Saturday, December 01, 2007

Transhumance Jive

Transhumance is the habitation that passes between at least two distinct terrains or grounds. Habitation is the activity of dwelling. "Activity of dwelling" means an ensemble or a project of actions that lend themselves to dwelling. Dwelling is, among other things, the constitution of places. Constitution itself is a kind of intensive placement. Thus the concept of place is the most difficult of all to grasp, the most likely to lead in circles, and we should therefore add to the definition of habitation a concrete element so that it doesn't slip through our fingers. Habitation is also the placement of memory, which is not the emplacement of memory within a terrain, but rather the giving of place to memory. Still, it may be said that habitation places memory. Habitation constitutes place and places memory in a single (habitual) gesture. Memory is but one faculty that is given place by habitation. We might also speak of an erotic faculty given place by habitation. We should push against the boundaries of the psychic and be so bold as to imagine the gustatory as its own faculty with its own meanings, for example. However, in view of the various affordances of the different faculties, they cannot be regarded as equal. Memory is an exceedingly powerful, that is to say enabling, faculty. It is an important fact that habitation gives place to memory.

A place is not the same as a location, though in everyday usage the two terms sometimes appear interchangeable. A locus may be similar to a place, but location is given by a different ensemble of processes than place. Location is given by territorialization. It's tools are the map and the satellite, and it's methods are governed by its tools and a generic territorial intention. Territorialization appears to require habitation (I'll question this in a minute), but habitation does not require territorialization. Locations have recently proliferated faster than places, though places too proliferate. (By "recently" I almost always mean in the past few millennia, though sometimes, as in this case, my thoughts are honed in on the latter half of the past millennium.) The faster proliferation of locations relative to places means that coincidences of place and location may be regarded as evidence of a nostalgic worldfeeling. (A "worldfeeling" is a way of feeling about the world that affects every other feeling, though perhaps not with the force of a Cause). Nostalgia is one of memory's responses to violent displacement. I question whether the "nostalgia" that would result from a hypermodern degradation of habitation can be equated with a modern nostalgia that results more directly from displacement. In either case it feels like the memory suffers a loss. The loss of location means very little for memory. The loss of habitation would be most profound.

Places are also called topoi. The usage is not "merely" metaphorical. Places and topoi result from similar processes, which can be lumped under the rubric of habitation. In any field, on any terrain, a topology is a study of habitations through given places. Well, that's a transhumanist definition of topology, for what it's worth.

Transhumance in the context of hypermodern existence may be colored by a nostalgic affect. I'm not talking about transhumance in order to assuage any pains or to re-cover any meanings, and therefore rather than speak of a hypermodern degradation of habitation I would speak of a crisis of habitation, if that really describes a recognizable situation. I will not take a position on whether transhumance has been outmoded by modern and hypermodern modes of habitation, as it is much too soon to tell what will become of transhumance, and how conflicts between modes of habitation will be negotiated in the future. In any case, transhumance allows us to critically appreciate the difference between places and terrains, and it allows us to understand habitation transterritorially, though one can expect transterritorial assertions to be contested, and people will in fact kill each other over differing constitutions and reconstitutions of places, which is what is at stake in confrontations between territorial and transterritorial worldfeelings. I wouldn't want to valorize either side in such a dispute.

It is not because places can be remembered that they can be reconstituted, but rather it is because places are reconstituted that they can be remembered. It would not be possible to remember a place if place had not been given to memory as replacement, as reconstituted place. Memory would not know how to recieve place unless it were given as replace, or replacement if you must. This is the first important lesson of transhumance. Habitation replaces memory.

Once it is understood that constitution and placement are reconstitution and replacement the prefix becomes redundant. It should not be thought there is something like Repetition standing behind constitution waiting to be instanced, or giving force to an instantiation. We could say that there is no originary place, but it would be just as true to say that every place is originary, which is to say that it wouldn't be true at all. Originary simply never enters into it. Habitation, which is especially clear in the case of transhumance, constitutes place as reconstitution without ever making a copy of place. This is why attempts to copy place on any ground feel false. Such "places" always feel unlived in, at odds with any worldfeeling that would accord with a habitation. There may however be no reason to feel to nostalgic about habitation amidst copies of places; one simply has to recognize how one lives, or how one might be able to live.

Where do places come from? It might appear that habitation takes from terrain in order to give place. This is deceptive. Habitation is ingenious in its manipulation of the gift economy. It can give and take in a single gesture, regive and retake without once violating the gift. The gift of place is virtually inexhaustible. Habitation might appear as the source of all giving of place. This too is deceptive. Habitation gives without being the source. Before there can be a source source must be given by habitation, but habitation never has the status of a source, and is never itself a gift. Places, then, do not pass through habitation on their way to becoming places. They are precisely given by habitation.

Does transhumance give place less deeply than intranshumance? Absolutely not. Transhumance gives place to memory to the same extent as any other mode of habitation. Transhumant places are as intensely placy as intranshumant places. There is no quality or essence of place lacking from the transhumant place. Thus everything received wisdom tells us about knowledge will have to be upset. That's all I'm going to say for now.

Oops. Almost forgot to say that territorialization has essentially nothing to do with habitation. To say that territorialization requires habitation is to implicitly support a claim. I won't do that.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:53 PM.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

transiently jiving:

Steven Shapiro says v. recently:

Deleuze’s Aesthetics
I have been in Chicago the last few days, attending the annual meeting of SPEP (The Society for Phenomenological and Existential Philosophy).
I gave a paper this afternoon as part of a panel on “Deleuze’s Aesthetics.”
The talk will probably never be published as an article, since it is basically a patchwork, cobbled together from various passages taken from several chapters of my in-progress book on Kant, Whitehead, and Deleuze. But for what it’s worth, I am posting it here (pdf).

December 02, 2007 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

December 02, 2007 11:31 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Thanks. That was interesting.

December 03, 2007 9:07 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

Combined with some of your recent comments on Deleuze, the critique of representation, repetition and difference, these comments here gave me an insight into how our concept of place(I may be messing up technical distinctions you've just introduced,sorry)relates to representation (sameness.)

December 03, 2007 12:42 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Sure there is the disctinction I've drawn between place and location. I wouldn't necessarily align representation with one or the other. Were I to begin to criticize representation, I would question the -pre- and what beforeness could mean. I might be tempted to align location with repostsentation. The real action though would be with reabsentation.

I'm curious, Yusef. What are your thoughts regarding place and representation?

December 04, 2007 8:44 AM  

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