Stanimir Panayotov

Diagram is a notion associated mostly with the work of Félix Guattari. In arts, Diagram can be traced back to its modern use within Dadaism, in the work of Marcel Duchamp, by Jean Tinguely, and an interest in the agency of objects and readymades.

Initially Guattari borrows the term from Charles Sanders Peirce’s semiotics, who described Diagram as an “icon of relation” (Peirce, 1931-36, p. 531). Guattari tried to delink Diagram from the signifier-signified polarity inherent to Pierce’s use, in order to elaborate Diagram as a direct link/access to the real whilst bypassing representation. Similarly to Transversality, Diagram was first used by Guattari in the early 1970s in Molecular Revolution (Guattari, 1984, pp. 95, 170-71) and was taken up again in Deleuze’s works and in their joint works, Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Deleuze and Guattari, 1983, p. 127, 182; Deleuze and Guattari, pp. 109, 136, 141-149) and What is Philosophy? (WP) (Deleuze and Guattari, 1994, pp. 39-40). In Deleuze, Diagram serves to describe the contraction of power relations in institutions such as the Panopticon; Diagram is also synonymous with the invisible that produces visible effects in reality. In Deleuze’s later work with Guattari (WP), Diagram describes relations between territoriality and deterritorialization.

Diagram generally stands for the entanglement of thought with image, icon, media and other sources of imagination and (theorematic) reasoning. In a very general sense Diagram comes to substitute and subvert (the very idea of) Idea; this is because Guattari distinguishes Diagram from “icon” and “symbol” and generally indexicality, and over time Diagram comes to feature as an abstract line, incorporeal universes, or existential territories. Unlike Peirce, where Diagram stands for the simplification of the thing represented by its icon, in Guattari Diagram is undermined by the image represented and its overflowing force; yet Diagram captures “functional articulations” better (Genosko, 1996, p. 17). In this way Diagram is generally distinguished from the way structuralism and partly pragmatism would treat Diagram as a signifier for objects and/or relations to objects.

Guattari’s own definition is the following: “the diagram is conceived as an autopoietic machine which not only gives it a functional and material consistency, but requires it to deploy its diverse registers of alterity, freeing it from an identity locked into simple structural relations” (Guattari, 1995a, p. 44). “Freeing” here applies to escaping a pre-determined “diagrammatic order” imposed on the machine, which functions in the horizon of death and destructibility. Guattari’s use of Diagram then stands against the idea of the very reproducibility of a technical machine (as in the computer and its parts).

Diagram is categorized as pertaining to a-signifying semiotics. Guattari effectively hijacks the Peircian term from its signifying semiotics use. The problem to which Guattari responds is whether Diagram can mirror the functions of an object, and his answer seems to be no. The a-signifying dimension of Diagram responds to the reduction of matter and its alleged inertia to form. In the sense in which Peirce would use Diagram, it extends the power of hylomorphism and the primacy of the Aristotelian formal principle, interjected in contemporary semiotics. In the sense of Guattari, Diagram allows what he calls “homeomorphism.” What a Diagram tries to capture is then the a-semiological traces left by matter not in terms of reproducibility but in terms of transversality. Diagrams still have deictic function, yet they escape the line of territorialization and correspondence theories of the Alfred Tarski type.

Thus Diagram plays in the in-between space of both materiality and it’s non-indexicality, while still reflecting features of the object without trying to stand for it. The implications of Diagram for new materialism are thus direct in that Diagram can be said to produce rather than reduce: to produce a relation to the incorporeality of matter and object without signifying them. This does not mean that Diagram is anti-linguistic, it means that Diagram patrols the border between the linguistic and the pragmatic. Diagram is also analogous to a “pragmatic cartography” (Guattari, 1995b, p. 61). Diagram’s pragmatic quality can be turned against itself and rerouted to serve territorialization without a separation-type semiotization. For example, Capital makes use of diagrammaticity by inscribing in its power elements not merely representationally, but operationally (Guattari, 2009, p. 256).

The use of Diagram in new materialism is minimal and at most implied. But as Gary Genosko writes “the diagrammatic finds potentialities in non-human machines and a-signifying semiotics” (Genosko, 2012, p. 163), and this affords Diagram wider consequences for rethinking the agency of matter in its virtuality and incorporeality, without having to subscribe to hylomorphic notions of materialist deprivation.
In addition, Guattari connects Diagram with the notion of assemblage. Assemblage transcends speech and evades structuralist semiotization in general. More specifically, the opposite of assemblages of semiotization would be communication; the former expresses much more than what communication reduces semiotics to. The assemblage of semiotization thus gives rise to “diagrammatic effects” (Guattari, 2009b, p. 49).

An illustrative use of Diagram (or of a “diagrammatic effect”) is featured in Rosi Braidotti’s philosophical nomadism and the idea of “face-as-landscape.” In following Deleuze and Emmanuel Levinas she suggests that a “face” is a “landscape” – a site where different categories (such as race, gender and ethnicity) intersect. Thus faces (Levinas) (or facialities, see also Guattari, 2011, p. 75-107) are global landscapes full of materialities and all sort of environmental complexities. The face’s politics of location is immanent in its landscape quality and produces diagrams that in turn interfere with (rather than merely reflect) global transversal subjectivities. In “Machinic Heterogenesis” Guattari militantly states that formal subjectivities should not be ascribed to diagrammatic semiotisation. These subjectivities and their facial-landscapes can be better captured by diagrammatic thought and by practicing that thought as political cartography (Braidotti, 2006, p. 177). A similar thought referring to geography and territory is found earlier in the work of CCRU, where the group refers to the “jungle” as “abstract diagram of planetary inhuman becoming.” (CCRU, 2014, p. 329).

Keywords: a/signification, relations of power, pragmatic cartography
Genealogies: Deleuze and Guattari, schizoanalysis, Charles Sanders Peirce, semiotics, Manuel DeLanda, Gary Genosko
Antonyms: denotation, representation, linearity, formalization, idea
Hypernyms: the Outside, feature of: abstract machine and plane of immanence
Hyponyms: transduction, singularities
Synonyms: order-chaos, infinity

Braidotti, Rosi. (2006). Transpositions: On Nomadic Ethics. London and Malden, MA: Polity.
CCRU. (2014). “Swarmachines,” in: Robin Mackay and Armen Avanessian (Eds.). #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader. Falmouth/Berlin: Urbanomic/Merve.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. (1983). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Vol. 1, translated by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Vol. 2, translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. (1994). What is Philosophy?, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press.
Genosko, Gary. (1996). “Introduction,” in: The Guattari Reader. Oxford: Blackwell.
Genosko, Gary. (2012). “Introduction: Félix Guattari in the Age of Semiocapitalism,” in: Deleuze Studies, Vol. 6, No. 2.
Guattari, Félix. (1984). Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, translated by Rosemary Sheed et al. Middlesex: Penguin.
Guattari, Félix. (1995a). “Machinic Heterogenesis,” in: Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, translated by Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis. Bloomington, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Guattari, Félix. (1995b). “Schizoanalytic Metamodelisation,” in: Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, translated by Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis. Bloomington, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
Guattari, Félix. (2009a). “Capital as the Integral of Social Relations,” in: Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977-1985, translated by Chet Wiener and Emily Wittman. Los Angeles, California: Semiotext(e).
Guattari, Félix. (2009b). “Institutional Intervention,” in: Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977-1985, translated by Chet Wiener and Emily Wittman. Los Angeles, California: Semiotext(e).
Guattari, Félix. (2011). “Diagrammatic Faciality,” in: The Machinic Unconsciousness: Essays in Schizoanalysis, translated by Taylor Adkins. Los Angeles, California: Semiotext(e).
Peirce, Charles Sanders. (1931-36). The Collected Papers, Vol. 4: The Simplest Mathematics, edited by Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss. Cambridge. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

COST Action IS1307 New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on 'How Matter Comes to Matter'.

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