The Becoming-Animal of Being Caribou: Art, Ethics, Politics

Dianne Chisholm

[1] In 2003, Canadian wildlife biologist Karsten Heuer and film maker/environmentalist Leanne Allison spent five months and three seasons filming, writing and tracking-on-foot a Porcupine Caribou Herd migration across the high Arctic of western Yukon and eastern Alaska. Being Caribou is the title they give their respective productions. [1] Deploying different artistic media, Heuer and Allison chronicle the vicissitudes of their passage from an oil-consumptive civilization to the caribou-charged tundra and back again. Their aim is to tell the story of the ordeal of migration that the caribou annually endure, and to add a whole other perspective to the controversial prospect of opening the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. Though plans to drill on caribou calving-grounds were part of this prospect, only human stakes in ANWR's future had made the news. As Heuer dissents in his Prologue–

It was a classic development-versus-conservation dilemma, and it had attracted plenty of media attention. Cover stories had run in Time, National Geographic, Vanity Fair, and a host of other magazines, and numerous documentaries had aired on television. But as I read and watched all of these, I realized I wasn't hearing the voice of the caribou. It was always the experts doing the talking, citing numbers and statistics that can't really be compared: Six months' worth of oil versus 27,000 years of migration. The culture of about 4,000 caribou-eating Gwich'in versus the financial benefits to a handful of company executives and shareholders. Millions of mammals and birds versus billions of barrels of oil. Nowhere was there a hint of what I'd felt out there on the tundra. Nowhere did I find the story of the caribou herd itself. (BC, 18)

For Heuer, the lay of the land lies beyond "numbers and statistics" that, in any case, cannot quantify and equate the different values at stake in urban economics and tundra ecology, or sustainable development and traditional hunting and gathering. He ventures, instead, to conjure the life and landscape that is immanent to being caribou, replacing his scientific point of view with an artistic frame of vision. In writing he figures a transference of being, thinking and feeling that allows us to sense what it is to be caribou through the volatile seasons and phases of migration against a background of threatening, industrial encroachment.

[2] Both book and film attempt to present "the story of the caribou itself" to make humans aware of the realities of migratory life that caribou so powerfully and precariously endure, as well as to provoke a sense of how this animal and territory will be affected by oil and gas development. But the book, I contend, goes further than the film in imaging the unfathomable metamorphoses that become the animal in migration and that become the two human caribou-trackers in relation to the animal. Allison sharply foregrounds the physical extremes that caribou endure over their migratory trajectory, as well as the variations of body and emotion that "Karsten" and "Leanne" experience as they keep apace of the herd. Likewise, Heuer articulates passages of extreme travel and experience. But these passages tend to shift from a physical to a metaphysical direction, and the distance of difference between the human and the animal uncannily starts to blur. There is a sense that one gets from reading the book that one does not get from viewing the film that we are seeing, feeling and thinking our way into a wholly different, nonhuman, yet no less real world where drilling pads and industrial grids have no viable place.

[3] Heuer's version of Being Caribou is, I argue, a form of ecological activism that has little resemblance to conventional, representational, politics. At the end of his book, Heuer notes how miserably he and Allison fail to win bureaucratic attention when they visit Capitol Hill to lobby directly on the caribou's behalf. Yet, failure to translate their wilderness adventure into domestic politicking might be read as an attestation to their success in being caribou. On the tundra they are charged by an intensity of proximity to the animal in its territory, whereas in Washington, D.C, their capacity to mobilize "members of the U.S. Senate and Congress who had never seen a caribou" is limited to the extent they are removed–"more than 4,000 miles from the range of the Porcupine Caribou Herd" (BC, 230). Conversely, Heuer is able to convey in writing that contagion of feeling which compels two humans to make a pact with caribou and form a trans-species alliance against George W. Bush's notorious "drill, baby, drill!" campaign. Heuer's power to compose a landscape of sensation that sees how caribou affect and are affected by the things of their world, as well as to imagine a "bodies politic" of more-than-human forces, is a power worthy of critical investigation and the focus of this essay.

[4] I begin this investigation, then, with the premise that the power of Heuer's writing derives from a capacity to articulate and mobilize caribou affects. Writing for caribou as a human ally rather than for the State as a wildlife officer, Heuer conjures strange, even otherworldly, ideas of "becom[ing] caribou":

Guided by forces and knowledge we'd never known existed, we had stumbled into a dimension that neither university education, religious teachings, nor anything else in our Western upbringing had taught. It had taken a while, but for a few brief weeks we'd become caribou: content in our suffering, secure in our insecurity, fully exercising the wildness that had been buried within us all along. (BC, 221-22)

Though clearly no fantasy, the claim that "we'd become caribou" is somewhat preposterous, especially coming from a wildlife biologist. But suppose we take Heuer at his word: what visions and prospects does his testament evoke? With what ethical and political provocations? Should we take his word to be literal or metaphorical, and what difference does it make? To my mind, it makes all the difference. The change that Heuer's human characters undergo in proximity to the caribou is so intense that at times his first-person narrator has trouble telling them and the caribou apart. Such indiscernibility complicates the usual, anthropomorphic frame of view and cannot be attributed to empathic projection on the part of his narrating self, who is psychically undone by his caribou encounters. Nor is it by analogy or resemblance that he and Leanne become caribou, though often they appear as bone-weary and bug-ridden as the herd. They become caribou not because they like, or are like, caribou. Rather, they become caribou to the mysterious degree that the forces and stresses of migration pass through and between human and animal beings with powerful, intermingling effect. We see this best in scenes where Heuer's narrator closes-in on the herd or the herd closes-in on him, and he enters and is enveloped by the caribou's collective body. In these moments, we see Heuer see himself seeing caribou from a perspective that is no longer his own but that emerges from an affecting and disorienting contact with the animal. He and we are, then, afforded real possibilities of thinking, feeling and acting beyond what it is to be human.

[5] To understand the ontological import of Heuer's writing experiment, I turn to philosophy and, specifically, to the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. Though Heuer nowhere indicates that he has read these philosophers, I contend that their idea of "becoming-animal" offers an auspicious framework for illuminating the metaphysics and minor politics of Being Caribou. Deleuze and Guattari understand Being to be a non-linear evolutionary process of "Becoming-other," and they are especially concerned to rethink philosophy's anthropocentrism with a radical focus on the nonhuman becoming of Man and Nature. They advocate an idea of "becoming-animal" to complicate the idea of human Being: "We believe in the existence of very special becomings-animal traversing human beings and sweeping them away, affecting the animal no less than the human." [2] Also, they elaborate this idea in a complex web, or "rhizome," of immanently connected ideas–ideas such as "nomadology," "territorialization" and "symbiogenesis"–to rethink the nature of Nature. [3] Deleuze further underlines the ontological connections between writing and becoming, and he analyzes the ethical and political potential that he discovers in the literary "fabulation" of various becomings-animal (e.g. Kafka's becoming-insect, D.H. Lawrence's becoming-tortoise, Melville's becoming-whale). [4] With Deleuze and Guattari in mind, I can make sense of Heuer's preposterous claim to have "become caribou."

[6] To begin my investigation I explain a few of Deleuze and Guattari's ideas that I regard as key to reading Heuer's writing and wilderness adventure. First and foremost is their idea of "becoming-animal," or more precisely, "the becoming-animal of Man." This idea challenges the thinking of the majority in that it folds together, or inter-implicates, supposedly discrete categories of differentiated Being ("human" and "animal") in a singular process of "Becoming." For Deleuze and Guattari, Being is a complex matter of nonlinear evolution, of individual beings becoming infinitely other than what they are. When a being (human or animal) undergoes "a becoming-animal," it partakes in a "creative involution" or "symbiosis" across species' lines. Ontology, that is, involves ethology, or the nature of animal behavior. Ethology, in turn, involves ethics, an "immanent" ethics that takes account of how bodies behave in relation to other bodies in ways more or less beneficial to the "Life" of their mutual entanglement. The idea of becoming-animal is, moreover, political in that the being (human or animal) that undergoes a process of "becoming-animal" also undergoes a "becoming-minor" or "minoritization." In the event of "a becoming-animal of Man," the categorical hierarchy that divides the human from the animal is undermined and complicated by a "transversal" flow of (infra-, intra- and inter-) relations across species at the "molecular" level. In becoming-animal, the human being is freed from capture by "molar" specifications that define and domesticate a vital, human potential to enter into creative, cross-species compositions ("heterogenesis" or "symbiogenesis"). Just as the human being who undergoes a becoming-animal is free to become other-than-Man in relation to animals and other beings, the animal that undergoes a becoming-animal is free to become other-than-the-generic animal in relation to other animals and beings.

[7] The idea of "becoming-animal" is, at once, ontological, eth(olog)ical and political, and, as such, it offers a critical framework for illuminating the contentious claims and radical articulations of Heuer's Being Caribou–claims and articulations that conservationist narratives do not typically deploy. First and foremost, I use the ontology of "becoming-animal" to explain the implicit metaphysics of Heuer's writing. I then turn my attention to the inter-implications of becoming and writing that Heuer insinuates into his composition of landscapes and events. Using Deleuze's concept of "fabulation," I illuminate the art of becoming-animal with which Heuer creates and mobilizes what we might call "caribou affects" and "tundra percepts." The remaining two sections of my essay investigate the activist component of Heuer's writing in light of Deleuze and Guattari's ethology/ethics and becoming-minor. Ultimately, I show how Heuer forms a conservationist thinking that deploys tactics other than representational politics. By giving vision to animal realities that elude categorization and measure, Heuer, I demonstrate, makes it possible to see the unfathomable degree to which drilling in ANWR will affect caribou well-being.

The becoming-animal of Being Caribou

[8] Biological being is not the focus of Heuer's Being Caribou. It is not the species that captures the writer's imagination, even if Heuer is a scientist trained to look for variables of animal specification. His regard for the animal is stirred, instead, by a sense that, whenever he feels his body and the earth tremble with the sound of amassing caribou, or whenever he sees caribou flow across the tundra amidst storms and floods, he and the caribou cross ontological boundaries. The caribou that populates his landscapes is not detached from other life forms. Nor does it remain the same, fixed entity through contingencies of climate, season and terrain. It is not Rangifer tarandus granti that leaps across Heuer's page; rather, what animates his writing is a figural enfolding of caribou with other species and beings into something unspecifiable. What this "something" is defies taxonomy and calls for an exploration in ontology that Deleuze and Guattari help me conduct.

[9] For these philosophers, there is more to Life than Being–namely, Becoming. Becoming-animal is a process whereby a singular, protean animal emerges from the animal type that biology classifies it to be. Unleashed from the stability of taxonomy, the animal becomes an unstable, mutable "haecceity." [5] Becoming-animal is not the animal fixed in its essence but an animal thrown into existence, where it is given to different material flows and intensities, and where it is drawn into heterogeneous couplings to unpredictable effect. It is a "virtual" process whereby actual, individual beings of different species and strata impact one another, transferring molecular bodies from one order to another in non-reproductive creation. Evolution, Deleuze and Guattari contend, occurs not only through filiation but also, if not more so, through "unnatural participations" across species lines (TP, 242). Animals evolve in assemblage with other animals, as well as with manifold earth forces that animate their environment (TP, 239).

[10] A ready example of such creative involution can be found in Rick Bass's Caribou Rising, where Bass imagines caribou hooves evolving in conjunction with snow and permafrost to become shovels for digging up snow-buried fodder and springs for launching off ice-bound earth. [6] Heuer imagines a similar hoof-tundra assemblage in a figure of "click[ing . . .] tendons like hundreds of clocks" that sound an animal passage of geological time (BC, 61). Bass's image helps us see how caribou anatomy evolves with tundra geography, while Heuer's image helps us see how tundra geology evolves with caribou tracking: "hours-old tracks give way to ruts underneath, carved deep into the rocky ground by millions of hooves" (BC, 105). Both Bass and Heuer compare the ecological imprint of caribou negatively to the industrial footprint of oil and gas development. But Heuer also sees caribou weave a rhizome of Life across the earth, where each rut "is a respun strand in an ancient blanket, an intricate stitch work covering four mountain ranges, two countries, and every valley, plain, and peak in a living, breathing, pulsing web'" (BC, 105).

[11] Heuer figures caribou less as an animal species than as an otherworldly realm, or a dimension of reality into which humans enter and are virtually transformed. He expresses astonishment at how he and Leanne are "guided by forces and knowledge we'd never known existed" and exposed to a life that "a Western upbringing" has not prepared them for (BC, 221-22). The precise mechanism that carries them into this "different dimension" eludes him, but he points to "the act of moving" and "the work of being caribou" as the material means of transport:

June 25–Clarence River, Alaska–. . . it is the act of moving that has brought me here; the work of being caribou: the miles, the weather, the bears, and the uncertainty, hammering every extraneous thought, action, question, phone number, and song from my head. Cleansed, I am on the edge of something, some other realm of knowing, being pushed and pulled through the same physical world but in a different dimension of space and time. (BC, 164-65)

By "working" to stay with the herd and to endure "the miles, the weather, the bears and the uncertainty" that the herd, itself, endures, the two caribou-trackers cross the border of the Other. Human intention and action are not the drivers. Rather, Heuer senses "being pushed and pulled" by some other forces ("forces and knowledge we'd never known had existed" [BC, 221]). The world into where he is being pushed and pulled is imminently near: "the same physical world but in a different dimension of space and time." We might think of this same but different physical world as the metaphysical realm that Deleuze and Guattari call "the virtual." The virtual, they explain, is not another Reality; rather, it is a power of chaos that lends becoming a morphological force without shaping any actual thing. There are passages in Being Caribou where Heuer's narrating self and "Leanne" become virtually other when they match their circadian rhythms to those of caribou, though they do not turn into actual, molar animals with horns and hooves. Other passages see him become virtually entangled with caribou at extremely close range. One scene, for example, figures "heartbeats and footsteps mingling while we [he and three bulls] inhaled each other's breath"; the animal's presence is so intense that he virtually "experienc[es] caribou experiencing themselves" (BC, 196). In Deleuze and Guattari's words, we could say that he enters a "zone of proximity" where the human and the animal are no longer discernible (TP, 273). He and the caribou form not an actual hybrid but a virtual "body without organs" (TP, 156), or an impact and relay of bodily affects that has an intensive body of its own. [7]

[12] In another passage, Heuer's narrator and "Leanne" adapt their regimens and routines to caribou life so intensively that caribou virtually become their existence:

Pushed by the caribou, we fooled our bodies into doing more with less. We wolfed down dinner in the morning, scooped in handfuls of nuts or skipped lunch altogether, and paused for quick breakfasts in the middle of the night. Tired and confused, we moved beyond nagging hunger, beyond the blunt edge of exhaustion, beyond the limits of each day before. Awash in caribou, we came upon entire drainages–the Kolakut, the Kongakut, the Palokat, the Clarence–unanticipated and unnamed until we later looked at the map. . . . No longer did we know where we were or where we were going; caribou became our existence." (BC, 163)

Breathing, eating and moving in time with caribou, the two caribou-trackers walk off the map of human territory and jettison the grid of rationality. Heuer's narrator hears the beating of hooves "hammering every extraneous thought, action, question, phone number, and song from [his] head"; no longer do the earworms of quotidian communication occupy his brain (BC, 164-65). Losing themselves in a caribou world, they escape the anxieties of staying on track: "we'd become caribou: content in our suffering, secure in our insecurity, fully exercising the wildness that had been buried within us all along" (BC, 222).

[13] Some passages of Being Caribou figure molecular caribou bodies virtually infiltrating the molar, human body. [8] In these passages the "old boundaries" that refrain consciousness are seen to erode:

Scat, hair, and the heavy scent of running, racing animals infiltrated everything–our clothes, our sleeping bag, our food, and the water we gulped down in great handfuls from the creeks. Dizzy and disoriented, we found that old boundaries began to blur, and the caribou that had dominated one realm of consciousness slipped into another, occupying our dreams." (BC, 163)

The art of becoming-caribou

[14] The caribou that slips from one realm of consciousness to another is the writer's cue to turn from science to art, and to try to articulate a becoming caribou outside the biologist's disciplinary limits. This is not to say that Heuer indulges in fiction. Rather, he writes a form of creative non-fiction that Deleuze's concept of "fabulation" helps, I argue, to explain. For Deleuze, "there is no literature without fabulation." [9] Fabulation is not a representation of the actual but a sensation of the possible. [10] Using language, syntax and technique, the writer invents figures, or "affects" and "percepts" with which we can feel, see and think the otherwise imperceptible possibilities of becoming. Affects and percepts are, then, "possibles," or aesthetic figures that conjure forth abstract intensities–"sensations"–from actual affections and perceptions. [11]

[15] Sensations are the stuff of artistic thinking, just as concepts and functions are the stuff of philosophical and scientific thinking. They do not spontaneously come to the writer; he must create them to think with them. Even on the tundra Heuer composes field notes to make sense/sensations of his caribou experiences that overwhelm his Western, scientific mind. He cites directly from these field notes at threshold moments of narrative perception, thereby figuring "wildness" without taming it by imposing retrospective interpretation. Being Caribou is replete with non-narrative, a-signifying and sensational passages that provoke readers to see and feel beyond what they know.

[16] As the writer initiates a process of fabulation, fabulation initiates the writer in a process of becoming, or so Deleuze contends.

Writing is a question of becoming, always incomplete, always in the midst of being formed, and goes beyond the matter of any livable or lived experience. It is a process, that is, a passage of Life that traverses both the livable and the lived. Writing is inseparable from becoming: in writing, one becomes-woman, becomes-animal or vegetable, becomes-molecule to the point of becoming-imperceptible. [12]

We can see the inter-implication of writing and becoming in Being Caribou whenever Heuer figures a crossing from one realm of consciousness to another or from one form of being (human) to another (caribou). Crossing is writing is becoming: a passage that is "always incomplete" and finds no original or final form. [13] In writing a becoming-caribou of Man, Heuer does not imitate the animal; rather, he creates sensations of intense in-betweeness that resembles nothing (e.g. "heartbeats and footsteps mingling while we inhaled each other's breath" [BC, 196]). [14]

[17] Whatever experience Heuer occasions in the field, what lives on in his writing is something else: a "passage of Life that traverses both the livable and the lived." If lived sensations are ephemeral, artistic sensations are "monumental." [15] Yet, art's monumentality does not mortify life as taxonomy does. Fabulations of becoming-caribou elude capture by disciplined perception, and they eternally challenge our efforts to corral mystery into utilitarian definition. Long after the two caribou-trackers actually leave the scene, "Karsten" and "Leanne" are still out on the landscape of Being Caribou vibrating with sensations of becoming that have no perishable, sensory referents.

[18] Crossing from a scientific to an artistic frame of view, Heuer radically alters his–and our–way of thinking. Caribou cue him to dream in place of scientific rationality, and to foreground the animal body over the human mind. His field notes underscore this schizoid "split":

wildlife biologist turned dreamer and back again: a rational mind and a not-so-rational body discovering wildness for the first time. It's as though my spirit has split–cariboulike when I'm with the animals, humanlike when I'm not, crisscrossing the tundra in search of some middle ground." (BC, 180)

Heuer's crisscrossing the tundra involves crisscrossing in thinking–from human/rational to animal/non-rational–that writing mediates. Writing, whether in the field or afterwards at his desk, is Heuer's conduit to "discovering wildness for the first time." A prosthesis of extra-sensory perception, it allows him to view the events and terrain of migration caribou-wise. Deleuze and Guattari help to explain such onto-epistemological shifts (from mind to body, from human perception to caribou percepts) by contending that art and science think differently. Art thinks in "sensations" on a "plane of composition," whereas science thinks in "functions" on "plane of reference." [16] Moreover, art can think "transversally" with scientific functions in artistic ways, just as science can think transversally with artistic sensations in scientific ways. I would argue that such transversal thinking is the possible "middle ground" that Heuer's figure of "crisscrossing the tundra" aspires to map.

[19] Heuer's switch in thinking is acutely noticeable when his narrator stammers at the prospect of defining strange vibrations that caribou seem to emit but that the earth oddly amplifies. Unable to locate and identify their source, or to measure their audibility and interpret their meaning, he composes a "landscape of sensation." [17] Instead of identifying functions and mapping coordinates, he fabulates sensations–affects and percepts–that make it possible to think what science cannot define. Some projection is involved. For just as the writer abstracts from the landscape sights and sounds that he actually sees and hears, he projects "visions" and "auditions" back onto the actual landscape. [18] Raising visionary from sensory landscapes, he is "a seer, a becomer." [19] Yet, as he projects himself into the landscape, the landscape absorbs him into the composition, so that it is more accurate to say that "the landscape sees" not the writer. [20] Heuer raises visionary from sensory landscapes, becoming a "dreamer" ("seer") instead of a wildlife biologist.

[20] The most dramatic example of thinking artistically in Being Caribou occurs in landscapes vibrating with various animal, geological and meteorological bodies. Whatever it is that the writer "sounds," it cannot be translated or interpreted as mere animal signs. We could say that a strange "audition" resonates at the limit of language and sense across Heuer's tundra in a running motif that he calls "the thrumming." His narrator hears the thrumming well before he sees any body to which he could attribute its origin. The thrumming depth-sounds a territory that earthquakes with caribou–

not hooves drumming–though there were those too–but something deeper, some infrasonic resonance on the edge of human hearing, humming an oscillating song. I closed my eyes and felt it spread through my body. (BC, 162)

One night he feels "the land . . . vibrating underneath me," awakening him but not Leanne, and "leaving [him] alone to puzzle whether the thrumming [he] heard was real" (BC, 106). As "a trained scientist" he is "vexed by its formlessness," but as an artist he "strained to tease out the baseline melody humming through the ground." Heuer sees himself become a seer who tunes into "some infrasonic resonance on the edge of human hearing" off the radar of Western science. [21] A "sorcerer," he senses "magic afoot" (BC, 161) on a caribou Earth that spirits him "mysterious" confluence of tundra bodies [22]:

The thrumming was still there when we set off again the next morning–not as loud but still buzzing in the background, a hum that spread across the next two valleys and spilled over the pass between. Leanne didn't hear it, but that didn't seem to matter. Schussing down the other side to the Kongakut River, we were in the flow of animals again, and that was enough. We were part of something larger, a communal push that was closing in on the mysterious place that had kept all of us moving for so long. (BC, 106)

[21] A writerly fabulation, "the thrumming" is "impossible to capture on film" (BC, 188). Yet, it punctuates Heuer's narrative with revelatory palpability, especially during the chapter-seasons of "Late Spring Migration," "Post-Calving Aggregation" and "Summer Wandering." At its crescendo, more than a literary ear is involved. Proprioceptive, haptic and seismic sensations compound auditions to compose unnerving, skin-tingling, bone-shaking landscapes. The thrumming figures a manifold, anorganic Life, involving diverse animal and terrestrial bodies that vibrate with thousands of caribou bodies ensemble. "Animals descended into the fog in front of us," Heuer writes, "holes opened in the cloud, offering a glimpse of the great gathering of life" (BC, 188). His narrator sees naught but "a dark blot of brown sliding into greenness," focusing on nothing yet beholding life's greening overall. The landscape vibrates with the "rising" of a "communal" body, or what Deleuze and Guattari might call a "body without organs":

It was the thrumming. Even now, sitting on the rocky slope as the caribou amassed a thousand feet below, we could feel it—a potential that throbbed all around: in the animals pouring past our camp, in the throng of life below us, in the rocks, flowers, birds, even the tussocks, rising in goose bumps that crawled over our skin. (BC, 189)

[22] The figure of thrumming develops over the course of Heuer's narrative. It is an evolving motif of interspecies cohabitation or creative involution. His narrator is surprised to reflect that not until the late spring migration does he "register" as the thrumming what at first was only a "subtle rumbling" (BC, 105):

I had felt hints of it during those first days when the caribou charged past us in the Richardsons, and again when large groups had filed past our camp in the Driftwood valley. But that had been early in the trip . . . . Now, however, camped in a corner of the Alaskan foothills with thousands of caribou and birds suddenly coursing all around us, it was more than a hint. The land was vibrating underneath me, as though the ground itself were alive. (BC, 105-06)

By the end of "Summer Wandering," "Leanne" also feels the thrumming, and both she and the narrator tune into its cosmic volubility with animal prescience. The latter wonders,"was the sound because of the convergence of all the animals, or was the convergence prompted by the sound? Did it come and go, or was it me who was changing, hearing something that had always existed, only noticing it for the first time?" (BC, 105-6). These are questions of becoming that might be answered thus: it is not that Heuer's narrator hears the earth thrum in the caribou's landscape but that the landscape hears him thrum in attunement to the caribou's earth. Heuer figures himself as a percept of sonority between caribou and earth, or what Deleuze and Guattari call the animal's "territorial refrain." [23] The thrumming's mounting intensities and spreading frequencies signal the cultivation of a becoming-caribou's musical ear. As his narrator attests, it is the thrumming's sonar, not "satellite collars, scientific reports, maps, or even tracks that had guided us" (BC, 189). Tuned into caribou and what caribou are tuned into, the two caribou-trackers are guided to "mysterious place" where "huge fronts of life" gather with "a potential that throbbed all around: in the animals . . . in the rocks, flowers, birds, even the tussocks." Heuer's auditions sound a symphony of caribou ecology; they also augur a vitality that science and industry threaten to destroy in their search for oil and power.

The ethology/ethics of becoming-caribou

[23] The primary task that Heuer sets himself in writing Being Caribou is to tell the story of the caribou and "bring it alive" (BC, 20). This poses several ethical challenges. One is to take into account the vital stakes that caribou might possibly have in the future of ANWR. Another is to tell the full story by framing into view the many and diverse bodies and powers that affect and are affected by the migration. Lastly, another is to convey the capacity of caribou to survive the migration and even to thrive in their severe, arctic habitat. In short, I argue that Heuer challenges himself to write with a vitalist ethic. As his Prologue announces–

That's the story of the caribou, I thought to myself as arctic terns, king eiders, and a host of other birds splashed down between icebergs. That's the surge of life and death that all the magazine articles and television documentaries had failed to capture. . . . Four mountain ranges, hundreds of passes, dozens of rivers, countless grizzly bears, wolves, mosquitoes, and arctic storms–those were the measures, that was the story, and the time had come to put it altogether and try to bring it alive. (BC, 19-20)

One of the ways that Heuer tries to bring the caribou's story alive is to emphasize the physical ordeal of migration. In doing so, he is careful to not superimpose a tale of human adventure. [24] He relates a few close-calls that he and Allison have with marauding grizzlies, flooding rivers and bone-chilling blizzards but only as hazards that come with the territory and that caribou routinely endure. If he down-plays his characters' ambition and athleticism, he emphasizes the finitude and susceptibility of a Western body and mind when transplanted onto caribou turf. Yet, in framing the limits of anthropomorphic reason and endurance, he draws out the sagacity and vitality of becoming caribou. Repeatedly, he shows how caribou push himself and Leanne beyond their human capacities. But as the humanness of his characters breaks down, the nonhuman powers of caribou emerge.

[24] Like Deleuze's writer, Heuer concerns himself with health, not heroics. For Deleuze, the writer is not only a "becomer, a seer," but also a "physician," and he writes to divine/diagnose which "passages of Life" will be "interrupted, blocked, or plugged up." [25] As antidote to whatever might block these passages, he prescribes becoming-other but never a becoming-man, "insofar as man presents himself as a dominant form of expression that claims to impose itself on all matter." [26] For Deleuze's writer, "the world is a set of symptoms whose illness merges with man," and he takes it upon himself to ask "what health would be sufficient to liberate life wherever it is imprisoned by and within man, and by and within organisms and genera?" He must have health, not a robust but a queer health, a hyper-sensitivity that allows him to be intensely affected by things, as well as to endure self-mortifying passages of becoming. "He possesses," Deleuze explains–

an irresistible and delicate health that stems from what he has seen and heard of things to big for him, too strong for him [. . .] whose passage exhausts him, while nonetheless giving him the becomings that a dominant and substantial health would render impossible. The The writer returns from what he has seen with bloodshot eyes and pierced eardrums. [27]

In tracking/writing the course of migration, Heuer composes a "passage of Life" that literally exhausts his character. By taking this passage beyond mortal limits, he is able to vision the caribou's powerful and precarious vitality. And, only then does he divine/diagnose the intense degree to which drilling in ANWR will block that ever-evolving "passage of Life" that is becoming-caribou.

[25] Like Deleuze and Guattari, Heuer "avoid[s] defining a body by its organs and functions, [or by] its Species or Genus characteristics," opting instead "to count its affects" (TP, 257). Affects should not be confused with traits. They are fluctuating sensations of becoming-other, not fixable characteristics of being. For the philosophers, such an accounting of the animal body is "ethology [. . . in] the sense in which Spinoza wrote a true Ethics." It is not possible, they explain, to know a body, any body, without knowing–

what it can do, in other words, what its affects are, how they can or cannot enter into composition with other affects, with the affects of another body, either to destroy that body or to be destroyed by it, either to exchange actions and passions with it or to join with it in composing a more powerful body. (TP, 257)

Whether a body composes a more or less powerful body, or whether it impacts another body by "augmenting or diminishing its power to act," constitutes, for the philosophers, an immanent, ethological ethics. Likewise, for Heuer, the body is never more alive, never healthier nor better, than when it joins other bodies to form a "powerful," composite body–and a body comprised of more than just caribou. His landscapes see an amalgamation of diverse tundra bodies from across the tundra. Consider, for example this vision of the calving-grounds:

It was as if a switch had been thrown, releasing all the energy and potential that had gathered for weeks around us, sending it spilling onto the coastal plain. Killdeers, sandpipers, and other shorebirds flew in with brant geese on a wave of wings, while bees, butterflies, and swallows drifted and swooped in and out of view. It was a dance that everything was doing–the mergansers that glided in and plied the braided channels of the nearby river, the ground squirrels that darted in and out of their burrows, the pair of longspurs that, after days of subdued courting, copulated in front of our tent in a sudden flutter of wings. Even the new caribou mothers had fresh energy... (BC, 130)

[26] At the calving-grounds "everything seemed to be celebrating life." Life is "a dance that everything was doing" in a mutually invigorating embrace: "even the new caribou mothers had fresh energy." Later, at the scene of post-calving aggregation, Heuer has his narrator exclaim "Is that real?" as thousands of bulls surge into confluence with as many cows and calves: "an entire hillside, was moving from the coastal plain toward us, shape-shifting in the last of the day's heat waves, tracking the mountains through ribbons of shadow and light" (BC, 168). What assembles before the narrator's eyes is a monstrous super-body, an unearthly becoming-caribou of everything: "Everything seemed to be lining up for a postcalving aggregation: the weather, the animals, the emerging bugs. We were about to reap the reward of . . . becoming a part of a gathering of unfathomable force" (BC, 168). A biologist would not see a post-calving aggregation this way but, his thinking having shifted, Heuer sees differently. In place of statistical populations and taxonomic functions, variables that science and industry deem sustainable in a drilling environment, he visions caribou life as "a Life" of immeasurable and inextricable symbiogenesis. Immersed in the climactic landscapes of the calving-grounds and post-calving aggregation, the two caribou-trackers sense themselves "becoming a part of a gathering of unfathomable force." That is, they do not discover what they are capable of becoming (beyond what it is to be human) until they join forces with the caribou. In "becoming a part" of the landscape of birthing and aggregating, their bodily regime is undone and, stripped of their human form, they enjoy an augmentation of incorporeal powers. Corporeal self-discipline is what makes them human, setting them apart from caribou bodies. But going with the flow of the herd's assembled movements and energies, they sense a release of their own bodily capacities. When, for example, they break their fitful and blinkered routine of "scheduled sleep" to amble with caribou at night, they become strangely becalmed and prescient: "there was a magic afoot at night that wasn't there in the daytime, a calmness and clarity that affected the animals and us" (BC, 161). At night they become less visible to themselves and to the creatures around them as imposing aliens, and they see, instead, "how the upland sandpipers circled over [their] stretched-out shadows. . . . And how the long-tailed jaegers that normally dive-bombed and forced [them] into tiresome detours simply watched as we stumbled past their camouflaged nests." Literally shadows of their restless, daytime selves, they bask in the calming affects of a nocturnal and communal animal.

[27] Heuer's characters become caribou to the degree that their affective mutability and physical velocity changes in proximity to the herd. To use Deleuze and Guattari's Spinozist terms, we could say that Heuer "maps" the human body onto the "intensive" and "extensive" dimensions of the caribou body, or its axes of "latitude" and "longitude." The latitude of a body, the philosophers explain, consists "of the affects of which it is capable," while the longitude of body consists of "movement and rest, speed and slowness grouping together an infinity of parts" (TP, 256). Longitude involves extensive parts that fall into relation at a certain speed; latitude involves intensive capacities to affect or be affected: "To the [longitudinal] relations composing, decomposing, or modifying an individual in extension, there correspond [latitudinal] intensities that affect it, augmenting or diminishing its power to act." Deleuze clarifies that "a body can be anything; it can be an animal, a body a sounds, a mind or an idea; it can be a linguistic corpus, a social body, a collectivity." [28] Heuer places the bodies of the two caribou-trackers in extension along the caribou's longitudinal axes. As their speed and movement is adapted to those of the herd, they "become a part of a gathering of unfathomable force." Their power to absorb and be mobilized by the affective powers of tundra life is enhanced to the degree that they are kinetically and kinaesthetically moved by caribou. Their vitality benefits from an affective coupling with caribou, just as the caribou's vitality benefits from an intensive intermingling with other bodies and forces.

[28] To illustrate Heuer's mapping of intensified Life, let me return to the chapter on "Calving." The two caribou-trackers have been racing to keep up with restive, pregnant cows, but they are stopped in their tracks when the cows suddenly pause to give birth. The latter encircle and entrap the former inside the nylon womb of their tent. Forced into still and intimate confinement with anxious mothers-to-be, the trackers themselves become pregnant with nervous anticipation and unbearable restlessness. But once birthing begins their agitation transforms into rhythmic accord. "We still tossed, turned, fidgeted, and readjusted, but it seemed smoother and more coordinated–as though our personal rhythms had fused into a subconscious dance" (BC, 135). A harmonizing of speeds and affects smooths relations between human and animal bodies, and it refrains insular, "claustrophobic" feelings into sensations of resonant ease. "The effect was magical: inside the tent all went quiet–and outside, as the cows and calves discovered their own system of body language all around us, the barks, grunts, bleats, and huffs that had dominated the last few days gave way to a soft, milling hush" (BC, 135).

[29] The intensive affects that Heuer composes over the course of becoming caribou are not, however, always positive. At one point, his narrator observes that he and Leanne "had become part of something immense and immensely fragile," and that "behind every joyful moment lingered a kind of melancholy about the future, a dread that the two kinds of existence that we'd experienced–the one in Kaktovik and the one on the calving grounds–would soon collide" (BC, 131). "Kaktovik" is an Inupiat village and a remote outpost on the Alaskan coast to where Heuer and Allison fly midway during the migration to replenish their resources. During their brief stay in the village, they are exposed to and depressed by the degrading impact that industrialization and sedentarization have had on the native population. The melancholy that overcomes them in Kaktovik still lingers when they return to the tundra, and it darkens the joyfulness of the calving grounds. According to Deleuze, "joy" and "sadness" figure, respectively, the vital, affective capacities of a body to be increased or diminished upon impact with another body. [29] Heuer's projection of ANWR's future mixes the two affects–the joy of the calving-grounds and the melancholy of Kaktovik–in a compound, diagnostic vision. An ethical disease, melancholy will spread across the Arctic, Heuer foresees, if the industrial West continues to "promote the uncoupling of people with their natural surroundings" and if it extends intensive, Kaktovik-like development to the calving grounds.

[30] Heuer's "Epilogue" frames "Washington, D.C." in a vision of visceral disaffection. In this scene, he and "Leanne" have left the tundra for Capitol Hill to lobby bureaucrats on behalf of "an Alaskan conservation group" and the Porcupine Caribou Herd (BC, 230). Just days since ending their journey in the Gwich'in village of Old Crow, and already 4,000 miles away from caribou, they are afflicted with a growing sense of "disconnection" (BC, 229). Distracted by "televisions flashing in lobbies," "billboards over the baggage carousels," "people pacing the halls with hands-free microphones, gesticulating madly as they talked and shouted to people no one else could see," he senses "parts of me that had taken months to open while moving with the caribou were already beginning to close down." And, he reasons, "they had to. Life in the modern technological world carries none of the subtleties of living with caribou. There's too much to absorb, too much for sharpened senses to do anything but go dormant if one wants to survive" (BC, 230). Heuer, the writer, diagnoses a blockage in his becoming-caribou due to "too much" communication, an ailment of contemporary society that Deleuze and Guattari also deplore. [30] Yet Heuer, the activist, fails to take the story of the caribou to Washington and "bring it alive"; his tale dies in the ears of congressional aides which are deaf to all but talk of "cheap gas" (BC, 231). What body politic, then, can he hope to stir with the visionary thrum of tundra life?

The minor politics of Being Caribou: writing for "a new earth and people"

[31] Frustrated by Washington bureaucracy, Heuer defers to grass-roots politicking ("'We need to work from the bottom up,' I said to Leanne. 'We need to mobilize the voters.'" [BC, 231]). But the populist environmentalism of his Epilogue strikes me as somewhat disingenuous. Heuer calls for a constituency of caribou stakeholders with no more commitment than he corrals the animal by its species and genus. To represent caribou politically he must appeal to a caribou-loving minority of American citizens, thus defeating his concern to mobilize people directly with caribou affects–affects that compose the animal's (as well as man's) becoming-caribou. To mobilize even a minority of voters, he must still play the majority game of representation. That is, as the caribou's representative he must represent caribou to humans as beings with representable traits worthy of their vote. Yet only weakly does his writing invoke the molar animal, and even more weakly does it rally man, the political animal. In writing, his passion is to fabulate a crossing of the great ontological divide that separates the human and the animal. In a world dominated by the territories of human settlement and stratification, the most radical struggle is not to form a political minority but, as Heuer strongly suggests, to perform a becoming-minor of Man.

[32] Being Caribou is a "passage of Life" that traverses the sedimented and oppressive, ontological strata of Man's earth with a political aim to "bring it alive." To use the geophilosophical vocabulary of Deleuze and Guattari, I would argue that it "smoothes" the stratified hierarchies of power (between such established domains as Man and Animal, Self and Other, Nature and Culture) into two-way conduits of "molecular" flows. [31] Its landscapes thrum with a micropolitics of connection and alliance across species' lines, and other categorical borderlines. Auditions of the calving grounds and post-calving aggregation sound a coming together of tundra bodies in a ground-breaking, earth-shattering sublime-overcoming of man's neat onto-, bio- and geo-logical taxonomies. Heuer's occasional rant against drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge is drowned out by the "thrumming" of a vitality too otherworldly to prospect for human industry. Instead of harping on industrial nihilism and stressing the predictable–a degraded coastal plain populated by fragmentary remnants of the Porcupine Caribou Herd–Heuer presages the possible in visions that see caribou deterritorializing man's earth in lines of flight and weaves of new life, as well as caribou rising through the human stratum of organized, stratified and codified flows in nonhuman, sweeping and free-flowing assemblages. [32]

[33] I read the "Calving" chapter as an exemplary passage of becoming-minor in Being Caribou. In this chapter, Heuer fabulates a radically delimited frame of view to figure the confinement that he and Allison experience when they are surrounded by pregnant caribou. Their usual mobile tracking skills now disabled, the biologist and film maker are seen struggling to locate a perspective outside their habitual vantage points. The two view-mastering humans are "forced to watch" from a minoritized position of utter stillness. At the same time, such delimitation intensifies their capacity to be affected by the caribou and the calving milieu. Immobilization of their usual mastery of vision foregrounds a nonhuman mobilization of life all around them. "We still couldn't move because of caribou, we were still relegated to sitting," his narrator reflects, "but it was no longer confining. Having been forced to watch, we couldn't help but appreciated what was happening around us. Because of the caribou, we'd stumbled onto the riches of being still" (BC, 130).

[34] Heuer foregrounds this becoming-minor to a point of becoming-imperceptible. Human motions (emotions, commotions) are seen to harmonize with the heartbeats and bleats of caribou mothers and calves, and to create a "zone of proximity" where difference between species becomes "indiscernible." [33] A harmony of speeds and affects becomes the basis of an alliance that involves and evolves with greater diversity than conspecies' affiliation. Moving in rhythm with the animal, breathing the same breath, embodied by the same web and womb of life, humans and caribou create momentarily what Deleuze calls "a singular life." [34] In "Calving," human bodies together with animal bodies (not just caribou bodies, but also wolf, bear, insect and other bodies attracted to and connected to herd) and bodies of the earth (geological, meteorological, climatological bodies across and through which the herd passes and changes) compose a body without organs, or what we might call a "bodies-politic," a physical, chemical, biological, neural and social assemblage of mutually affecting and mobilizing things. [35] The politics of this coming together of bodies is, as Deleuze and Guattari would say, the force with which it captures and liberates, or "stratifies" "destratifies," molecular flows of connection and creation. [36]

[35] There are passages of becoming-minor in Being Caribou that open flows of connection and creation between anthropological, as well as biological, strata. Heuer's narrative tracking of the Porcupine Caribou Herd ultimately brings "Karsten" and "Leanne" in touch with the Gwich'in, "the people of the caribou." A nomadic people, the Gwich'in have been adapting over decades, for better or worse, to the pressures of colonization–including sedentarizing pressures that force hunter-gatherers to relocate from the land to permanent villages built on an urban grid of government housing. To further sedentarize or stratify the Gwich'in, who have been moving with caribou for millennia, Western governments have tried to replace a language that "talks" to caribou and that divines their whereabouts and well-being with a heavily administered system of communication and orderly speech that strictly occurs between humans. "Karsten" and "Leanne" do not speak Gwich'in but by going nomad they dream of caribou, and they begin to cultivate a shaman-like, animistic prescience. Mapping the animal on its own plane of immanence, they can dispense with satellite radio. In realigning their motions and affections with the caribou, they also ally themselves with the people of the caribou–or with those among them who have not yet "forgotten" the "mysteries and beauties" that "Gwich'in medicine men, Inuvialuit shamans, and others had long ago discovered" (BC, 222). It is to this unspoken alliance that Heuer gives the last word. In the final scene of their return to Old Crow, a "changed" Karsten and Leanne are greeted by a Gwich'in elder who, five months earlier, had seen them off (BC, 223). An exchange of looks lets the elder know without being told that "they had talked to caribou, and caribou had talked to us" (BC, 226).

[36] Becoming-minor aligns urban southerners with native northerners through subliminal channels of communication that pass through the caribou. At some "infrasonic" level, these channels undermine geopolitical structures that divide the arctic into a Western majority and an indigenous minority. Heuer's nomadism deterritorializes colonial geographies. Moving with the caribou's alignment of flows, they traverse the boundaries of state-regulated resources and enjoy the confluence of nonharnessable energies. With nomadic eyes, Heuer tracks caribou across Yukon and Alaskan state borders beyond the purview of U.S. and Canadian patrols. If current political landscapes partition the migration into fragmentary and contradictory jurisdictions, like ANWR, a "protectorate" that the Bush government threatens to open to oil and gas development, the literary landscapes of Being Caribou see the intensive mobilization of a mobile habitat across State and species' lines. [37]


[37] Karsten Heuer mobilizes a minor politics through literary fabulation. Instead of representing that animal known to science and to the knowledgeable majority as the Porcupine Caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti), Heuer creates an animal landscape where we can see the power of caribou bodies to affect and be affected by other tundra bodies with which it enters into vital, ecological composition. Heuer's landscape of sensation strikes us with visions and auditions of a composite, at once powerful and precarious, vitality that becomes a migratory "passage of Life." In place of representational numbers and predictable population statistics that State science deems sustainable, we sense the inviolable health of a collective body whose volatile constituency is ever changing, non-representable and unpredictable. Being Caribou deploys art to articulate a different ontology than the ruling ontology that rationalizes Being into separate strata and that reifies the structure of human dominance. In place of Being, and human being as Being's prime representative, Heuer figures a Becoming-animal, an onto-ethology. And, in place of conventional, anthropomorphic representations of caribou he figures a becoming-animal of man. As seer, becomer and meta-physician, he projects a becoming-caribou of Man as an antidote to prospects of oil and gas drilling on the calving-grounds, and other human encroachments.

[38] From lived experience Heuer abstracts caribou affects and tundra percepts, and he projects them onto a scene of vitality that is larger than life. He also brings into vision the diminished state of health of Arctic communities. Sadly, outside the villages of Kaktovik and Old Crow there are no people. The people of the caribou are missing from the land, having been coerced to leave by federal and industrial powers. The earth is no less affected. The melancholy that overshadows the joy of the calving-grounds presages an invasion of industrial clamor into the harmonious composition of tundra bodies. Ultimately, the most powerful vision of Being Caribou is, in the words of Deleuze and Guattari, that of "a people and an earth still to come." [38] The art of an anomalous scientist calls forth a bodies-politic that involves caribou and humans in mutually beneficial cohabitation.


[1] Leanne Allison, Being Caribou/Vivre Comme Les Caribous [DVD], National Film Board of Canada, 2004. Karsten Heuer, Being Caribou: Five Months On Foot With An Arctic Herd (Seattle: Mountaineers Books, 2005). Further references to Heuer's book will be cited parenthetically in the text as BC.

[2] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987), 237. Further references will be cited parenthetically in the text as TP.

[3] See especially chapter 10 "Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible . . ." (TP, 232-309).

[4] For more on "fabulation," see Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1997). For more on "becomings-animal" in literature, see chapter 10 (TP, 232-309).

[5] See Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, 261. "Haecceity is derived from the Latin haec, meaning "this." Instead of the generic animal in all its essence, Deleuze and Guattari want us to think of this singular animal in all its contingencies. For a discussion of "haecceity" in this context, see Brett Buchanan, Onto-Ethologies: The Animal Environments of Uexküll, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Deleuze (New York: SUNY Press, 2008), 151-86.

[6] Rick Bass, Caribou Rising (Seattle: Mountaineers Books, 2004), 130.

[7] Deleuze and Guattari coin the term "a body without organs" to refer to any heterogeneous assemblage of bodies that is not organized by the molar anatomies of Royal Science.

[8] As Deleuze and Guattari explain, "becomings-animal plunge into becomings-molecular" (TP, 272).

[9] Gilles Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, 3.

[10] "Aesthetic figures . . . are sensations: percepts and affects, landscapes and faces, visions and becomings. . . . [Aesthetic] universes are neither virtual nor actual; they are possibles, the possible as aesthetic category" (Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. What Is Philosophy? trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell [Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1994], 177).

[11] "The aim of art is to wrest the percept from perceptions of objects and the states of the perceiving subject, to wrest the affect from affections as the transition from one state to another: to extract a bloc of sensations, a pure being of sensations" (ibid., 167).

[12] Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, 1.

[13] Ibid.

[14] "To become," Deleuze explains, "is not to attain a form (identification, imitation, Mimesis) but to find the zone of proximity, indiscernibility, or indifferentiation where one can no longer be distinguished from a woman, an animal, or a molecule" (ibid.).

[15] Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy? 164.

[16] Ibid., 163-99. See also Dianne Chisholm, "The Art of Ecological Thinking: Literary Ecology," ISLE 18.3 (Autumn 2011): 569-93.

[17] I am indebted to Ronald Bogue's illuminating explication of what he calls Deleuze's "landscape of sensation." See "The Landscape of Sensation," in Gilles Deleuze: Image and Text, Eugene W. Holland, Daniel W. Smith, Charles J. Stivale, Eds. (London: Continuum, 2009), 9-26.

[18] Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, 5.

[19] Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy? 171.

[20] Ibid., 169.

[21] Heuer researches the thrumming but to no avail: "Since returning from our journey, I have read books on infrasonic communication with elephants, sifted through journal articles about whale song, and stumbled across the human accounts of similar phenomena, as in the poetry of Rilke. But I have found nothing about caribou." When "a thirty-year veteran of caribou biology" suggests that he pursue a doctoral project on the subject, Heuer decides that it is "best left in mystery" (BC, 233).

[22] For Deleuze and Guattari, the writer/becomer is a "sorcerer": "If the writer is a sorcerer, it is because writing is a becoming, writing is traversed by strange becomings that are not becomings-writer, but becomings-rat, becomings-insect, becomings-wolf, etc." (TP, 240)

[23] For Deleuze and Guattari, animals are artists that compose "territorial refrains" which resonate with expressive symbioses and creative couplings. See "On the Refrain" (TP, 310-50).

[24] "Our goal," Heuer asserts, "was to be caribou, not human. The last thing either of us wanted was to turn what had started as a very special journey into just another cross-country hiking trip" (BC, 78).

[25] Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, 3.

[26] "The shame of being a man," Deleuze queries, "is there any better reason to write?" (ibid.).

[27] Ibid.

[28] Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, trans. Robert Hurely (San Francisco: City Lights, 1988), 127.

[29] As Deleuze explains, joy and sadness express the ethical affects (or existential modes) of impact that one body can have on another. "An existing mode is defined by a certain capacity for being affected. When it encounters another mode, it can happen that this other mode is 'good' for it, that is, enters into composition with it, or on the contrary decomposes it and is 'bad' for it. In the first case, the existing mode passes to a greater perfection; in the second case, to a lesser perfection. Accordingly, it will be said that its power of acting or force of existing increases or diminishes, since the power of the other mode is added to it, or on the contrary is withdrawn from it, immobilizing and restraining it. The passage to a greater perfection, or the increase of the power of acting, is called an affect, or feeling, of joy; the passage to a lesser perfection or the diminution of the power of acting is called sadness (ibid., 49-50).

[30] "We do not lack communication. On the contrary, we have too much of it. We lack creation. We lack resistance to the present" (Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy? 108).

[31] My thinking in this section of the essay draws from Deleuze and Guattari's chapters on "The Geology of Morals" (TP, 39-74) and "The Smooth and the Striated" (TP, 474-500); and from their chapter on "Geophilosophy" in What Is Philosophy? 85-113.

[32] Bass and Heuer create similarly images of caribou rising and flowing freely in contrast to the trapping of oil and gas flows by the grid of techno-economic infrastructure on the human stratum (see Bass, Caribou Rising, 4-6).

[33] Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical, 1.

[34] Ibid.

[35] I derive my idea of a "bodies politic" from Bonta and Protevi."A key dimension of Deleuze and Guattari's work is the investigation of a 'bodies politic,' material systems or 'assemblages' whose constitution in widely differing registers–physical, chemical, biological, neural, and social–can be analyzed in political terms" (Mark Bonta and John Protevi, Deleuze and Geophilosophy [Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2004], 10).

[36] For more on the ethics and politics of de/stratification, see "A Geology of Morals" (TP, 39-74).

[37] In Allison's film, Leanne and Karsten carry a George W. Bush doll, face-outwards on their backpack so that he can see the great gathering of life, and be moved to rescind his plan to drill in caribou territory.

[38] "Europeanization does not constitute a becoming but merely the history of capitalism, which prevents the becoming of subjected peoples. Art and philosophy converge at ths point: the constitution of an earth and a people that are lacking as the correlate of creation" (Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy? 108-09).