The word 'race' is often put in inverted commas in order to stress its constructed nature or to indicate that "there is no such thing as race" (Nayak, 2006, p. 411, italics in the original), in the sense that racism is regarded as an ideological construction, rather than a material fact. Race in the sense of an ideology and set of historical practices, and attempts to understand it as a social concept, rather than an ontological phenomenon, are of course justified. However, many scholars have recently paid attention to the materiality of race by arguing that the constructivist or 'nominal' approach leaves out the material dimensions of this phenomenon (see e.g. Chen, 2012; Hinton, Mehrabi & Barla 2015; Leppänen, 2017; Liu, 2015; M'charek, 2010 & 2013; Saldanha, 2007 & 2013; Slocum, 2008 & 2011; Vuolajärvi, 2011 & 2014). These approaches explore race as a relational phenomenon, and they enable us to go beyond the binary distinction between the material and the cultural (M'charek, 2013, p. 420).
Arun Saldanha writes that: "[t]hrough Deleuze it becomes possible to inquire whether the representationalism and dialectical logic that have guided the antiracist programme actively suppress an immanent-materialist legacy that may better suited to grasping how bodies are materially differentiated into hierarchies in the first place" (2013, p. 7). He proceeds by stating that "race is real", and hence, even if race is not set in stone, racial difference could be investigated "in itself as it persists as a biocultural, biopolitical force amid other forces" (ibid., 8).
When discussing gender, Deleuze and Guattari note that "the two sexes imply a multiplicity of molecular combinations bringing into play not only the man in the woman and the woman in the man, but the relation of each other to the animal, the plant, etc.: a thousand tiny sexes ." (1987, p. 213). The idea of a thousand tiny sexes has been applied by some scholars to race, with the concept of a thousand tiny races (Dolphijn & van der Tuin, 2013, p. 137; Puar, 2007, 209; Saldanha, 2006). The racialized categories of black and white, for example, could be said to multiply when human and non-human bodies intra-act with each other, and in these processes, a thousand tiny races evolve.
The categories of white and black are focal in the racialized processes of othering and hence, it is crucial to deconstruct the rigid and hegemonic binary of white and non-white. Instead of treating these as distinct and already-recognized categories, the concept of becoming can be used to transform racialized subjectivities from known entities and being into dynamic and relational material-discursive actualizations. Because becomings always happen in unforeseen ways, it is impossible to fully know or define categorically what blackness and whiteness are.
However, it must be stated that although this sense of a dynamic becoming might be 'possible', we live in a world where race is a pre-eminent ideological force powerfully defining everything from nation states to individual lives. Because of this, approaching race as a material phenomenon should not mean considering discursive formations and molar structures such as racialized identity categories unrelevant. The categories of black and white function undeniably at the level of macropolitics; but, as Moira Gatens insists, we "need to engage with the … norms of our culture on two fronts: the macropolitical and the micropolitical" (2000, p. 68). In Deleuze and Guattari's thinking, the "molecular" relates to becoming while the "molar" relates to being. Molar entities and politics work at the level of macrostructures and binaries, and include identities such as black and white, women and men, and human and non-human, whereas a molecular micropolitics "takes place outside or beyond the fixity of subjectivity and the structure of stable unities" (del Río 2008, p. 115). Molar and molecular cannot be characterized as good or bad and they are not opposites. Micropolitics calls for molecular becomings that leak out of molar identity categories. Noticing both material becomings and molar structures, affirming existing struggles and forming new and different articulations are needed in effective anti-racist politics.
Keywords: race, molar, molecular, micropolitics, macropolitics
Chen, Mel Y. (2012). Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affects. Durham & London: Duke University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Félix (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translation and foreword by Bran Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987)
Dolphijn, Rick & van der Tuin, Iris (2013). A Thousand Tiny Intersections: Linguisticism, Feminism, Racism and Deleuzian Becomings. In A. Saldanha and J. M. Adams (Eds.), Deleuze and Race (pp. 129-143). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Gatens, Moira (2000) Feminism as 'Password': Re-thinking the 'Possible' with Spinoza and Deleuze, Hypatia 15(2), 59–75.
Hinton, Peta, Mehrabi, Tara & Barla, Josef (2015). New materialisms/New colonialisms, http://newmaterialism.eu/content/5-working-groups/2-working-group-2/position-papers/subgroup-position-paper-\_-new-materialisms\_new-colonialisms.pdf
Leppänen, Taru (2017). Tuhansia pieniä rotuja Sonya Lindforsin Noble Savagessa [A Thousand Tiny Races in Sonya Lindfors's Noble Savage]. Kulttuurintutkimus 2-3, 17-26.
Liu, Xin (2015). Trilling Race: The Political Economy of Racialised Visual-Aural Encounters. Åbo: Åbo Akademi University Press. Retrieved from http://www.doria.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/113036/liu\_xin.pdf?sequence=2
M'charek, Amade (2010). Fragile differences, relational effects: Stories about the materiality of race and sex. European Journal of Women's Studies 17(4), 307-322.
M'charek, Amade (2013). Beyond Fact or Fiction: On the Materiality of Race in Practice. Cultural Anthropology 28(3), 420-442
Nayak, Anoop (2006). After race: Ethnography, race and post-race theory. Ethnic and Racial Studies 29(3), 411-430.
Puar, Jasbir (2007). Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham & London: Duke University Press.
del Río, Elena (2008). Deleuze and the Cinemas of Performance: Powers of Affection. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Saldanha, Arun (2006). Re-ontologising race: the machinic geography of phenotype. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24, 9-24.
Saldanha, Arun (2007). Psychedelic White: Goa Trance and the Viscosity of Race. Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press.
Saldanha, Arun (2013). Bastard and mixed-blood are the true names of race: an introduction. In A. Saldanha and J. M. Adams (Eds.), Deleuze and Race (pp. 6-34). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Slocum, Rachel (2008). Thinking race through corporeal feminist theory: divisions and intimacies at the Minneapolis Farmer's Market. Social and Cultural Geography 9(8), 849-869.
Slocum, Rachel (2011). Race in the study of food. Progress in Human Geography 35(3), 303-327.
Vuolajärvi, Niina (2011). Rodun todellisuus ja materiaalisuus. Naistutkimus–Kvinnoforskning 2, 54-60.
Vuolajärvi, Niina (2014). Rotu etnisten suhteiden tutkimuksessa. In S. Irni & M. Meskus (Eds.), Muokattu elämä (pp. 264-301). Tampere: Vastapaino.
COST Action IS1307 New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on 'How Matter Comes to Matter'.
Here you will find background material, current activities, calls for papers, working group information, and project outputs.
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
Information relating to activities undertaken, including conferences, training schools, short-term scientific missions, and annual meetings, are archived here.
Working Groups focus on four key areas of research
Working Group One
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
Working Group Two
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
Working Group Three
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
Working Group Four
New Materialisms Tackling Economical and Identity – Political Crises and Organizational Experiments... Read more
The Almanac comprises contributions from members of working groups, and participants in related activities, delineating key terms, more esoteric neologisms, and short provocations. Read more
New Materialism —
Networking European Scholarship on 'How matter comes to matter’
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