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Skin, affect, aggregation: Guattarian variations on Fanon

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2010
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Journal number10
Volume42
Number of pages18
Pages2410-2427
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Geography has turned to phenomenology, poststructuralism, and psychoanalysis to understand human bodies in non-Cartesian terms as always-already positioned within social formations. But how exactly do we conceive of the constitution of many bodies at once? Specifically, how do bodies ‘aggregate’ into racial formations? ‘The body’ is not a target of socialization—racializing, gendering, disciplining—as if it sits alone until its senses and viscera are stirred by the environment. Bodies never come alone. Racial formations are from the start phenomena of collective embodiment, not ideological structures that secondarily have corporeal effects. In this paper I will argue that racial difference (like all social relations) is a reality involving the interactions, imaginations, and biologies of human bodies. First, Frantz Fanon’s influential theory of racialization and racial difference is recast in an embodied framework through one of his own examples. This framework will be construed through the concept of affect in Baruch Spinoza, the phenomenology of Michel Henry, and the ‘machinic’ approach to psychoanalysis suggested by Félix Guattari. Aggregation is thereafter explained through the contemporary Spinozism of Antonio Negri and population biology. Finally, the political implications of a machinic theory of race are explored using another concrete example from Fanon.