Katve-Kaisa Kontturi

In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, a philosophical work central to new materialisms, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari suggest that "matter-flows can only be followed" (1987, p. 373). This can be taken as a methodological proposition of how to approach matter-in-movement.

In the new materialist framework, following is an approach or a relation that instead of keeping a critical distance allows for sensuous, affective proximity (see also Ingold, 2013). It involves participation ­– meaning that the relation between the one who follows and one who / that is followed is more than a one-sided power relation. Erin Manning's (2007) description of the roles of the follower and the 'followee' in Tango dance makes this explicit: we might follow our dance partner's movements, but that does not mean that the one doing the leading would control the dance completely (Manning, 2007, p. 88). The relationality at stake here is much more complex, subtle and emergent. This is because relations are not reducible to two or more solid entities with predetermined identities. Following is about relating to a moving body or bodies, both human and nonhuman, to what is to come, to incipient movement before it is actualised (Manning, 2009, p. 7, 17–18).

As a methodological approach, following is then a relational practice: both the follower and the followee are in movement (cf. 'wayfaring' in Neumark, 2017). As such, following does not offer a stable, fixed position for making interpretations or readings. The researcher as follower cannot stay still perceptually or epistemologically; following entails adjustment to the movements of the followee. This could be seen as a new materialist version of analytical participant observation that pays intricate, detailed attention to matters in movement: to micro movements, vibrations, sensations, and to the primacy of relations, while endeavouring to make them felt. But whereas participant observation is commonly understood as the observation of people or human socio-cultural systems, following extends it to encompass the observation of non-human liveliness.

In other words, a new materialist notion of following seeks to reach toward the 'more-than-representational' of the phenomena attended. The importance of the representational register(s) is not denied, yet the main focus lies in the primacy of relations in and through which a thing or phenomenon re-emerges. What is followed here are rather flows than lines. Instead of focusing on an object that can be understood and categorised through its historical, material or cultural pre-texts, new materialist explorations of emergent, unpredictable matter encourage researchers to follow the research object's undetermined material-relational becoming. As such, Following indicates an observational and analytic modality that appreciates the intensive, moving qualities of matter, and prefers to work on the level of their action without determining what they represent. Following aims to let flows stay flows without straightening them into lines.

Methodologically, following takes movement and change as its starting point. However, its trajectory is not that of linear progression led by intention or habit, but rather the predetermined, the unexpected. It is, of course, possible to follow more familiar or customary lines such as those of patriarchal and heterosexual expectation leading to the founding of a 'nuclear family', but then the impetus would be radically different. If customary lines were the starting point to following, one could direct attention to the cuts and discrepancies, 'queer' elements in familiar formations. One could go 'off-line', orient oneself in a manner that does not line up with the established genealogy as Sarah Ahmed suggests in the book Queer Phenomenology (2006, p. 83, 102–107). Whereas following customary lines is a methodology geared toward bringing out the breaks and interruptions in linear formations and established schemes, following emphasizes the ever-moving, nonlinear flows and solidifications which are only momentary.

Deleuze and Guattari (1987, p. 372) underline that following is not about the reproduction of what already is, from a fixed point of view, but about opening to what is in itself still in the making. It is a way of opening to uncertainties of process and also towards the future. While watching the flow from the bank prevents one from moving with the flow, following offers a different (non-)position, one that instead of confirming the already known, affirms what is still unfolding, and as such always takes the follower somewhere else.

For Deleuze and Guattari following, compared to other practices of relation, "is not better, just different" (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p. 372). This difference is crucial if we are to explore the subtle and surprising flows of matter in movement, instead of simply analyzing already stratified entities. If we wish to engage "with a continuous variation of variables, instead of extracting constants of them" (ibid.) then following is our answer.

Synonyms: Wayfaring
Antonyms: Fixed position, Standpoint feminism
Hypernyms: Metamodelling, Non-reprentational methodologies

Ahmed, Sarah (2006). Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.
Ingold, Tim (2013). Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. London and New York: Routledge.
Katve-Kaisa Kontturi (forthcoming). Ways of Following: Art, Materiality, Collaboration. London: Open Humanities Press. []
Manning, Erin (2007). Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.
Neumark, Norie (2017). Voicetracks: Attuning to Voice in Media and the Arts. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Tiainen, Milla, Katve-Kaisa Kontturi, and Ilona Hongisto (2015). "Framing, Following, Middling: Towards Methodologies of Material Relationalities". Cultural Studies Review 21 (2): 14–46. DOI: []

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

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With the changing of societies on local, national and international scales owing to economic, ecological, political and technological developments and crises, a reorganized academic landscape can be observed to be emerging. Scholarship strives to become increasingly interdisciplinary in order to grasp and examine the unfolding complexity of ongoing ecological, socio-cultural and politico-economic changes. Additionally, academics forge... Read more or find out Who's Who

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Genealogies of New Materialisms; examines and intervenes in canonization processes by compiling a web-based bibliography, coordinating the OST 068/13 8 EN... Read more

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New Materialisms on the Crossroads of the Natural and Human Sciences; seeks to develop new materialisms at the boundaries of the human and natural sciences. The group focuses on how European new materialisms can rework the ‘Two Cultures' gap... Read more

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New Materialisms Embracing the Creative Arts; brings together European researchers, artists, museum professionals, and other activists with a keen interest in the material... Read more

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New Materialisms Tackling Economical and Identity – Political Crises and Organizational Experiments... Read more


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COST Action IS1307

New Materialism —
Networking European Scholarship on 'How matter comes to matter’

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