The Minor Gesture by Erin Manning | Framing (Social Sciences ...

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Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper ∞ Designed by Amy Ruth Buchanan Typeset in Arno and Avenir by...

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THE MINOR GESTURE

THOUGHT IN THE ACT

A series edited by Erin Manning and Brian Massumi

THE MINOR GESTURE

ERIN MANNING

DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS DURHAM AND LONDON 2016

© 2016 Duke University Press All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper ∞ Designed by Amy Ruth Buchanan Typeset in Arno and Avenir by Graphic Composition, Inc., Bogart, Georgia Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Manning, Erin, author. Title: The minor gesture / Erin Manning. Other titles: Thought in the act. Description: Durham : Duke University Press, 2016. Series: Thought in the act | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: lccn 2015046671 (print) | lccn 2015048953 (ebook) isbn 9780822361039 (hardcover : alk. paper) isbn 9780822361213 (pbk. : alk. paper) isbn 9780822374411 (e-book) Subjects: lcsh: Perception (Philosophy) | Self (Philosophy) | Cognitive neuroscience—Philosophy. | Autism. | Political psychology. Classification: lcc b828.45 .m366 2016 (print) | lcc b828.45 (ebook) | ddc 128—dc23 lc record available at http:// lccn.loc.gov/2015046671

Cover art: Nathaniel Stern and Erin Manning, Weather Patterns: The Smell of Red. Installation, Glasshouse, New York, 2014. Photo by Leslie Plumb. Courtesy of the artists and Leslie Plumb.

FOR BEN JONES (1930–2015)

who followed the minor gestures of the kerf in the study of what else living can be always measure the kerf it makes a difference measure the absence— it is the very stuff, the very kerf, of desire.

CONTENTS

P R E FA C E

ix

Introduction: In a Minor Key

1

1. Against Method

26

2. Artfulness: Emergent Collectivities

and Processes of Individuation

46

3. Weather Patterns, or How Minor

Gestures Entertain the Environment

64

4. Dress Becomes Body: Fashioning the Force of Form

86

5. Choreographing the Political

111

6. Carrying the Feeling

131

7. In the Act: The Shape of Precarity

165

8. What a Body Can Do:

A Conversation with Arno Boehler

189

Postscript: Affirmation without Credit

201

NOTES

233

REFERENCES

261

INDEX

269

PREFACE

There’s something about writing books that is out of time. As though the writing only really knows what it’s after once it has begun to make its way into the world. For me, thinking too has always had this quality: thinking thickens in its encounter with the futurity that orients it. This futurity in thinking’s presentness is part of what keeps thinking lithe: thinking is always out of sync with itself. The best kind of encounter with thinking’s outside is the kind that deeply listens to what writing is trying to do, almost thinking beyond what the author is capable of thinking, then returning that thinking, almost beyond what the reader can think, to the author. In this gesture of encounter, no one is trying to convince anyone: thought is thinking collectively at its limit. Going through the review process for The Minor Gesture, I had the luck of encountering thinking at the limit. In an affirmative gesture—what I call “affirmation without credit” in the postscript—the reviewers took time to think-with the text in a gesture of writing- with, returning The Minor Gesture to me with the richness of an engagement that was capable of opening my thinking beyond where I thought it could go. In this return, I received not a simple account of how writing performs knowledge, but something much more important: an engagement with how thinking does its work, in the writing. What struck me, in reading these reviews (can these still be called reviews?), was how fragile this gesture of writing- with made me feel. The fragility, I think, has to do with writing pushed to a limit where it is truly

in contact with the tremulousness of thinking in the act. Bringing thought into contact with its limit this way is a minor gesture. It is a minor gesture in that it activates a tendency already in germ and emboldens it toward an altering of what that tendency can do. A thought less concerned with the certainty of what it knows is more open to the minor in thinking, more open to the force of the as-yet-unformed coursing through it. This minor tendency values the force of form, not just the form knowledge takes. The Minor Gesture engages directly with this tension between knowledge and value. What else could be at stake in the encounter if it weren’t organized around the certainty of knowing? What might become thinkable if knowledge weren’t so tied to an account of subject-driven agency? And, what else might value look like if it weren’t framed by judgment? A minor gesture that activates the collectivity at the heart of thought effects change. It affects not only what the text can become: it alters to the core what thinking can do. It gives value to the processual uncertainty of thought as yet unformed, and gives that thought the space to develop collectively. For their elegant engagement with collective thinking in the act, I thank these reviewers by name: Greg Seigworth and Fred Moten. Thank you for inviting me to think beyond the limit of what seemed thinkable, and for thinking there with me. I also thank the SenseLab, with whom the thinking never stops, whether we are making or moving or talking or writing. My life is changed, continuously, by the thinking that moves us. And, as always: thank you to Brian Massumi. Even when we’re not writing together I hear the speculative force of our collective thinking in my words. You have taught me that we never write alone.

x

Preface

INTRODUCTION In a Minor Key

This book begins in a minor key and works to create a field of resonance for the minor. It does so through the concept of the minor gesture. The minor gesture, allied to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of the minor, is the gestural force that opens experience to its potential variation. It does this from within experience itself, activating a shift in tone, a difference in quality. A minor key is always interlaced with major keys—the minor works the major from within. What must be remembered is this: neither the minor nor the major is fixed in advance. The major is a structural tendency that organizes itself according to predetermined definitions of value. The minor is a force that courses through it, unmooring its structural integrity, problematizing its normative standards. The unwavering belief in the major as the site where events occur, where events make a difference, is based on accepted accounts of what registers as change as well as existing parameters for gauging the value of that change.1 Yet while the grand gestures of a macropolitics most easily sum up the changes that occurred to alter the field, it is the minoritarian tendencies that initiate the subtle shifts that created the conditions for this, and any change. The grand is given the status it has not because it is where the transformative power lies, but because it is easier to identify major shifts than to catalogue the nuanced rhythms of the minor. As a result, these rhythms are narrated as secondary, or even negligible. The minor is a continual variation on experience. It has a mobility not given to the major: its rhythms are not controlled by a preexisting structure, but open to flux. In variation is in change, indeterminate. But indeterminacy, because of its wildness, is often seen as unrigorous, flimsy, its lack of solidity mistaken for a lack of consistency. The minor thus gets cast aside, overlooked, or forgotten in the interplay of major chords. This is the

downside of the minor, but also its strength: that it does not have the full force of a preexisting status, of a given structure, of a predetermined metric, to keep it alive. It is out of time, untimely, rhythmically inventing its own pulse. The minor isn’t known in advance. It never reproduces itself in its own image. Each minor gesture is singularly connected to the event at hand, immanent to the in-act. This makes it pragmatic. But the minor gesture also exceeds the bounds of the event, touching on the ineffable quality of its more-than. This makes it speculative. The minor gesture works in the mode of speculative pragmatism. From a speculatively pragmatic stance, it invents its own value, a value as ephemeral as it is mobile. This permeability tends to make it ungraspable, and often unrecognizable: it is no doubt difficult to value that which has little perceptible form, that which has not yet quite been invented, let alone defined. And so the minor gesture often goes by unperceived, its improvisational threads of variability overlooked, despite their being in our midst. There is no question that the minor is precarious. And yet the minor gesture is everywhere, all the time. Despite its precarity, it resurfaces punctually, claiming not space as such, but spaceof-variation. The minor invents new forms of existence, and with them, in them, we come to be. These temporary forms of life travel across the everyday, making untimely existing political structures, activating new modes of perception, inventing languages that speak in the interstices of major tongues. The minor gesture’s indeterminacy, and even its failure to thrive, is what interests me here. For there is no question, it seems to me, that we put too much credence in that which persists, in the edifices rebuilt daily by technocrats. There must be other ways of living? In its movement, the minor gesture creates sites of dissonance, staging disturbances that open experience to new modes of expression. In making felt the event’s limit, the operational interval where the event exceeds the sum of its parts, the minor gesture punctually reorients experience. The event here is defined according to a Whiteheadian concept of the actual occasion. Actual occasions are the coming- into-being of indeterminacy where potentiality passes into realization (Whitehead 1978: 29). When speaking of the event’s potentiality, I am lingering on the side of the asyet-undetermined share of the actual occasion. I am focusing on the phase of realization of the event, of experience, where it has not yet fully become this or that. The minor gesture is active in this indeterminate phase of the event. This is not to underestimate the necessity of an event’s coming to 2

Introduction

form. As Alfred North Whitehead emphasizes, it is the event’s atomicity, its capacity to be fully what it is, that ultimately opens the way for the potential of what is to come: without atomicity, in an arena of pure becoming, there would be no “elbow room in the universe,” no opening for the disjunctions through which difference is produced (1967: 195). The emphasis here is not on the continuity of becoming, an infinitely open account of process, but on the becoming of continuity: process punctuated. The event and the minor gesture are always in co-composition, the minor gesture punctuating process, moving the welling event in new and divergent directions that alter the orientation of where the event might otherwise have settled. By making everything an event, by emphasizing that there is nothing outside of or beyond the event, the aim is to create an account of experience that requires no omnipresence. The event is where experience actualizes. Experience here is in the tense of life- living, not human life per se, but the more-than human: life at the interstices of experience in the ecology of practices.2 From this vantage point of an ecology of practices, it is urgent to turn away from the notion that it is the human agent, the intentional, volitional subject, who determines what comes to be.3 It is urgent to turn away from the central tenet of neurotypicality, the wide-ranging belief that there is an independence of thought and being attributable above all to the human, a better-than-ness accorded to our neurology (a neurology, it must be said, that reeks of whiteness, and classism). Neurotypicality, as a central but generally unspoken identity politics, frames our idea of which lives are worth fighting for, which lives are worth educating, which lives are worth living, and which lives are worth saving.4 Despite its role as a founding gesture of humanism, of individualism, neurotypicality remains for the most part in the background of our everyday lives. Certainly, activists who fight for neurodiversity are very aware of how neurotypicality frames experience. But for the rest of us, neurotypicality as such tends to be backgrounded, and so we underestimate both its force and its pervasiveness. Issues that most readily define neurotypicality as foundational are often seen as given. We pay them little attention: we don’t tend, for instance, to question the abortion of vast numbers of Down syndrome fetuses.5 Or we don’t think of mental illness as on a spectrum with our own neurology. Or we ignore how pervasive it is not to create robust accommodations for difference and rarely organize events with accommodation in mind.6 We don’t concern ourselves with the fact that, too often, people with disabilities, intellectual or physical, are offered In a Minor Key 3

palliative care instead of life- sustaining treatment for diseases.7 We too often see all of these scenarios—if we do see them at all—simply as aspects of existence at this current juncture: they are what they are, and surely they have come to be for a reason.8 Neurotypicality tells us what is in our best interest, and we tend to accept it wholesale. It is for this reason that neurotypicality as foundational identity politics is rarely named as such. When do we question what we mean by independence, by intelligence, by knowledge? When do we honor significantly different bodies and ask what they can do, instead of jumping to the conclusion that they are simply deficient?9 When is the fat body, the immobilized body, the blind body, the deaf body, the old body, the spastic body celebrated? Yours, mine, the life of the autistic, still taught in segregated classrooms, yours, mine, the life of the schizophrenic, of the psychotic, the depressed, institutionalized and out of sight, yours, mine, the First Nations, disenfranchised by a settler colonialism that refuses to recognize political practices neurodiverse at their core, yours, mine, the drug addict, the drunk, the black man, treated last in the emergency ward (if treated at all), yours, mine, the transgender, the transsexual, the gay or lesbian, our rights too rarely recognized as they should be, yours, mine, lives deemed less worthy, less worthy not just because of our visible difference, but because we have already been classed as less- than, as less educable, as less desirable, as less knowledgeable, as less valuable. We have already been situated, aligned in opposition to the dominant ideal of life, to the majoritarian discourse of neurotypicality, and we fall short. I define this framing of existence as neurotypical not to underestimate other forms of oppression, including racism, classism, sexism. My hope is to underscore the mutual indebtedness of the narrative of neurotypicality and the framing of certain bodies and certain forms of life as less worthy. Take blackness. Neurotypicality, Fred Moten suggests, is another name for antiblackness.10 The neurotypical stages the encounter with life in such a way as to exclude what cannot fit within its order, and blackness, or what Moten describes as “black sociality,” always ultimately exceeds capture. In a videotaped conversation entitled “Do Black Lives Matter” between himself and Robin D. G. Kelley, Moten speaks of the concept of black sociality in the context of the 2014 murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.11 He explains: We need to understand what the state is defending itself from and I think that in this respect, the particular instances of Michael Brown’s murder and Eric Garner’s murder are worth paying some attention to. 4

Introduction

Because what the drone, Darren Wilson [the police officer], shot into that day was insurgent Black life walking down the street. I don’t think he meant to violate the individual personhood of Michael Brown, he was shooting at mobile Black sociality walking down the street in a way that he understood implicitly constituted a threat to the order he represents and that he is sworn to protect. Eric Garner on the everyday basis initiated a new alternative kind of marketplace, another mode of social life. That’s what they killed, OK? So when we say that Black lives matter I think what we do sometimes is obscure the fact that it’s in fact Black life that matters. That insurgent Black social life still constitutes a profound threat to the already existing order of things. Insurgent Black life is neurodiverse through and through. This is its threat, that it cannot be properly regulated, that it exceeds the bounds of the known, that it moves too much—“I don’t need to disavow the notion that black people have rhythm.”12 Blackness, life-living, is life at the limit.13 Moten continues: “Antiblackness is antilife. Somewhere along the line black flesh held the responsibility of protecting generativity. . . . Life is Black life. . . . When you say Black life matters, you are saying life matters, and when you say life matters, you are saying Black life matters.” That neurotypicality as founding identity politics discounts black life implies, at the limit, that it discounts all life, all generative force, all unbounded, unpredictable, rhythmic, insurgent life. Neurodiversity is the path I choose here to explore insurgent life. Encouraged by neurodiversity activism, I take neurodiversity as a platform for political change that fundamentally alters how life is defined, and valued. I do this with the neurodiversity movement’s call in mind: to honor complex forms of interdependence and to create modes of encounter for that difference.14 One of the compelling tenets of the movement for neurodiversity is that it explicitly calls for social and medical services. Many classical autistics, for instance, cannot live without facilitation. They need assistance. And so they not only want to be seen as valuable in their difference, they also want their need for facilitation to be seen as a necessary and honored aspect of social life. The neurodiversity movement celebrates the relational force of facilitation broadly defined. This emphasis on relation is central to my discussion of facilitation in chapter 7. The neurotypical, as real contributor to society and to humanity in general, is strongly paired with a notion of independence understood according to normative definitions of ability and able-bodiedness framed by In a Minor Key 5

what I call the volition-intentionality-agency triad. Despite several decades of the Disability Act, what Guattari would call “normopathy” continues to rule, not only defining value in terms of normative criteria of functioning, but also reducing the importance of relation by placing facilitation on the side of lack: those who need facilitation demonstrate a lack of intelligence, a lack of will, a lack of agency.15 The neurotypical is the very backbone of a concept of individuality that is absolutely divorced from the idea that relation is actually what our worlds are made of. The neurotypical does not need assistance, does not need accommodation, and certainly does not need facilitation. The neurotypical is independent through and through. The approach I am taking here, in my calling into question the centrality of neurotypicality as grounding structure for existence as we practice it, might be called schizoanalytic, not because there is an encounter with schizophrenia per se, but because the account involves an engagement with the cleaving of experience. A working definition of schizoanalysis for the purposes of this project might be: the active operation that creates schisms, in an ecology of practices, opening up the event to its potential for a collectivity alive with difference. A concept that composes well with the activity of this cleaving is agencement. Agencement, as Guattari writes, is a junction that “secretes [its own] coordinates, [that] can certainly impose connections, but [does] not impose a fixed constraint” (2013: 24). Mobilizing the cleave of the event, its internal schism, agencement foregrounds not the agency of an individual acting on the event, but those very operations that “secrete their own coordinates” in the event, affecting how it comes to expression. A schizoanalytic approach, as I will elaborate in chapter 8, affirms these complex ecologies that could not come into existence without the schisms that radically alter the operational quality of the event. As the postscript will emphasize, a schizoanalytic approach has a belief in the world. In this sense it is Nietzschean: “Was that life? Well then, once more!” (1954: 157). The world it believes in is a world where to act is an inherently affirmative gesture that cannot be distinguished from the in-act of the event. What acts at the heart of the event is the minor gesture. This is not to say that the minor gesture is inherently positive, or good. The minor gesture, like schizoanalysis, is operational. It shifts the field, altering the valence of what comes to be. It is affirmative in its force, emphatic in its belief. Yet it would be to radically misunderstand the cut of difference to ignore the pull of the tragic, as Nietzsche makes clear in drawing a connection between affirmation and tragedy. This is further developed in the postscript. 6

Introduction

Deleuze’s words should also be heeded: “It is not the marginal who create the lines; they install themselves on these lines and make them their property, and this is fine when they have that strange modesty of people of the line, the prudence of the experimenter, but it is a disaster when they slip into a black hole from which they no longer utter anything but the microfascist speech of their dependency and their giddiness: ‘We are the avantgarde,’ ‘We are the marginal’ ” (2007: 139, translation modified). The minor gesture is not the figure of the marginal, though the marginal may carry a special affinity for the minor and wish to compose with it. The minor gesture is the force that makes the lines tremble that compose the everyday, the lines, both structural and fragmentary, that articulate how else experience can come to expression. To compose with the minor gesture requires, as Deleuze cautions, the prudence of the experimenter, a prudence awake to the speculative pragmatism at the heart of the welling event. Study and research-creation, both developed in the first chapter, are techniques for experimental prudence, a prudence patient enough to engage with that which experimentation unsettles, a prudence attuned to the force of the in-act. But beware: this is not the prudence of a passive outlier! This is a tentativeness in the act that jumps at the chance to discover what else the event can do. It is a prudence that composes at the edges of the as-yetunthought in the rhythm of the minor gesture. The minor gesture is the activator, the carrier, it is the agencement that draws the event into itself. It moves the nonconscious toward the conscious, makes felt the unsayable in the said, brings into resonance field effects otherwise backgrounded in experience. It is the forward- force capable of carrying the affective tonality of nonconscious resonance and moving it toward the articulation, edging into consciousness, of new modes of existence. This capacity to actualize, at the edge of the virtual where the actual is not-yet, is what makes the minor a gesture: the minor is a gesture insofar as it punctuates the in-act, leading the event elsewhere than toward the governant fixity of the major, be it the major in the name of normative political structures, of institutional life, of able-bodiedness, of gender conformity, of racial segregation. This book celebrates the fragility and the persistence of the minor gesture, perceiving in it more potential than in the self-directed “I” that stands outside experience and speaks the major languages of the brands of individualism and humanism that frame neurotypicality as the center of being. In a Minor Key 7

THE UNDERCOMMONS

The register of the minor gesture is always political: in its punctual reorienting of the event, the minor gesture invents new modes of life-living. It moves through the event, creating a pulse, opening the way for new tendencies to emerge, and in the resonances that are awakened, potential for difference looms. This is how I am defining the political: the movement activated, in the event, by a difference in register that awakens new modes of encounter and creates new forms of life- living. Life-living in its usage throughout refuses to privilege this life, this human life, at the expense of different forms and forces of life, even as it recognizes the importance of the punctuality of this singular event we call our life. Life-living is a way of thinking life with and beyond the human, thinking life as more- thanhuman. Deleuze’s concept of a life resonates strongly here, a life defined in his last ode to living as the flux of liveliness coursing through existence unlimited.16 The conjunction between the minor gesture and life-living is a political ecology that operates on the level of the in-act, asking at every juncture what else life could be. How this singular life- orientation carries existence, and where its minor gestures may lead, is always, for me, a political question. The political opening that lurks here is built of a procedural architecture called the undercommons, a concept coined by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney.17 The undercommons is not a given site, not a place predefined, not even a recognizable enclave we could return to having found it once. The undercommons is an emergent collectivity that is sited in the encounter. Allied to the minor gesture, it is an activator of a tendency more than it is an offering of a commonality. What makes it a commons is not the existing gathering but its speculative presence as an ecology of practices. The undercommons is a tentative holding in place of fragile comings-intorelation, physical and virtual, that create the potential to reorient fields of life-living—a belief in the ineffable and its powers of resistance keep it alive. In Moten and Harney’s reading of the undercommons, the university looms large as a site in need. The academic institution also has a major role to play with respect to the policing of neurotypicality. For this reason, like Moten and Harney, I will first dwell on the example of what an undercommons might look like in the context of academia before then opening the undercommons beyond the strictures of the academic institution to what else study looks like in the everyday. 8

Introduction

Neurotypicality involves a hierarchization of knowledge, based as it is on a belief that favors normative forms of instruction and segregates knowledge according to accepted ideas of what serves society best. Most accepted approaches to learning assume neurotypicality with regard to processing information, thereby segregating not only neurodiverse learners, but also predefining what counts as knowledge.18 In The Undercommons, Moten and Harney foreground the university as an institutional system that, in the neoliberal economy, thrives on a belief that knowledge can be encapsulated and marketed. There is no question that this tendency has become more marked in the last decades, with funding for the humanities, social sciences, the theoretical sciences, and studio arts (to name only the most obvious examples) continuously under threat due to their so-called uselessness in the economic marketplace. With the increased pressure of bringing funds to the university through grant- writing comes the generalization of knowledge and the emphasis on disciplinary framing. The shift looks something like this: in order to get grants, scholars and artists within the university are asked to frame their own work according to perceived use- value (read: grantvalue). This tends to hierarchize certain forms of knowledge over others, though these hierarchies can turn around quite quickly, given the mobility of capital. Paired with the increased financial instability of the university, which leads to fewer positions being created and thus fewer differences within the ranks, this can have the effect of narrowing knowledge to what are perceived to be the needs of the discipline (now redefined according to granting categories), often acting against the very openings learning can facilitate. Critique tends to lead the way. Learning is a fragile enterprise that can too easily be sidetracked by the encroachment of what is set up, in advance, as relevant or irrelevant. In the name of critique, this fragility is often framed and deadened through the crafting of questions that already have answers, or whose answers are close at hand, contained within preexisting academic discourse. “The critical academic questions the university, questions the state, questions art, politics, culture. But in the undercommons it is ‘no questions asked’ ” (Moten and Harney 2013: 38). The mode of critique that operates as an academic trope stifles the very opening through which fragile new modes of existence can come to expression. What if knowledge were not assumed to have a form already? What if we didn’t yet know what needed to be taught, let alone questioned? In a Minor Key 9

The undercommons opens the way for the crafting of problems greater than their solutions. Here I am following Henri Bergson, who suggests that the best problem is the one that opens up an intuitive process, not the one that already carries within itself its fix. A solvable problem was never really a problem, Bergson reminds us. Only when a question is in line with the creation of a problem is it truly operational. Most academic questions are of the solvable, unproblematic sort. What the undercommons seeks are real problems, problems intuited and crafted in the inquiry. Bergson writes: It is the clarity of the radically new and absolutely simple idea, which catches as it were, an intuition. As we cannot reconstruct it with preexisting elements, since it has no elements, and as on the other hand, to understand without effort consists in recomposing the new from what is old, our first impulse is to say it is incomprehensible. . . . One must . . . distinguish between the ideas which keep their light for themselves, making it penetrate immediately into their slightest recesses, and those whose radiation is exterior, illuminating a whole region of thought. (2007: 23) The challenge, as Bergson underscores, involves crafting the conditions not to solve problems, or to resolve questions, but to illuminate regions of thought through which problems- without-solutions can be intuited. Problems “must be given time. The philosopher has not always the patience. How much simpler it is to confine oneself to notions stored up in language!” (2007: 24). The call made by the undercommons is that we refrain from taking on problems that are already recognizable, available, but work instead, collectively, to invent open problems that bring us together in the mode of active inquiry. We must be careful, though, in doing so, not to create false problems. “False problems are of two sorts, ‘nonexistent problems,’ defined as problems whose very terms contain a confusion of the ‘more’ and the ‘less’; and ‘badly stated’ questions, so defined because their terms represent badly analyzed composites” (Deleuze 1988: 17). False problems, like the questions the undercommons does not ask, bring us up against “an illusion that carries us along, or in which we are immersed, inseparable from our condition” (Deleuze 1988: 20). False problems and badly stated questions maintain the status quo. Academic critique and debate are too often played out at the level of false problems and badly stated questions. 10

Introduction

To explore regions of thought that open onto new kinds of problematic processes, I begin the book with an account of research-creation. Research-creation is the term given, in Canada, to academic work that is evaluated both for a creative, usually artistic contribution, and a written, more theoretical or philosophical one.19 On the surface, research-creation is a term without much traction, more a funding category than a conceptual approach. Since 2003, however, when the term came into general usage in Canada, the SenseLab has taken it on as a problem, asking how the hyphen between research and creation opens up the differential between making and thinking.20 This differential, we argue, needs to be kept alive in its difference—philosophy does not require artistic practice any more than art requires philosophy. Different practices must retain their singularity. At the same time, when they do come together, as with research-creation, it is important to inquire into what the hyphenation does to their singularity. We find research-creation to be a fertile field for thinking this cominginto-relation of difference. Problems that arise include: How does a practice that involves making open the way for a different idea of what can be termed knowledge? How is the creation of concepts, in the context of the philosophical, itself a creative process? How can we bring the different registers of art and philosophy, of making-thinking, together in ways that are capable of honoring their difference? In what ways does the hyphen make operational interstitial modes of existence? Here, as we have done at the SenseLab for the past decade, I take research-creation as one of the most lively current modalities, in the academic institution, of problem-making, and I explore how it creates fields of inquiry for reframing how knowledge is practiced beyond typical forms of academic use-value, including the value we place on linguistic expression and language-based evaluation. Research-creation, I argue in chapter 1, has no method to follow, and no ready-made modes of evaluation. The term Moten and Harney propose for the crafting of problems is study, emphasizing that study is not a place where everyone “dissolves into a student” but where there is the acknowledgment that there is no way “of being intellectual that isn’t social.” In a conversation between himself, Stevphen Shukaitis, and Stefano Harney, Moten explains: When I think about the way we use the term “study,” I think we are committed to the idea that study is what you do with other people. It’s talking and walking around with other people, working, dancing, suffering, some irreducible convergence of all three, held under the name In a Minor Key 11

of speculative practice. The notion of a rehearsal—being in a kind of workshop, playing in a band, in a jam session, or old men sitting on a porch, or people working together in a factory—there are these various modes of activity. The point of calling it “study” is to mark that the incessant and irreversible intellectuality of these activities is already present. These activities aren’t ennobled by the fact that we now say, “oh, if you did these things in a certain way, you could be said to be have been studying.” To do these things is to be involved in a kind of common intellectual practice. What’s important is to recognize that that has been the case—because that recognition allows you to access a whole, varied, alternative history of thought. (Moten and Harney 2013: 109–110) Whether we call it study or we call it research-creation and engage directly with knowledge as it is being reframed in pockets of academic discourse, what matters is that there is an explicit disavowal of method as generator of knowledge. For method, aligned as it is to the major, is what seeks to capture the minor gesture, what seeks to capture study, and silence it. With the undercommons as beacon for emergent collectivity, and study, or research-creation, as its mode of engagement, this book attempts to get away from asking questions that already contain their answers. “What I would want to do is not so much keep producing questions but to step to the side of the question a bit and think through the importance of study— that it might be possible to imagine a form of movement or political mobilization that would be driven by or centered on the activity of study in a way that does not require the figuration of the student, or potentially some sort of reification of the figure of the student” (Bousquet, Harney, and Moten 2009: 160). Study, like research-creation, refutes the “subject” of study, and in so doing it also refuses the “object of study.” It does so by always beginning with the creation of a problem that is truly productive of inquiry. In so doing, it opens the field of experience to the more-than of objects or subjects preformed. Study is an act that delights in the activation of the as-yet-unthought. It is an activity of immanent critique, as I argue in chapter 1, an act that only knows the conditions of its existence from within its own process, an act that refuses to judge from without. Study, researchcreation—these are pragmatically speculative practices that, while absolutely entrenched in their own process of making- time, here, now, remain untimely. For as practices, they activate event-time, the time unparsed of the intuitive, a concept I explore further in chapter 2, inventing problems that have no home, no reference yet. Such problems need a collective to 12

Introduction

answer them; they need the undercommons. They require study. And, it bears repeating: what emerges from study will never be an answer. What emerges will be patient experimentation. What emerges will be another mode of encounter, another problem, another opening onto the political as site as yet undefined. W H AT A R T C A N D O

To begin with research-creation is to immediately situate the force of the minor gesture in the activity of the differential. The differential, the active hyphen that brings making to thinking and thinking to making, ensures that research-creation remain an ecology of practices. This ecology of practices needs a punctual proto-event such as the minor gesture to bring its potential into focus. The minor gesture activates the differential such that the ecology’s incipient heterogeneity becomes operational. When this happens, something has begun to take form that exceeds the registers of making on one end and thinking on the other. A movement of thought, as Bergson might say, becomes active, and in this activity a new register begins to take shape. This new register is neither art per se nor philosophy: it is study, it is practice, it is speculation. In most cases research-creation as an academic category is directly concerned with artistic practice. Combined with study, however, the emphasis moves toward the exploration of how modes of making and thinking become consolidated in emergent, collective forms of practice that are artful, if not necessarily artistic in the strong sense. The artful, or what Raymond Ruyer (1958) calls “the aesthetic yield,” is defined throughout as the in-act of the more-than where the force of form remains emergent. Artful practices honor complex forms of knowing and are collective not because they are operated upon by several people, but because they make apparent, in the way they come to a problem, that knowledge at its core is collective. Practices that think multiply are many: they can be activist practices, environmental practices, social practices. They can involve child- rearing, social work, teaching, playing. They can take place on a park bench, in the city, in the classroom, in the kitchen. To think multiply is to think in the register of the hyphen, of the differential, in the complex field of study opened up by the undercommons. In chapter 2, where the concept of the artful takes form, I propose we work not with the current and most typical definition of art, which tends still to foreground an object, but with an aspect of its medieval definition: In a Minor Key 13

art as the way. By focusing on process instead of form, it becomes possible not only to raise the issue of the object—to ask how a focus on the object is similar in many ways to situating the subject as initiator of experience—but to explore how time is engaged in the artistic process. Following Bergson, I turn to intuition, and its manner of making time. I argue that intuition is as key to a process as any other building-block and that through intuition, as allied to the creation of a problem, the artful comes to expression. What art can do when it tweaks toward the artful, what researchcreation can do when the differential is activated by a minor gesture, is to make felt the intervals, the openings and captures within a process that is on its way to becoming a practice. This is explored in more detail in chapter 5. The artful, in my reading of it, is aligned to what I have elsewhere called “autistic perception.”21 Autistic perception is the opening, in perception, to the uncategorized, to the unclassified. This opening, which is how many autistics describe their experience of the world, makes it initially difficult to parse the field of experience. Rather than seeing the parts abstracted from the whole, autistic perception is alive with tendings that create ecologies before they coalesce into form. There is here as yet no hierarchical differentiation, for instance, between color, sound, light, between human and nonhuman, between what connects to the body and what connects to the world. When we engage in practice, when we are subsumed by process, we often seek this kind of perception, and it is available to us all: autistic perception does not belong exclusively to autistics. The difference is that, except in extreme circumstances, most of us parse experience before having a direct experience of the field in its complexity. The autistic, on the other hand, directly perceives the complexity before (and between) the parsings. In the chapters that follow, the artful is always colored by the edgings into perceptibility of autistic perception. I focus on autistic perception not only to honor neurodiversity, to take into account modes of existence I consider key to making our worlds richer, but to make a political case for the necessity of creating techniques and minor gestures that open existence to its perceptual more-than. This is not to deny that autistic perception, for all its perceptual wonders, also makes typical aspects of everyday life difficult to manage. For instance: crossing a street, it is always safer to have been capable of parsing cars from sidewalks from humans. After all, we live in a world that privileges forms of perception where the part can quickly and 14

Introduction

easily be singled out from the whole. By foregrounding the inheritance of autistic perception in the artful, we are reminded that the qualitative openings in experience activated by autistic perception have a value in their own right. The problem is not with autistic perception but with how we constitute and value the frameworks of everyday living. Frameworks of everyday living are also of the event. And so, like all events, they can be modulated by minor gestures. They can be opened up to their potential in ways that intervene into capitalist time. They can become forms of resistance. They can do so, for instance, by altering rhythms, reducing our alignment to the homogeneity of capitalist speed. Altering the speed at which the everyday tends to function creates openings for neurodiverse forms of perception. It also makes time for modes of encounter otherwise elided. This call for the coursing of minor gestures within frames of everyday life involves crafting techniques that create the conditions not for slowness exactly, but for the opening of the everyday to degrees and shades of experience that resist formation long enough to allow us to see the potential of worlds in the making. This involves becoming more attuned to event-time, the nonlinear lived duration of experience in the making. For it is in event-time that the minor gesture tunes the event to what it can do. A politics allied to study, engaged in the crafting of problems that open up the time of the event, is an affirmative politics, not in the sense that it is optimistic, but in the sense that it begins with the in-act and embraces the force of the what else at the heart of all speculative pragmatisms. Such a politics emphasizes the techniques and conditions that lead to the creation of new problems, rather than promising an already- constituted field replete with form and content. Form and content are short-lived, and this makes them false starters. In a politics attuned to emergent difference, we must begin instead in the midst, where force has not yet tuned to form. In this middle, where the event is still welling, there is potential for new diagrams of life-living to be drawn. IN THE ACT

Alternative diagrams for life-living must resist returning to a model of inside-outside where the human subject is situated as the motivator of experience. This is our habit: to make the work about us. When we do so, we set up conditions that are only generative as regards what we perceive as our own well-being. Framing our approach to the political this way, we In a Minor Key 15

place the subject, the human, in the position of agency, promoting the act in terms of the volitional thrust of our own intentionality. Even when we give voice to those silenced, even when we speak in the name of the multitude, even when we talk about the “agency” of an artistic process, even when we try to give agency to an oppressed people, we assume a mediation between an act and its unfolding, most often attributing the push to action to ourselves as a species, while still retaining a strong sense that the world is ultimately led and enhanced by the neurotypical few. This is the problem with agency: it makes the subject the subject of the action. What if the act did not fully belong to us? Around the turn of the twentieth century, both Bergson and William James become invested in this problem of the act. What is it, they ask, that makes us so certain that the act is volitionally directed by a human subject? What is it that gives us the strong sense that the act’s effort belongs to us? And why is it so threatening, I might add, to think that within the act there is a considerable involuntary share of activity? In chapter 6, I explore James’s account of the feeling of effort in detail. Here I will turn to Bergson’s analysis of the same question. The feeling of effort, Bergson suggests, seems to be allied to a muscular sensation: the magnitude associated with an effort is quantified according to the degree of muscular sensation a given activity demands. This suggests that the feeling of effort is allied to consciousness: what we name effort has something to do with a conscious estimation of intensity. Even when the effort is in vain—as in, for instance, picking up what we thought was a heavy box of books but was actually an empty box—the feeling of effort remains. Effort would therefore seem to be aptly connected to a willful movement undertaken, its intensive magnitude linked to the expectation of the amount of muscular contraction needed to follow through with the act. And yet, as both Bergson and James point out, there is an issue with the above analysis. First, intensity cannot be quantified. It is but a shading, a coloring, of the event, in the event. If intensity is felt to have magnitude, the magnitude can only be qualitative. A quantification cannot therefore be assigned to intensity per se, but must instead be connected to a sense of what the intensity represented, after the fact. What this means is that there is an alliance between the feeling of effort and how the event has come to be known in retrospect. This knowing-in-retrospect is the work consciousness does in the parsing of an event.22 Bergson writes: “But just as consciousness . . . concentrates on a given point of the organism the increasing number of muscular contractions which take place on the surface of the 16

Introduction

body, thus converting them into one single feeling of effort, of growing intensity, so it will hypostatize under the form of a growing desire the gradual alterations which take place in the confused heap of coexisting psychic states” (2007: 9). What is felt as quantitative effort is felt consciously, backgrounding not only the qualitative complexity in the event, but intensity’s own qualitative multiplicity. In the parsing that occurs with consciousness, a certain poverty of complexity has been chosen over the confused heap. This leads to the intervals of sensation—its degrees and multiplicities— being flattened into one single overarching feeling. The transition from the complexity of a purely qualitative experience to the feeling of effort occasioned in the conscious accounting of the act makes the intervals of sensation appear “as different intensities of one and the same feeling, which is thus supposed to change in magnitude” (Bergson 2007: 11). Whereas in the nonconscious welling event, every shift caused a change in nature, in turn causing a qualitative transformation in the field of experience, with the onset of consciousness the tendency is to backgrid effect onto cause, creating a solid accounting of change that organizes the event within a temporal grid. This solid accounting is quantifiable only because it can be said to be the same or different—in time, in space, in effect—from the last solid accounting of experience. “Consciousness, accustomed to think in terms of space and to translate its thoughts into roots, will denote the feeling by a single word and will localize the effort at the exact point where it yields a useful result: it will then become aware of an effort which is always of the same nature and increases at the spot assigned to it, and a feeling which, retaining the same name, grows without changing its nature” (Bergson 2007: 26). With consciousness, the feeling tends to move from the event into the subject, where the effort’s magnitude is directly aligned to experiences parsed, past and present. If the feeling of effort is tied to consciousness, it follows that it must be tied to volition. The argument would look like this: when a movement is made consciously, we know the effort contained because movement is volitional, and as such, it belongs to us. A volitional movement, because it is intentional, and because it comes from us, must therefore already include within its parameters the knowledge of how much effort is necessary to carry it out. This effort is learned and comes through repetition. Once the movement becomes a habit it is practiced volitionally, that is, intentionally. We thus have agency over it. We tend to divide movement into two general categories: reflexes or automatic movements, on the one hand, and directed or volitional moveIn a Minor Key 17

ments, on the other. We are taught that reflex, which is considered instinctual and therefore less refined than volitional movement, is a direct, nonconscious response in the event to a cause. A parent running into the street to grab their child before it gets hit by a car is engaged in automatic movement, suddenly capable of amazing acts of strength and stamina, all of which take place nonconsciously. Directed, or volitional movement, on the other hand, is defined as strategized movement. Because it is considered to be beyond instinct, directed movement is said to be more free than automatic movement. After all, it is conscious, and consciousness is said to be a prerequisite for freedom. One sign of this freedom is that volitional movement is said to be able to resist the strict overlay of cause onto effect. For instance, during a game, a soccer player might be taught a strategy that includes moving in a certain way on the field, but she is equally expected to be able to consciously, that is, volitionally, alter course if necessary. Indeed, the soccer player’s talent is often measured by this “free act” of movement she is expected to be able to undertake in the split second of a change in play. This differentiation between conscious and nonconscious movement, between so-called “free” movement, on the one hand, and automatic or reflex movement, on the other, is problematic for several reasons. First, it hierarchizes forms of movement according to conscious behavior, ignoring the complex tendings within consciousness that open it to nonconscious inflections. Second, it classifies as primitive forms of movement that are alive in the event, thus situating autistic perception, for instance, on the side of reflex and neurotypical perception on the side of volition, thereby further cementing the hierarchy. It also confuses two levels of cause and effect in its account of freedom. In the moving, in the act, we are in an immanent cause-effect relation. The soccer player’s active response to a change in play is an account of cause-effect, but one where cause-effect is still in transformation, affected by emergent improvisational movement operations. How the shift in play will affect the game is not strategized consciously by the moving soccer player; the cause-effect scenario is not measured in the doing. Something altogether different is at stake: the soccer player is in the field, is moved by the field; her movement not a response to the play so much as the activation of a new field of relation. The talent ascribed to the soccer player is ultimately due not to her volitional ability to move, but to her capacity to effect cause in the event, opening the field to its potential through intuitive realignings activated by mobile cues, leading to a (re)directing of the game. All movement works this way, as I argue in chapter 5. When we believe we 18

Introduction

have consciously affected the direction of an event, when we feel that an event has been moved by our volition alone, it is because a backgridding onto the event has taken place that has made sense of the play-by-play. This is usually how we explain our actions, but it is not how we act. How we act is based on a continuous interplay of conscious and nonconscious movement with nonconscious movement playing a vital part, especially as regards movement’s creative potential. In our everyday movements, especially in relation to movements that have become habitual, a movement might nonetheless feel completely volitional. When this is the case, what has happened is that we’ve experienced a sense of déjà-felt, in the event. This déjà-felt occurs in the interstices of the conscious and the nonconscious, directing the event to its familiarityin-feeling. What is important to realize, and what I explore further in chapter 7, is that the feeling of volition is not volition itself. The feeling of volition is more aptly defined as a certain recognition, in the moving, of our having already moved “just this way.” But movement-moved is never twice the same: it is always altered by the ecologies that create this singular field of relation, and that influence how it will unfold this time. Volitional movement understood as movement belonging to the subject and fully directed by the subject is, therefore, impossible. Such an account of volition, as suggested above, can only be narrated after the fact. This post facto narration of our movements as volitional is of course more straightforward if the act maintains a certain similarity across variations. Major movements— movements that have a form that can easily be recognized, such as getting on the bus—are therefore more easily post-identified as “volitional” than are minor gestures. Throughout, I consider movement as decisional rather than volitional, decision defined here not as external to the event but as the cut, in the event, through which new ecologies, new fields of relation are crafted. The soccer player’s reorienting of the field was decisional in just this way. Nonconscious movement is decisional in the sense that it is capable of altering the course of the event in the event. Elsewhere, I’ve called the attunement, in the event, toward decisional movement, choreographic thinking, emphasizing the ability of movement to cue and align in spacetimes of composition in ways that open experience to new registers.23 Reflective consciousness actually gets in the way of this process, as dancers and athletes will attest to. Movement-moving is at its most creative, its most operational, when not curtailed by the imposition of narratives of volition and intentionality. In a Minor Key 19

THE NONCONSCIOUS SHARE

Affect is one of the most habitual ways we experience the nonvoluntary in the act. Bergson writes: “The intensity of affective sensations might . . . be nothing more than our consciousness of the involuntary movements which are being begun and outlined” (2007: 35). The force of the affective moves us. When this movement tunes toward an experience that can be defined as such, the conscious share of the nonconscious has briefly made itself felt. Degrees of parsing are possible here. There can, for instance, be a feeling, irreducible to definition but nonetheless semi-consciously ascertained, affectively felt but unarticulated, of an uneasiness or a tremulousness. Or, in cases where affect tunes to emotion, there can be a clearer parsing into the language of a singular feeling. In the second instance, where affect tunes to emotion, there is a shadowing over of the intensity of affect, though an affective trace still remains. In the case of affect, the involuntary tends to be recognized and even accepted, but only insofar as it is considered to have no real effect on our modalities of existence. For we know well that affect is considered lower on the scale than reason or rationality. All is well with affect as long as ultimately we can hold it back and use our volition to steer our feelings, imposing decision from without. The problem should be clear by now. In transposing reason onto affect we are trying to have it both ways: we want to feel the ineffable, yet deceive ourselves into thinking we can sideline the ineffable and leave the bubbling ground of the welling event when it suits us. We want to believe we can decide where the event will take us. This is a mirage that underestimates the force of the nonvoluntary in our daily lives. Because we have little by way of evaluative strategies for the nonvoluntary, because the nonvoluntary resists method, and, in many cases, language, there remains a firm belief that it is of lesser value than conscious, so-called volitional experience. Yet nonconscious experience is full of knowledge: it is, after all, the site of decision. No decision, as mentioned above, is made outside the event’s welling.24 Both Carl Schmitt and Whitehead, in their different ways, emphasize that decision is the cut that opens the event to a new field of relation, not the act that precedes or follows the event. Decision is not what happens after the affective opening of the event to its potential, but what cleaves the event, in the event. The minor gesture is a decisional cut. The decisional cut is everywhere active. Take the example of picking up milk at the corner store. You might assume that this simple act is com20

Introduction

pletely volitional. But much is left open to the event’s own process of decision, even in what seems to be such a simple, habitual act. You may not have realized, for instance, the way your movement was immanently directed and shaped not by your will alone, but by the pull of the corner store, or what James calls the “terminus,” a pull that doesn’t necessarily include a direct follow-through. For while the store did get you up, while its immanent directionality did incite directional mobility, it is possible that in this corner store instance you’re still in your living-room because on the way to the door a song began to play on the radio that brought the couch into focus and you found yourself lying down to listen to it instead of getting milk. Likely, when asked, you will say that you decided to lie on the couch, that you didn’t really need the milk, but in fact the event decided and you followed, open to the nature of the event-based improvisation that is part of all our daily choreographies. I emphasize the nonvolitional in the act because so much is taken for granted in the name of neurotypicality, in the name of volition, of intentionality, of agency. For those who pass as neurotypical, for whom movement usually reads as volitional, it seems absolutely acceptable to have listened to the song on the couch instead of walking to the corner to get milk. But for the autistic or anyone else for whom activation and impulse control may be an issue, the daily experience of not ending up where our movement seemed initially to be directed is not only deeply frustrating, but can also be taken as a sign of our lesser value as human beings: anything that makes us less independent in the eyes of a world that takes intentionality and volition as a normative standard tends to decrease our perceived value as contributors to society.25 One reason we identify nonvoluntary movement as other to neurotypical movement is because we have a tendency to see movement as continuous, a view perpetuated by the habit of backgridding the event in consciousness, thereby introducing homogeneity into the activity after the fact. Movement is of course anything but continuous, its activity constantly inflected by the improvisatory quality of a response, in the event, to cues and alignments. Just think of the last time you moved on a crowded sidewalk. It’s amazing how few people we bump into in the welter of crowds moving! Bergson uses music as an example. For some of us, it is very difficult to select out sensory input. To listen to music might be to hear it as a manytimes-unfolding, untimely complexity. It might mean you hear not the tune as such, or the measure, but the music’s differential, its composite In a Minor Key 21

and rhythmic force of form. For those of us less attuned to autistic perception, however, this is likely not how we hear it. What we hear instead is a more homogenized version: we consciously reduce the sensation of sound’s intensity to a quantitative magnitude that is averaged out. “Thus when we speak of the intensity of a sound of medium force as a magnitude, we allude principally to the greater or less effort which we should have ourselves to expend in order to summon, by our own effort, the same auditory sensation” (Bergson 2007: 44). This averaging out through consciousness distances us from sound as pure quality: “The sound would remain a pure quality if we did not bring in the muscular effort which produces it or the vibrations which explain it” (2007: 46). In the parsing of sound, the music’s qualitative nuance is diminished. To hear the differential of music’s immanent rhythms, to participate directly in the quality of its sounding, it is necessary to hold back the conscious ordering of sensation. It is necessary to increase the duration of the experience of direct perception, thereby honing autistic perception. For Bergson, this means doing away with the idea that sensation can be measured, which also means: articulated, identified, parsed. Parsing, so allied with the neurotypical, not only reduces our capacity to feel the complexity of the event in the event, it perpetuates the hierarchy of conscious experience over nonconscious experience, reason over affect. “What strengthens the illusion on this point is that we have become accustomed to believe in the immediate perception of a homogeneous movement in a homogeneous space” (2007: 49). By situating the event outside of its activity, we become accustomed to neutralizing the force not only of what the event can do, but what the event is doing. In Bergson’s account, this involves a post facto spatialization of duration, of event-time. Continuing with his example of music, Bergson writes: “As I interpret this new series . . . as a continuous movement, and as this movement has the same direction, the same duration and the same velocity as the preceding, my consciousness feels itself bound to localize the difference between the second series of sensations and the first elsewhere than in the movement itself ” (2007: 49–50). What if instead of parsing movement, we dwelt in movement-moving? This would allow us to be more attuned to the differential at the heart of the event, to its immanent contrast. If we did so, we would no longer be able to believe in pure continuity and would perhaps refrain from our tendency to homogenize experience. And we would begin to more easily perceive minor gestures at work. 22

Introduction

Minor gestures recast the field, open it to contrast, make felt its differential. They do so by activating, in the event, a change in direction, a change in quality. The activation of a change in quality is what Bergson defines as freedom. Freedom is here not linked to human volition, nor is it allied to intentionality or agency. Freedom is instead allied to the in-act, to the decisional force of movement-moving, to the agencement that opens the event to the fullness of its potential. Freedom is how the event expresses its complexity, in the event. Bergson’s concept of freedom does not separate out activity from the in-act. In doing so, it radically repositions volition as an aspect of experience, active in the act, no longer the external director of experience mediated. Without a hierarchy of conscious versus nonconscious experience, a more complex compositional field of experience emerges. Here there is still room for mutation, for difference, for an opening toward the asyet-unseen, the as-yet-unthought, the as-yet-unfelt. In these interstices of the as-yet, minor gestures proliferate and can be harnessed toward the reorienting of experience. This is freedom, for Bergson, defined against the usual definition of the free act, which would separate freedom from the in-act, placing freedom side by side with a voluntarist notion of decision. This more typical definition of freedom has us standing outside the event. We are free because we are rational, because we orient the act, because we have agency, because we resist the affective forces of those passions and desires that would steer us in the wrong direction. In this usual definition of freedom, as Bergson says, “we give a mechanical explanation of a fact, and then substitute the explanation for the fact itself ” (2007: 181). This is not the way Bergson conceptualizes freedom. As he writes, “Time is not a line along which one can pass again” and therefore “freedom must be sought in a certain shade or quality of the action itself and not in the relation of this act to what it is not or to what it might have been” (2007: 181–183). Freedom, for Bergson, is dynamic, ecological. Freedom is a quality of the act, an ethos in the act’s opening onto experience. Not all events are free, but in every event we find the germs of freedom. These germs must be tended, must be sown in ways that allow the act to create problems that will in turn generate modes of action, of activity, of activism that create new modes of existence. The minor gesture tends the germs of experience in-forming, opening the act to its potential. In this sense, the minor gesture is a force for freedom. For the gesture is only a minor gesture insofar as it opens the way, insofar as it creates the conditions for a different ecology In a Minor Key 23

of time, space, of politics. The minor gesture, we must remember, is defined by its capacity to vary, not to hold, not to contain. It acts on, moves through, its gesturing always toward a futurity present in the act, but as yet unexpressed. This is its force, this is its call for freedom. In the chapters that follow, this is the operative question: what kinds of practices can be crafted that are generative of minor gestures? What might a politics of the minor gesture act like, here, now, in the event? And how can we articulate the delicate contrast carried by the minor gesture without flattening out difference, homogenizing experience? This poses a significant challenge: how to articulate modes of existence, to articulate fields of experience, that operate as much in the nonconscious as in the conscious realms, how to do so in a language that operates chiefly within the realm of the conscious. Perhaps the first step is not to be too certain of the frame that would separate the nonconscious from consciousness. States of consciousness, Bergson writes, “are processes and not things; . . . if we denote them each by a single word, it is for the convenience of language; that they are alive and therefore constantly changing; that, in consequence, it is impossible to cut off a moment from them without making them poorer by the loss of some impression, and thus altering their quality” (2007: 196). Minor gestures operate at this cusp where the nonconscious and the conscious co-compose, where language operates “beneath the words,” as autistic Amelia (formerly Amanda) Baggs might say (2010). From this position of indeterminacy, of the ineffable, how to make intelligible the singularity of what cannot be measured or categorized but is felt and, in some sense, known? Here, where there is no perceptible difference, as Bergson says, “between foreseeing, seeing and acting,” the minor gesture is key. For the minor gesture can open the way for a different kind of knowing, a knowing in the event, in nonlinear event- time, a knowing that, while impossible to parse, delights in the force of conceptual invention (2007: 198). The minor gesture is an ally of language in the making. “Freedom” may not be a word to hold onto. For now, I use it as a placeholder to remind us that volition and freedom need not be thought of as complementary. I use it also because the neurodiverse are rarely considered free in a world where freedom is usually associated with independence. A serious taking into account of the nonvoluntary aspect of freedom Bergson foregrounds might ultimately make the neurodiverse free, free to be different, free to need and receive facilitation, free to perceive the complexity of experience on their own terms, and free, also, to move, to live, to love in unpredictable ways. For freedom is not to be found in the ordering of ex24

Introduction

perience, in its measure, but in the dynamic intensity of the event’s unfolding. This unfolding affects us, moves us, directs us, but it does not belong to us. Freedom is transversal to the human: it cuts across human experience but is not defined by it. As Bergson writes: “The process of our free activity goes on, as it were, unknown to ourselves, in the obscure depths of our consciousness at every moment of duration” (2007: 237). The heterogeneity of the noncontinuous nature of experience is certainly not easy to articulate, but it is rich, infinitely so. To hear it, it is necessary to refrain from setting experience apart from the in-act.

In a Minor Key 25

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