body without organs

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  A phrase initially taken from Antonin Artaud, the Body without Organs (BwO) refers to a substrate that is also identified as the plane of consistency (as a non-formed, non-organised, non-stratified or destratified body or term). The term first emerged in Deleuze's The Logic of Sense, and was further refined with Guattari in Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. The BwO is proposed as a means of escaping what Deleuze and Guattari perceive as the shortcomings of traditional (Freudian, Lacanian) psychoanalysis. Rather than arguing that desire is based on Oedipal lack, they claim desire is a productive-machine that is multiple and in a state of constant flux. And whereas psychoanalysis proclaims closure and interpretation, their critique of the three terms (organism, significance and subjectification) that organise and bind us most effectively suggests the possibility of openings and spaces for the creation of new modes of experience. Rather than proceeding directly to invert or deconstruct terms dominant in the production of identity and consciousness, they suggest that implicit within, between, and all around these are other - possibly more affective - fields of immanence and states of being.
  Attention is refocused away from the subjectivity (a term they feel is too often mistaken for the term 'consciousness') traditionally privileged by psychoanalysis as Deleuze and Guattari challenge the world of the articulating, self-defining and enclosed subject. The BwO is the proposed antidote (as well as precedent, antecedent and even correlate) to this articulate and organised organism; indeed, they claim that the BwO has no need for interpretation. The BwO does not exist in opposition to the organism or notions of subjectivity, and it is never completely free of the stratified exigencies of proper language, the State, family, or other institutions. However, it is, despite this, both everywhere and nowhere, disparate and homogeneous. In terms of this, there are two main points to note: firstly, that the BwO exists within stratified fields of organisation at the same time as it offers an alternative mode of being or experience (becoming); secondly, the BwO does not equate literally to an organ-less body.
  In reference to the first point, Deleuze and Guattari explain that although the BwO is a process that is directed toward a course of continual becoming, it cannot break away entirely from the system that it desires escape from. While it seeks a mode of articulation that is free from the binding tropes of subjectification and signification, it must play a delicate game of maintaining some reference to these systems of stratification, or else risk obliteration or reterritorialisation back into these systems. In other words, such subversion is an incomplete process. Instead, it is continuous and oriented only towards its process or movement rather than toward any teleological point of completion. Consistent with this, and in order to be affective (or to have affect) it must exist - more or less - within the system that it aims to subvert.
  Deleuze and Guattari take Miss X as their role model. A hypochondriac, she claims to be without stomach, brain, or internal organs, and is left with only skin and bones to give structure to her otherwise disorganised body. Through this example, they explain that the BwO does not refer literally to an organ-less body. It is not produced as the enemy of the organs, but is opposed to the organisation of the organs. In other words, the BwO is opposed to the organising principles that structure, define and speak on behalf of the collective assemblage of organs, experiences or states of being. Whereas psychoanalysis privileges 'lack' as the singular and productive force that maintains desire, Deleuze and Guattari claim that by binding and judging desire in this way, our understanding and relationship with the real or Imaginary becomes further removed and compromised.
  Elaborating further on the nature of the BwO, Deleuze also invokes the German biologist, August Weismann, and his 'theory of the germplasm' (1885, published 1893) to contend that - like the germplasm - the BwO is always contemporary with and yet independent of its host organism. Weismann believed that at each generation, the embryo that develops from the zygote not only sets aside some germplasm for the next generation (the inheritance of acquired features) but it also produces the cells that will develop into the soma - or body - of the organism. In Weismann's view, the somaplasm simply provides the housing for the germplasm, to ensure that it is protected, nourished and conveyed to the germplasm of the opposite sex in order to create the next generation. What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Weismann would insist the chicken is simply one egg's device for laying another egg. Similarly, Deleuze presents the BwO as equivalent to the egg; like the egg, the BwO does not exist before or prior to the organism, but is adjacent to it and continuously in the process of constructing itself.
  Instead of slotting everything into polarised fields of the norm and its antithesis, Deleuze and Guattari encourage us to remove the poles of organisation but maintain a mode of articulation. They advise that in seeking to make ourselves a BwO, we need to maintain a mode of expression, but rid language of the central role it has in arbitrating truth and reality against madness and the pre-symbolic real. Relocating desire away from a dichotomous linguistic trajectory, Deleuze and Guattari present it as being contextualised by the field of immanence offered by the BwO rather than by the conclusive field of language. As such, desire is always already engaged in a continuous process of becoming. However, despite occupying (and in some cases embodying) a field of immanence or a plane of consistency, which are often described as being destratified, decoded and deterritorialised, the BwO has its own mode of organisation (whose principles are primarily derived from Baruch Spinoza). Rather than being a specific form, the body is more correctly described as uncontained matter or a collection of heterogeneous parts.
   § becoming
   § body
   § desire
   § psychoanalysis

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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