anthropological/semiotic link in Foucault’s concept between governance (State), techniques of self (imagination), and mentality (psyche/mind) is problematic: Mentality can be translated into the German concept Gemueth which is prominent in Kant’s anthropology and political philosophy (Enlightenment), the life-long and recurring reference point in Foucault’s work. I feel as though Lemke et al forsake the anthropological dimension for the political one. However, I think, you cannot have one without the other.

7See my paper “How to map the body’s spaces” Myth-making, myth-breaking in history, Bucharest 2011, and (forthcoming) Anthropos’ Scaffoldings. Lampeter: Mellen.

8I do not have time here for the discussion of sociological concepts of translation in other schools of thought, such as in the fictional accounts of social phenomenology. I needn’t stress that I find social phenomenology a la that Austrian banker and systems theory a la Luhmann of very limited use, if any.

9Innis, Harold.The Bias of Communication. Toronto: University of Toronto Press,1951

10Manning, Erin. Relationscapes. Cambridge, Ma.: MIT Press,2009. Manning, Erin. ‘Relationscapes” Cultural Studies Review Vol. 13/2, 2007: 134 – 155

11Stingl, Alexander I. “Truth, Knowledge, Narratives of Selves” American Sociologist Vol. 42 (2/3), 2011; although upon the time of its writing, my concept of narrative was not yet radical enough as I discovered Tversky’s work only afterwards. Also, I identify with much of what new materialism has to offer. Here in particular with regard to extra-linguisitic practices as being discursive, I think Karen Barad has much to say on agential realism. See also:

Bennett, Jane, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things, Durham, NC: Duke UP (2010); Ahmed, Sara, On Being Included. Durham, NC: Duke UP (2012); Connolly, William E., A World of Becoming. Durham, NC: Duke UP (2011); Coole, Diane, Samantha Frost, eds. New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency and Politics. Durham, NC: Duke UP (2010); Barad, Karen “Posthumanist Perfomativity” in: Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28, (2003): 801 – 831 Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2008; Chen, Mel Y. Animacies. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2012; Dolphijn, Rik, Iris van der Tuin. eds. New Materialism. Open Humanities Press. 2012


Tversky, Barbara “Narratives of Space time and Life”Mind & Language, Vol. 19 No. 4 September 2004: 380–392.

Again, this isn’t about stories or fiction; that stuff is for (social) phenomenologists, who have no responsibilities other than to their own essentialisms (fans, disciples, pay-checks). But beyond just-so stories and nice-to-know studies, social phenomenology isn’t really a lot of help for anything – just think about the mutilations William James’s or Henri Bergson’s work suffered under the Austrian banker’s gaze. Shutter-click, bracket-bracket, the single-lens camera, a pseudo-intellectual’s guillotine, the illusion of objectivity. That still is true for any reificative gesture that essentializes translation when acting as if translation enables its own relations sui generis. While a ‘nice notion’, analytically or pragmatically, it provides…. nothing. A concept of ‘translation’ as presented by fictionalist phenomenologists [ANT is a different matter!!!!] is only a singularizing digital mode that reifies center-periphery spatialities, same old, same old. I hear those ‘contributions’ and I hear people admitting that while they wrote about Whitehead, they never understood him. That is the point, there is time and there is temporality: When they are treated like center and periphery, nothing is gained, but, at least, they seem fashionably ontic. Perhaps it is time we bury Heidegger and the (crypto-)phenomenologists. Indeed, in his “La phobie d’Etat” (Liberation Vol. 967, 1984) even Michel Foucault denied the road to the possibility of a political phenomenology and a phenomenology of the State in constructing the state as a ‘mobile effect of a regime of manifold gouvernmetality’ and arguing convincingly that the State has ‘no essence’. [My disagreement with Foucault lies in the possibility of theory, because I argue for nomadism in theory.]

You may think I am hard on these….people. But I am not. They, the social phenomenologists, are so concerned with matters of fact while at the same time black boxing ‘fact’ itself, that they do not or chose not to see matters of concern and matters of care, moreover, they work very hard to exclude and punish people who dare think differently, employing what, I think, Karen Barad (in Dolphijn/van der Tuin) has so vividly and adequately called “practice of negativity […] about subtraction, distancing and othering”.

13Like the single lens camera, the single lens of the spatialized (and actor) state suffers from problems: It ‘blacks-out’ the image during exposure. the reflex mirror‘s movement takes time even though it is not to sequentialize events but describes time-holes between events, that limit the reaction speed, while, at the same time, the mechanistic compoments result in noise and vibrations.

14My concept is similar to Schrader’s but not identical. I developed my approach oblivious to her work, but am very happy and grateful to having discovered her insightful studies. See: Schrader, Astrid “Responding to Pfisteria piscida (the Fish Killer): Phantomatic Ontology, Indeterminacy, and Responsibility in Toxic Microbiology” Social Studies of Science Vol. 40, 2010: 275 – 306; here :

“Pfiesteria are not only context-, but also history-dependent, in which case we are dealing with an entanglement of two indeterminacies – between ‘bodies’ and ‘environment’ and ‘past’ and ‘future’ – that cannot be resolved at the same time. As soon as a ‘time’ as an external parameter that auto-matically orders events chronologically can no longer be presupposed, the differentiation between ‘bodies’ and ‘environment’ depends on what I call temporalization– the establishment of a relation between ‘past’ and ‘future’.”(293)

15Remember how Deleuze conceptualized the event: There are two sides to it, such as in the event of cutting, there is the knife that actualizes a potentiality, that of cutting (instead of murdering) but the actualization is an event in the knife cutting and the mushroom being cut – cutting and being-cut are the event.

16Or break some unquestioned certainties. Certainties are eggs! Instead of certainties, perhaps we need confidences! I am hardly ever certain, but usually quite confident.

17See for example the popular but insightful historical analysis by David Rothkopf, Power, Inc.:
The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government—and the Reckoning That Lies Ahead
, Farrar, Straus&Giroux, 2012

18For the moment, I presume that a question of where are corporations or where is a state are resolved in the question what they are.

19The debate between Michael Callon and Daniel Miller is a very insightful exchange that makes a good head-start in this discussion:

Miller, Daniel. “Turning Callon the Right Way Up.” Economy and Society XXXI, 2002: 218- 233;

Callon, Michael “Why virtualism paves the way to political impotence. Callon replies to Miller”, Economic Sociology (European Electronic Newsletter) vol. 6, 2005: 3 – 20

20It would be interesting to review these matters through the diffractive lens of speculative literature such as slipstream and new weird, that deals with how realities are made, such as China Mievielle’s Bas-Lag Series an the two opposing concept of crisis energy and possibility mining.

21Norbert Elias (Process of Civilizations) described such mechanisms for monopolies on taxing and on violence, as a king-making mechanism, we see a similar pattern with corporations on markets. Since Elias did also write On Time, it’d be interesting to completely re-theorize Elias’s works through actor-network theory (ANT) and semantic agency theory (SAT), see my “Truth, Knowledge, Narratives of Selves”

22On this point, see Crouch, Colin The Strange Non-Death of Newoliberalism, Cambridge, UK/Malden,MA: Polity, 2011

24On the issue of functions, I follow here a philosophical consideration of etiological accounts. That would in and of itself require an in-depth discussion, how political theory is affected by this way of conceptualizing function through selection, warrant and entitlement, originating the complex discussion of Tyler Burge’s original arguments by various scholars, including – for my purposes, Peter J. Graham “Epistemic Entitlement” in: Noûs Volume 46,  2012: 449–482

Read Full Post »