By Way of Nomadism

‘By Way of Nomadism’ 22-68, in:

Braidotti, Rosi, 2011. Nomadic subjects: embodiment and sexual difference in contemporary feminist theory, 2nd ed. ed, Gender and culture. Columbia University Press, New York.

Contrary to fashionable uses of the word, I have taken the postmodern to indicate a specific moment in history. It is a moment in which the in-depth transformations of the system of economic production are also altering traditional social and symbolic structures.

In the West the move away from manufacturing toward a service  and information-based structure entails a global redistribution of labor, with the rest of the world and especially the developing countries providing most of the underpaid off-shore production.
My task is to attempt to redefine a transmobile materialist theory of feminist subjectivity that is committed to working within the parameters of the postmodern predicament, without romanticising it but also without nostalgia for an allegedly more wholesome past.
One of the strengths of feminist theory is the desire to leave behind a linear mode of intellectual thinking, the teleologically ordained style of argumentation most of us have been trained to respect and emulate.
Nomadism is an invitation to disidentify ourselves from the sedentary phallogocentric monologism of philosophical thinking and to start cultivating the art of disloyalty.
The starting point for most feminist redefinitions of subjectivity is a new form of materialism that develops the notion of the corporeal by emphasising the embodied and therefore sexually-differentiated structure of the speaking subject.
The body or the embodiment of the subject is to be understood as neither a biological nor a sociological category, but rather as a point of overlapping between the physical, the symbolic and the sociological.
A nomadic vision of the body defines it as multifunctional and complex, as a transformer of flows and energies, affects, desires, and imaginings.
Complexity is the key to understanding the multiple affective layers, complex temporal variables, and internally contradictory time and memory lines that frame our embodied existence. In contrast to the oppositions created by a dualistic mode of social constructivism, a nomadic body is a threshold of transformations.
In feminist theory one speaks as a woman, although the subject “woman” is not a monolithic essence, defined once and for all, but rather the site of multiple, complex, and potentially contradictory set of experiences, determined by overlapping variables such as class, race, age, lifestyle, and sexual prefernce.
One speaks as a woman in order to empower women, to activate sociosymbolic changes in their condition: this is a radically antiessentialist position.
The nomadic subject is a myth, or a political fiction, that allows me to think through and move across established categories and levels of experience: blurring boundaries without burning bridges.
Deleuze’s work on lines of escape and becoming is of great inspiration here: nomadic becoming is neither reproduction nor just imitation, but rather emphatic proximity, intensive interconnectedness. Some states or experiences can merge simply because they share certain attributes. Nomadic shifts enact therefore a creative sort of becoming; they are a performative metaphor that allows for otherwise unlikely encounters and unsuspected sources of interaction experience and knowledge.
What I find empowering in the practice of “as if” is precisely its potential for opening up, through successive repetitions and mimetic strategies, spaces where alternative forms of agency can be engendered. In other words parody can be politically empowering on the condition of being sustained by a critical consciousness that aims at engendering transformations and changes.
The nomadic subject is a performative image, a political myth that allows me to weave together different levels of of my experience […]
Nomadic subjects are capable of freeing the activity of thinking from the hold of phallogocentric dogmatism, returning thought to its freedom, its liveliness, its beauty.
Discourse, meant in the poststructuralist sense of a process of production of ideas, knowledges, texts, and sciences, is something that theory relates to and rests upon in order to codify and systematize its diversity into into an acceptable scientific norm.
The normativity of high theory, however, is also its limitation, because discourse, being a complex network of interrelated trutg effects, exeeds theory’s power of codificaton.
Thus philosophy has to “run after” all sorts of new discourses (women, postcolonial subjects, the digital media and other new technologies, etc.) in order to be able to incorporate them and codify them.
Donna Haraway reminds us, high theory is a cannabalistic machine aiming at assimilation of all new, even alien, bodies. Fortunately, nomads can run faster and endure longer trips than most; thus they cannot be assimilated easily.
Last but not least, Lacanian psychoanalysis privileges the feminine as a productive site of intelligent and lucid resistance to the delusions of grandeur of the Phallic subject.
[…] I see feminism today as the activity aimed at articulating the questions of individual. embodied, gendered identity with issues related to political subjectivity, connecting them both with the problem of knowledge and epistemological legitimation. Embodied materialism is my political ontology.
The critical nomadic project allows for internal contradictions and attempts to negotiate between unconscious structures of desire and conscious political choices.
There are no mother tongues, just linguistic sites from which one takes her starting point.
All knowledge is situated , that is to say, partial; we are all stuttering for words, even when we speak “fluently”.
Many contemporary critical thinkers bank of the affective as a force capable of freeing us from hegemonic habit of thinking.
Affectivity in this scheme stands for the preconscious and the prediscursive: desire is not only unconscious but remains nonthought at the very heart of our thought because it is what sustains the very activity of thinking.
Our desires are that which evades us, in the very act of propelling us forth, leaving as the only indicator of who we are, the traces of where we have already been, that is ti say, of what we have already ceased to be. Identity is a retrospective notion.