rhizomes.03 fall 2001

Nomads and Minorities
Syed Manzurul Islam

[1] How can we know anything about the nomadic mode of life, let alone define it; and what do nomads themselves think, since they do not speak in 'our' arena of conversation? Meditating on the location of nomads in the unfolding of history, Arnold Toynbee became painfully aware of the irony that any such endeavour invariably entails. 'History of the nomads', he observes, 'has been written almost entirely by observers belonging to one or other of the sedentary societies with which the nomads have happened to collide.' [1] No one writing about nomads, whatever innocence or noble intentions might inform their projects, can avoid this irony. Bruce Chatwin, feeling 'homelessness' in England and dreaming of 'homecoming' in the wonderland of other places, goes out in search of nomadic habitats. This takes him to Australia, to the outback of Aboriginal 'songliners', about which he writes: 'My reason for coming to Australia was to try to learn for myself, and not from other men's book.' [2] He would discover how the Aboriginals, as they went out on their dream-time walkabouts, and in the course of their labyrinthine wandering, mapped the continent with their musical refrains. Yet, without being aware of the irony of his gesture, Chatwin tells his readers that his insights into the 'songliners' came from Arkady Volchok, an Australian of Russian origin, 'who was mapping the sacred sites of the Aboriginals.' [3] What a perverse layering of representations we have here: Chatwin mapping novelistically Arkady's anthropological mapping of the Aboriginals' supposedly originary musical mapping. This raises the ethical dilemma of writing about nomads - where the position of the interlocutor, if not absent, is only provided by an ethnographic informer - which leads one to deal solely with the representations of representations. Yet, saying nothing about nomads is not a way out of this ethical dilemma as it requires a much more complex response. I will come back to this later in the essay. With this paradox in mind, I want to begin by attending to certain ways of mapping the composition of the nomadic mode of life, which might serve towards the formulation of an ethical position.


[2] 1375: suddenly cutting himself loose from the dynastic power politics of Kashbah (fortified city) - of which he was a true Machiavellian prince - Ibn Khaldûn retreated deep into the solitude of the Sahara. Given sanctuary by a nomadic warlord at the citadel of Qalat Ibn Salamah, the would-be composer of universal history - perhaps looking far into the silvery simmer of the sand dunes into which Bedouin hordes would suddenly appear as a galloping organism - set out to shape his Al Muqaddimah, the finest piece of philosophy of history produced during the Middle Ages. But I don't want to talk about the life of the great Maghrebi historian - whose ancestors were the nomads of the Arabian desert, now exiled by the Christian Reconquista of 'Moorish' Spain- but about his analytic distinction between Umran Haradi and Umran Badawi. In other words, the distinction between sedentary and nomadic modes of life.

[3] For Khaldûn, Umran Hadari never simply designates a sedentary settlement tied to the land or enclosed by the walled cites, rather it results from the juridical and the pedagogical apparatuses functioning within the ambit of state formation. Frozen into stasis and 'oppressed by the law of restriction' [4] the sedentary populace is moulded by the imperial state into, as Khaldûn says, domesticated gazelles, buffaloes and donkeys. How these figures of animals remind one of Zarathustra's reactive menagerie of camels, apes and asses! Strangely , for so many, the lure of sedentary life becomes irresistible , perhaps because it offers seductive compensations in the form of increased luxury and the refinement of art and knowledge. However, sedentary people not only lose their fortitude but are increasingly forced into 'remoteness from goodness.' [5] In order to understand why such a cruel destiny - despite all the apparent success of city life, civility and a powerful state - befalls sedentary people, it is essential to pay attention to the concept of Asabîyah. The loss of fortitude and the distance from 'goodness' that sedentary people suffer, argues Khaldûn, are the consequences of their loss of Asabîyah. Although Asabîyah is generally translated as 'group feeling' or 'solidarity', it is also understood to be 'the vitality of the state' and 'the life force of the people' or 'Lebenskraft.' [6] But before we can fully appreciate the concept of Asabîyah, it is necessary to explain the nature of Umran Badawi ( the Bedouin or nomadic mode of life).

[4] The nomadic mode of life, for Khaldûn, is linked dialectically to sedentary life both as its opposite and its precursor. If sedentary life is grounded in the stasis of the city, of the empire, of the body of the despot, then nomadic life seeks out the empty spaces of deserts and uninterrupted movement. Khaldûn writes : 'All customary activities of the Bedouins lead to wandering and movement. This is the antithesis of and negation of stationariness.' [7] Movement allows the nomads to live without the 'laws of government, institution', which leads, argues Khaldûn, to 'a state of anarchy.' [8] However, nomadic anarchy does not remain confined within the anonymous dunes of the desert, but spills over into the static tranquillity of sedentary regions. Having 'no homelands . . . and no fixed place', the nomads, writes Khaldûn, treat:

All regions and places [as] the same. . . Therefore, they do not restrict themselves to possession of their own and neighbouring regions. They do not stop at the borders of their horizon. They swarm across distant zones. [9]

Despite their restless movement, anarchy, and destruction of the fruits of civilisation that sedentary people have built, Khaldûn treats Umran Badawi as possessing 'goodness.' Surely, this is an extraordinary position to be taken by a man of high learning and civil refinement, who spent much of his life in the sedentary politics of the Andalucian and Maghrebi courts. Moreover, despite having depicted their primitiveness and savagery, Khaldûn continues to attribute 'goodness' to the nomads' way of life. Behind such a positive evaluation lies the singular belief - which Khaldûn never tired of repeating - that of all people it is the nomads who are in full possession of Asabîyah. Imbued with Asabîyah as if drunk on the elixir of life, the nomads not only display extraordinary fortitude - or, when least expected, storm out of the desert like 'beasts of prey' - but are capable of undertaking the most arduous of collective actions. For Asabîyah is a dynamic force that enables lonely nomads to release their power of affection, thus drawing the multitude into a collective assemblage. Sedentary civilisation, as it develops by according primacy to the individual, loses its vitality, because, argues Khaldûn, it is 'denied the affection caused by group feeling.' [10]

[5] Whatever else Asabîyah may be, its most telling expression lies in its role as a political dynamic of collective power. Hence, argues Khaldûn, the nomadic formation is capable of founding great sedentary empires, states or dynasties. Historically, many nomadic tribes have indeed founded great imperial states on the strength of their Asabîyah. However, these forms and institutions of sedentary power politics do not agree with the nomadic Asabîyah. If a nomadic tribe acquires such powers, it not only becomes remote from 'goodness' but eventually also loses its capacity to sustain that kind of power. Despotic and royal authorities, with their demands for obedience to the law, and the consequent homogenisation and flattening out of difference, produce a form of power that never fails to be anathema to the nomadic Asabîyah. Left to themselves, the nomads form collective assemblages of democratic organisations, whose parts are never subsumed into one monolithic authority, yet are harnessed into a powerful composition that maintains a mobile and differential alliance between parts and whole. Khaldûn explains it in the process of expounding the mode of authority corresponding to nomadic and sedentary formations:

Leadership means being a chieftain, and the leader is obeyed, but he has no power to force others to accept his rulings. Royal authority means superiority and the power to rule by force. [11]

What is fascinating about Khaldûn's work is how contemporary his picture of nomadic mode of life appears, despite being more than six hundred years old. Yet Khaldûn's nomads were always tied to the barren landscape of the desert, and it is as if their particular mode of life could only have emerged in response to its harsh challenge. It seems that without a Sahara, a Kalahari or a Gobi there would be no nomads - as if dry sand were the prerequisite or determining factor of a wandering life. Given the fact that Khaldûn only knew the camel-nomads of the Sahara, it was perhaps inevitable that he couldn't conceive of nomads without the spatial inscription of the desert.

[6] Yet, despite proving a link between modernity and classical humanism, and despite inaugurating the modern materialist interpretation of history, Ibn Khaldûn is not a name that Western historiographers are familiar with - except a handful, amongst whom, surely, Arnold Toynbee has been the most prominent. Toynbee endorses much of what Khaldûn says about the nomads, without, however, judging their mode of life as closest to 'goodness' or seeing nomadic life as a dynamic formation because of its full possession of Asabîyah. For Toynbee, nomadic life simply reflects 'the tour de force' of geographical adaptation, where human ingenuity has devised a mode of survival in extreme circumstances. In spite of his admiration for the nomads' triumph in adversity, Toynbee, steeped in an 'Orientalism' which refuses to acknowledge dynamism to non-Western societies, arranges them among his taxonomy of 'arrested civilisations'. Hence the nomadic 'tour de force', despite its virtuosity and sheer endurance, can only be, as Toynbee says, 'a feat in the realm of statics and not in the realm of dynamics.' [12] Yet, Toynbee has extended the nomadic range beyond the desert. He writes of the Polynesians who took up the challenge of the ocean, the Esquimauxs who took up the challenge of the ice, and the tribal bands of the grassy steppes: all nomads in their different ways. For Toynbee, the uncharted surface of the sea, the empty horizon of the snow-covered Arctic, and the endless waves of grass on the steppe are equivalent to the sand dunes of the desert. Since they are all nomadic habitats, their physical challenge give rise to - irrespective of the specific nature of their demands - a very similar wandering mode of life. Yet nomadic wanderings, contends Toynbee, are neither random nor wayward. Rather, in their motions, they are pulled along the same repetitious orbit as if stuck in the same groove of the vinyl, keeping them 'moving perpetually within these limits.' [13]

[7] If Toynbee's paradox of the dynamics of the static formation - where nothing seems to happen amidst a cornucopia of happenings - appears familiar to us, it is due to a long Orientalist tradition, of whose general tenor the following metaphor by Hegel is a typical example: 'the repetition of the same majestic ruin.' [14] Yet, Deleuze and Guattari's 'affective' or 'minor' readings of Toynbee transform the paradox of the static-dynamic movement of the nomads into an intensive diagram of becoming. For instance, in A Thousand Plateaus, they write: ' Toynbee is profoundly right to suggest that the nomad is on the contrary he who does not move . . . Of course, the nomad moves . . . but in intensity.' [15] I will explore their writings shortly.

[8] Ibn Khaldûn's writing on the nomads is not a representation of an imaginary mode of life. What he tried to do was to depict empirically an existing mode of life in his own historical time. Now, we live in a time when the nomads, at least in Khaldûn's sense, have almost disappeared. Even though one still finds the Tuaregs tracking the sand dunes of the Sahara, they are no longer the force that once menaced the sedentary citadels of the Maghreb. The sedentary mode of life has brought most of the nomads - the camel-riders of the desert, the canoeists of the open sea, the horse-men of the steppe, or the barefoot-wanderers of the bush - within the orbit of its static organisation. The polis has finally triumphed over the nomos but in the shape of state formation - either the imperial states of former times or the nation states of the present. If the nomads have disappeared, then why bother about them? Is it simply because of the exotic fascination of the long-lost savages? After all, Europe has had a long history of entertaining the strange virtues of noble savages who always lived in other times and other places. In a really cynical mood, one could easily say: long live the nomads, now that the nomads are dead.

[9] Yet, I believe that the nomads can serve as a model for an ethical practice for our own time. Moreover, whilst the nomads of uncompromising landscapes and harsh places might have disappeared, quasi-nomadic living conditions are still thriving at the margins of modern nation-states, whose ex-centric subjects often dwell in the heart of the metropolis. If we are simply content with a model of nomadic virtue as a matter of aesthetic sensibility - like Bruce Chatwin's hero Arkady, who is fascinated by the nomadic Songlines because of 'the beauty of this concept' [16] - then we are bound to reproduce once more the exoticism of the noble savages. Neither is it a question of setting off for the desert à la Rimbaud or Lawrence. If one does any of these things, then one's position would surely be compromised by the ethical implications of James Clifford's question: 'Nomadology: a form of Postmodern primitivism?' [17] In order for Nomadology to safeguard itself against primitive exoticism and aestheticism, and become an ethical practice, it is necessary to make two simultaneous moves. On the one hand, it is essential to set out the conditions for an ethical project that will indicate the trajectory of nomadic becoming. On the other hand, for this ethical project to become an ethics of practice, which might actualise the nomadic becoming, it is necessary to attend to those who live in quasi-nomadic conditions at the margins of modern national state formations. To put it slightly differently: without bringing historical minorities into the equation, and without bringing their point of view to bear on the ethical project, nomadism cannot shed its exoticism and aestheticism and become a model of liberatory practice.

[10] Let us first work through the conditions of the ethical project proper to nomadism. So far we have only geography and history: Ibn Khaldûn presents the historical destinies of the nomads under a strictly geographical condition. Yet, Khaldûn's meditation on the nomads is shot through with rational inquiry and ethical evaluation. And it is these aspects, which I have tried to present in my discussion of Khaldûn, that point towards a nomadic ethics. Let us remind ourselves of some of Khaldûn's concepts and the ethical framework within which they work. First, what are the nomadic virtues that impel Khaldûn to evaluate the nomadic mode of life as a model of 'goodness'? Since Khaldûn talks of the savagery, cruelty and primitive barbarity of the nomads in a disapproving tone, it cannot be on the grounds of moral judgement. On the contrary, it is the economy of the dynamic force of nomadic Asabîyah as a form of collective power that triggers off Khaldûn's affirmative evaluation. Surely, what we have here is the materialist ethics of ethology and not the morals of transcendental judgement. Moreover, the effective force of nomadic collectivity is derived, as we have seen, from the condition that demands perpetual movement. Consequently, the nomadic location is formed as the effect of the force of movement itself, which enables the nomads to construct a political community of shifting alliances. The distinguishing feature of this political community, as Khaldûn pointed out, is its non-authoritarian, democratic organisation of power.

[11] Now, from the perspective of the ethical project, it is necessary to distinguish the nomad from nomadic-becoming. Although the historical nomads can serve as the model for nomadic ethics, as I have already pointed out, the latter cannot be reduced to the former. Otherwise, one will be trapped in the nostalgia for, or the exoticism of a lost world of 'primitive' virtues, and hence unable to make nomadism relevant to the present, let alone to the future. First of all, it must be made absolutely clear that nomadic-becoming can only be premised upon becoming-other, where self-difference in encounter can produce a non-essentialist location for both the sense of the self and the place of dwelling. Of course, there are many theoretical routes by which one can travel to arrive at this point, but it seems to me that Deleuze and Guattari's notion of aparallel evolution provides the best model, albeit in need of certain modifications.

[12] Although Deleuze and Guattari draw the notion of aparallel evolution from Rémy Chauvin's work on reproductive biology, its ethical provenance lies in Spinoza's physics of the body. Before we discuss how this ethological ethics works and understand its implications, let us begin with a clear statement of it, which Deleuze provides in a conversation with Claire Parnet:

becomings: it is not one term which becomes the other, but encounters the other, a single becoming which is not common to the two, since they have nothing to do with one another, but which is between the two, which has its own direction, a block of becoming, an a-parallel evolution. [18]

[12] Deleuze's qualification of mutual-becoming as being aparallel is to insist on a non-imitative process. Here, it is never a question of two or more stable subjects - with their essential and fixed identities, which Deleuze calls 'molar' - mimicking one another. The mimicry between stable subjects keeps their fixity in place and leaves ample room for the same to appropriate the 'other' by turning it into a relative difference through the dialectical analogy of its own concepts. In other words, it brings into play the master/slave dialectic with its self-relational mastery of the 'other' through analogical differentiation or othering, and its attendant Ressentiment. Moreover, within the ambit of parallel evolution there is no room for encounter to take place. More crucially, though, aparallel evolution signals a composite process which involves both the rigid subjectivity of the molar type and the desubjectified individuation of the molecular type. Perhaps some further clarifications are in order here.

[13] Deleuze's expressionist reading of Spinoza deploys the Leibnizian term of 'parallelism' to explain the Spinozist idea of efficient difference of singular and univocal being. [19] For the Spinozist notion of natura naturans involves a process where the singularity of substance is seen not only to implicate or fold into itself attributes and modes, but also to explicate or unfold them into existence. Hence we find 'the same expression' or the univocity at different levels of natura naturata or the universe. Deleuze puts it this way: 'Substance already expresses itself in the attributes that constitute natura naturans, but attributes in their turn express themselves in modes, which constitute natura naturata.' [20] In other words, the substance as a self-causing dynamic force expresses itself in its infinite attributes, even though only the extension and thought of which are known to us. And further down the serial process, the modal particularity of existence - for instance, body and mind - are seen as the expression of attributes. If we fold back the process then it becomes clear that modal existences partake of the same dynamic force as the substance. That is to say that the essence of modes and substance becomes parallel. One effect of this univocity or universal immanence is the denial of eminence or superiority between substance and modes: they are parallel . A similar relationship also holds between modal existences e.g. between the body and the mind: they are parallel in essence and neither can claim eminence over the other. It is in this sense that we can understand the Spinozist conception that mind is the idea of the body. [21] This position not only overcomes Cartesian mind/body dualism but also denies the eminence of the mind over the body.

[14] Parallelism therefore expresses a univocal plane of creative force, which is equivalent to Deleuze and Guattari's desubjectified molecular plane or the plane of consistency. Although all evolution or becoming takes place on the parallel plane of forces or at the molecular level, it is necessary to bring into equation the rigid identity of the molar subjectivity in order to create the pathway for any practical becoming. Apart from suggesting a non-mimetic form of encounter, aparallelism indicates a complex movement between the parallel forces of the molecular and the rigid form of the molar. Perhaps this process, which seems strangely paradoxical, will become clearer when we explore the working of the concept in detail. However, for the time being suffice it to say that aparallel evolution involves two movements at two different levels. Since individuations in the existing world are effected by being moulded into rigid or molar subjectivities as a result of being captured by regimes of signs and powers in their various configurations, mutual becoming can take place only in conditions of destratification or deterritorialization. Here the relationships between molar subjectivities should be seen as being non-parallel, on which deterritorializing movements act to cause break down, thereby allowing access to the parallel forces of the molecular, where real becoming takes place. It is the demand of the composite and the paradoxical process involving both the molar and the molecular that calls for the notion of aparallel evolution.

[15] When an encounter takes places between two or more parties who maintain their absolute difference from each other, what is required to form 'a single becoming' is not a recognition but a differential repetition. In other words, it is never a question of mimicry where, as we have seen, a molar subject either absorbs the other in its own form or is absorbed, reproducing the same old fixed positions rather than destratifying them. Instead of imitative repetition, Deleuze and Guattari propose 'doubling' as a mode of repetition proper to the aparallel evolution. In this context, they evaluate 'mimicry [as being a] bad concept, since it relies on binary logic to describe phenomena of an entirely different nature.' [22] On the other hand, 'doubling' is a non-binary and differential mode of repetition, which instead of reproducing the model - and, like its rhetorical counterpart, the simulacrum - overturns both the model and the copy. (23) Moreover, this deterritorialization of the mimetic model releases the molecular force of becoming otherwise, which Nietzsche would call 'eternal repetition'.

[16] Although, as I have argued, the Deleuze-Guattarian concept of aparallel evolution or involution is drawn from Spinoza's idea of forming 'common notions' through affective encounter, the formers' concept is articulated differently. What really distinguishes Deleuze and Guattari's concept from that of Spinoza is their fore-grounding of a new problem: how is affirmative becoming possible given the existence of the other at the molar level, which enters the arena of encounter with its rigid identity moulded biologically, psychically and historically. In response to this new problem, which is hardly attended to by Spinoza, Deleuze and Guattari propose their ethical concept of aparallel evolution or involution. Even though all becomings take place on the Spinozist univocal or parallel plane - which Deleuze and Guattari, among their numerous concept-names designating the same process, would call the molecular or the plane of immanence or consistency - molar differences need to be negotiated if this process is to work practically. Hence, aparallel evolution or involution as a concept designates the two processes simultaneously: destratification or deterritorialization of rigid or molar identities, and the mutual becoming ( which is always molecular) of both. This process, as we have seen, entails a non-imitative process of becoming-other, where neither of the parties in encounter adopts the position of model or copy, but conjugates with the forces of each other. Consequently, the formation of a new and powerful collective body is, as Deleuze and Guattari say: 'neither one or two, nor the relation of the two; it is the in-between.' [24]

[17] Although Deleuze and Guattari's becoming-in-between in aparallel evolution or involution involves destratification of molar subjectivity, the question is: does this concept alone offer a sufficient safeguard against what Levinas calls 'the imperialism of the same'? [25] Levinas' critique of Western ontology demonstrates how its model of a rational life - given to the self-realisation of subjectivity in the valorisation of its own consciousness - not only reduces the otherness of the other but leads to the violent oppression of those who are different. [26] Against this egological ontology of self-mastery, Levinas proposes a radical form of passivity as the constitutive moment of subjectivity. [27] For Levinas, ethics is not ethological: it is not a question of affirmative becoming through bodily affection, although his idea of 'face-to-face' can be read affectively. Instead, his ethics works, like much ethical theory from Aristotle to Kant, through proposing a set of moral imperatives. However, unlike the dominant tradition of ethical theory, Levinas is not concerned with the rational inquiry into self-conduct that always leads to self-realisation and never fails to compromise the other. Instead, he proposes a set of moral imperatives which begin with a non-cognitive and non-ontological relationship with the other, where the other is neither thematised nor represented. In other words, the irreducible difference of the other is never compromised or translated into the self-same analogy of concepts. The other in its anonymity commands the 'subject' who must respond not only with absolute passivity but must feel obligated to the point of being a 'substitute' for the other's death. In this moral arena, moreover, there is no reciprocity, but only the process whereby one simply presents her/himself before the other by saying Me Voici (Here I am) to bear witness to its commands and be traced by its anonymous presence.

[18] It seems that there is a fundamental divergence between Deleuze and Guattari's affirmative ontology and Levinas' other-orientated moral imperatives: the former seems to be advocating the power of being; the latter, the abdication of this power. In a longer essay, I could have shown through close textual study that, despite all the seeming differences, Deleuze's thought is not so very different from Levinas'. Suffice it to say, that Deleuze's critique of relative difference through the mediation of the identity and analogy of concepts coincides with Levinas' critique of totalizing thought. Both these thinkers give us a sense of the outside or the other in its absolute difference and without a representational image. Moreover, both of them situate the need to think through the event of encounter with this irreducible other at the centre of their philosophical projects: Deleuze propels his idea of affirmative becoming out of it , and Levinas, his non-egological ethics. However, despite basing himself on Spinozist passive emotions, Deleuze's affective becoming promotes, no doubt under the influence of Nietzsche and Bergson, too affirmative an ethics. This becomes a particular problem in the negotiation of rigid or molar identities that constitute social and historical reality. Although Deleuze and Guattari argue that all mutual becomings take place upon the destratification/deterritorialization of molar identities, and that these processes do not involve the imitative circuit of model and copy relationship, it is still difficult to see how affectivity alone can withstand the counter-thrust of egocentric passions and mimetic drives . In order to secure the deterritorialization of an egocentric and essentialist self, and to safeguard against the mastery and appropriation of the other in an encounter, I believe a certain deliberate moral positioning is required.

[19] It seems to me that Levinas' ethics of extreme passivity which positions the 'subject' into a relationship of obligation with the other without prior thematisation and representation, leaving the other to its absolute difference, is a necessary moral preparation for both effective deterritorialization of molar subjectivity and a safeguard against the return of the territorialising drive. Hence, I would propose Deleuze and Guattari's aparallel evolution or involution, which allows continuous becoming-other in affective encounters and the formation of shifting alliances of 'in-betweens', as the most appropriate nomadic ethics for our time - with the proviso, however, that their active and affirmative ethological ethics is sufficiently safeguarded by the passivity of Levinas' moral ethics. Of course, this produces a paradox. Yet, for an effective nomadic ethics, the question is not how to resolve it, but - like Levinas' paradox between 'saying' (le dire) and the 'said' ( le dit) - to work productively through it. Wilson Harris, in his novel The Four Banks of the River of Space, shows that being passive or active are not mutually exclusive states but parts of the same paradoxical process of cross-cultural becoming. Anselm, the narrative voice of this text, asks himself in his dream-monologue: 'What balance divides heroism into sheer possession of the other, the sheer hunt, on the one hand, and necessary burial of the stranger one bears who brings news of chains that bind us [?]'. His answer murmurs as if Levinas were whispering through the leaves of the tropical canopy of the Guyanese rain forest, where the orchid still blossoms in its primordial harmony despite the taxonomic territorialization of colonial botanists: 'To beak those chains we need to see ourselves as captives in the hand of the stranger.' (28) Contrary to commonsensical expectation, Anselm's passivity, his being the captive of the other, does not imprison him in the pathos of abjection but only frees him of his egocentricity - characteristic of molar subjectivity - and clears the passage for his affirmation of the 'cross-cultural capacity to bear the dual, triple (sometimes self-reversible) content.' (29)

[20] If nomadic ethics is not merely content to remain an aesthetic vision of a sublime life, or choose not to entertain the whimsical fantasy of 'exotic primitivism', then, as I have already argued, it must allow itself to be questioned from the point of view of historical minorities. Deleuze and Guattari are not unaware of this problem; they point out that: 'there is no becoming-majoritarian; majority is never becoming. All becoming is minoritarian.' (30) Here it is worth pointing out that 'minority' is not meant to be a numerical figure; rather, for Deleuze and Guattari, it indicates the force of the outside - a contrapuntal note to the molar harmony of dominant stratification. Furthermore, the figure of 'minority' brings with it the multiplicity of contingent connections, and disrupts the axiomatic of majoritarian subjection - its transcendental principle of the 'one', its secure subject of enunciation, and its fixation upon repressive power. Historically, of course, the 'minority' articulates a relationship within a regime of power where the 'minority' is on the margin - othered by the majoritarian discourse and subjected to its power. Hence, in Deleuze and Guattari's becoming-minority - the trajectory of all becomings - there is no room for becoming-man, becoming-Whitman, becoming-European; only for becoming-woman, becoming-Black, etc. Yet they also argue that 'even blacks . . . must become black. Even women must become women'. (31) Within the context of nomadic ethics, this antinomy is understandable but is also, from the minority point of view, slightly troubling.

[21] First, let me establish the positive side of this argument: since numerical, historical or subaltern minorities are not reducible to nomadic or molecular minorities, they do not form automatic rhizomatic multiplicities. If minorities were to stay where they are - the fixity assigned to them by the majoritarian power - they would continue to play the slave to the master. Moreover, without a vision of the 'outside' and the affirmative movement of becoming, there is no guarantee that minorities would not be trapped within mimetic desire, reactive politics, and the sad passion of Ressentiment. How else could one prevent the birth of a new majority once the present majority is vanquished? The formation of a comprador bourgeoisie in neo-colonial nation-states - who not only serve the interests of the neo-imperialists but also replicate the same old power structures - is a good example of this. Hence, Fanon addresses the colonised minorities: 'do not imitate Europe . . . so let us stop envying her'. [32] Furthermore, a minority subject-position constituted at one level does not automatically prevent the same subject from assuming majoritarian positions at many other levels: a colonised man may share the same minority position with his wife or sister in a colonial society, but that may not be a guarantee that he wouldn't assume a majoritarian position in relation to her at the level of gender. Similarly, a bourgeois black woman in a white supremacist society may share a number of minority positions with her black maid, but would assume a majoritarian relationship with her at the level of class. Furthermore, a heterosexual man or woman placed at the margin of society because of her/his particular location in relation to class, race or gender may find her/himself in a majoritarian role in relation to her/his queer neighbour. Apart from the ones I have so far catalogued, it would not be difficult to add to them a number of other multiple and contradictory locations that a single unitary subject finds her/himself being placed in. Yet, in the urgency of having to fight against the minority location that one finds oneself in, one often forgets the minorities in respect of which one has majoritarian relationships.

[22] Finally, if historical or subaltern minorities opt out of nomadic or minoritarian becoming, this can easily lead to the valorisation of experiential plenitude, and, consequently, to the fixity of essential difference. Essentialism thus embraced by a minority may not only give rise to the fantasy of purity of origin, but also to an odious form of nationalism. Are we then not likely to produce another Bosnia or Rwanda? Perhaps this perception prompted Nicolás Guillén to write:

Soy impuro ¿qué quieres que te diga?
Completamente impuro.
Sin embargo,
creo que muchas cosas puras en el mundo
que no son más que pura mierda. [33]

Moreover, if historical minorities - either on account of their racial, sexual or colonial subjection - allow themselves to remain fixed in their imaginary purity of their essence, then how can they question the authority of colonial or racially supremacist discourses? For these supremacist discourses premise their legitimising authority on the assumptions of immobile essence and purity of origin. At best, if a historically subjected minority does not undertake a nomadic or minoritarian becoming, it can only claim injustice within this imitative logic - we do not have what they have - and can only claim liberation by way of the reverse side of the same majoritarian principle - we must have what they have ( for instance, creating our own nation-state by excluding those who are not pure like ourselves). Nuruddin Farah brilliantly dramatises this danger in his novel, Maps, which tells the story of Askar and Misra amidst the swelling nationalist paranoia fostered by the Ogaden war. Askar, who loses his mother at birth, becomes so close to Misra - his foster mother - that their bodies become one. Misra's love for Askar reaches such an intensity that he even replaces Allah and becomes the 'space and time' of her universe. Yet the fervour of nationalism fed on the fables of ethnic purity turns Askar - the Somali - into a warrior for the fatherland, and Misra - the non-Somali (Oromo) into a scapegoat, a traitor, and eventually 'a corpse [that] no one claimed.' [34] Reflective by nature, Askar becomes aware that behind the bodily separation, which assigns him and Misra their respective selfhoods in the social landscape, lies the inscription of national belonging - the marker of an essential difference between 'we' and 'they' people. In an imaginary interlocution with Misra, he tells himself that 'the other, i.e. the maps which give me the distance in scales of kilometre - [are] the distance that is between you and me.'[35] Now, given all these dangers, how could we refute the claim that a minority must also become minoritarian in the sense of embracing a nomadic becoming?/p>

[23] Despite making a case for why a minority cannot do away with becoming-minority, we haven't yet fully taken account of the point of view of 'historically determined' minorities. Deleuze and Guattari's equation of a minority with the anonymous force of the 'outside' makes it an abstract figure that does not have a necessary bearing on historical or subaltern minorities. Moreover, since they see all molar politics of rights - of which minority demands for self-identity and self-determination form a part - as negative or reterritorialising from the point of view of molecular politics, they may be seen to be blind to the specific condition of historical minorities. It is true that in response to feminist demands, they concede: ' It is, of course, indispensable for women to conduct a molar politics, with a view to winning back their own organism, their own history, their own subjectivity: "we as women . . ." makes its appearance as a subject of enunciation.' [36] But this is done almost in passing, and without giving proper consideration as to how it might affect the idea of molecular politics.

[24] It would seem that it is Deleuze's over eager anti-Hegelism that pushes the argument to a purely aesthetic politics of the sublime. As a consequence of this, the politics of liberation engaged in by historically determined minority subjects - those who have been placed in a subaltern position and denied their own voice, their self-determination, their place of dwelling, their rights to form a community of their own - are seen as a reactive or Hegelian corruption of the pure model. This is because this kind of politics works within the limiting framework of determinant oppositions rather than beyond all oppositions. Hence, 'feminist' nomadologists have complained about Deleuze-Guattari's idea of becoming-women for women because - from women's point of view - the renunciation of their specific difference in the name of overcoming all differences does not enable them to redress the historical injustice done to them. Moreover, the ego-power-centric subjectivity of the molar type, whose deterritorialization nomadology calls for as a precondition of affirmative becoming, has never been the lot of women, or, for that matter, of any other historically determined minority groups. Thus, Rosi Braidotti, following Lucy Irigaray, points out that, 'one cannot deconstruct a subjectivity one has never been fully granted.' [37] This 'feminist' critique of Deleuze-Guattarian nomadism is legitimate, only if it is understood within patriarchal territoriality, and only insofar as it concerns gender relationships. Since women are located in a diverse set of relationships - where they may find themselves in a number of majoritarian positions, such as colonial women in relation to the colonised, white women in relation to black subjects in a racially structured society, and bourgeois women in relation to the working classes in a class-based society - minoritarian destratifications are still needed by women subjects. However, the voiceless must have a voice; the subaltern, no matter how inaudible their voices are, must be heard; and the homeless must have a home. Our critique of Hegelianism must not throw the baby out with the bath water.

[25] Following on from the strategy of passive/active positioning in the event of mutual encounter that I have already argued for, it seems to me that a paradoxical engagement with both molar and molecular politics is required. There cannot be a purely sublime model of affirmative becoming. Perhaps Levinas' last major text, Otherwise than Being and Beyond Essence, brings home the unavoidable nature of this paradox. His critique of totalizing ontology and egological thought, forcefully announced in Totality and Infinity and continued in much of Otherwise than Being and Beyond Essence, not only endeavours to reject the cognitive or propositional language of rational knowledge (le dit) but also attempts to find a way to give expression to a purely ethical language (le dire). However, in the latter text, Levinas comes to realise that the response to the other in a purely ethical language is not possible since it can only be given expression in cognitive language. Hence, le dire is always compromised and betrayed the moment it is expressed. Therefore, the ethical task is not to do away with cognitive language, but to bear witness to the other in it or to make room for le dire in le dit. ' The Otherwise than being', writes Levinas, 'is stated in a saying that must also be unsaid in order to thus extract Otherwise than being from the said in which it already comes to signify but a being Otherwise.' [38] Similarly, the task of a nomadic ethics is not to reject molar politics but to find a way through it so that the affirmative becoming of the molecular type becomes possible.

[26] Finally, how should the nomadic ethics of aparallel evolution or involution that I have proposed - with the Levinasian modifications - be conducted in relation to a historically determined majority and minority ? In other words, how can a majority and a minority encounter each other to produce a community of 'in-betweens'? Although Deleuze and Guattari allude to betrayal as being a nomadic trait, they do not consider its role in relation to historically determined majorities and minorities. Juan Goytisolo, the Catalan writer, on the other hand, devotes much of his work to this question. For Goytisolo, 'active betrayal' is a pre-condition for the encounter with the outside; without becoming-traitor, the majority can never conjugate with the minority. Exiled from his Spanish homeland to Tangier, where he gives himself up to nomadic wandering through the labyrinthine alleyways and teeming chaos of the souks, the narrator of Count Julian finds himself repeating the 'Moorish tableau' of the Manichaean order that his homeland has nurtured for centuries. [39] Yet looking out at the Spanish coast, the contemporary narrator entertains the fantasy of being the double of Count Julian - the Visigothic governor whose betrayal supposedly allowed Islam to enter Spain in the 8th century. It is as if only by becoming a traitor of the abominable magnitude of the count, that the narrator can begin to deterritorialize the Manichaean order of Spanish majoritarian culture and open the pathway for an encounter with its erstwhile demonic minority. Of this moment of betrayal, Goytisolo writes:

the pleasure of betraying: of freeing oneself of that which identifies and defines us: of that which converts us, against our will, into spokesmen of something: of that which pins a label on us and fashions a mask for us:what homeland?: all of them: those of the past, the present, and the future: large and small, powerful or miserably poor and helpless: selling one's homeland into bondage, an endless chain of scales, an unending crime, permanent and active betrayal. [40]

Active betrayal is not a whimsical 'going native' or savouring of the exotic pleasure of cross-dressing, but a relentless questioning and rejection of the principles and the conditions that have constituted one into a majoritarian subject. We see a similar dramatisation of 'active betrayal' in J.M.Coetzee's novel, Waiting for the Barbarians, where the figure of the Magistrate, a long- serving functionary of the Empire - obviously echoes the internal colonialism of South African under apartheid - tries to find a way to conjugate with the barbarian other. First, as an amateur archaeologist, he collects the long-buried secrets of the desert, then he sets himself the task of deciphering the secrets of the barbarian girl - a prisoner in his encampment. These attempts, however, only further consolidate his imperial/majoritarian self. It is only when in an affective encounter with the barbarian girl - who then ceases to be an 'interior' to be penetrated and deciphered and presents herself in her irreducible difference as a pure 'surface', and himself, in turn, appears in her gaze as 'a blur, a voice, a smell' [41] - that he begins to shed his molar/majoritarian self. Even so, this encounter is not enough for an effective deterritorialization of the historic position allotted to him, let alone for the forming of a minoritarian community with the barbarians. The Magistrate needs to betray actively the law of the Empire, which he does by escorting the barbarian girl back to her people across the desert. Yet, even this is not enough, because without performatively undergoing the minority conditions through his own body, the betrayal remains only formal. So in a series of deliberate attempts he brings to bear on his body 'the traces of a history her body bears.' [42] Only when he suffers the humiliation, imprisonment, torture and starvation which the Empire habitually metes out to its barbarian other, that he feels his betrayal is active enough to destratify his imperial self. Hence, it is as a result of his becoming-minority to the imperial regime that the Magistrate enters the threshold of aparallel evolution or involution. However, in the end the novel does not manage to carry through this process and allow conjugation with the barbarians to form a minoritarian community. Perhaps because of Coetzee's ambivalence about the future of South Africa, and in order to keep his narrative safe from any directly political entanglement - to maintain its aestheticist aloofness intact - the novel ends in a nihilistic gesture of self-loss that goes 'nowhere.' Yet, in the affective encounter through which the Magistrate forms a micro-alliance with the barbarian girl, we can find an embryonic model of a collective evolution or 'involution' towards the formation of a nomadic or minoritarian community. However, the point here is that without betrayal there is no becoming-nomad for the majority. In this context, it is worth remembering Isabelle Eberhardt : if between her romantic exoticism inspired by Pierre Loti at the beginning of her North African adventures, and her naive complicity with the Mission Civilisatrice towards the end of her destitute life, Eberhardt becomes a nomad, it is not by wandering through the desert but by the extent of her betrayal of her European origin. [43]

[27] If a historically determined majority can only enter the process of aparallel evolution or involution by turning itself into a traitor or betraying actively, how about the minority? We have already explored the dangers of a molar stasis for historical minorities: they also need to become nomads and molecular minorities. However, the course that the minonity needs to follow is not same as for the majority, since the biggest danger for the minority is the mimetic seductiveness of the majoritarian power structure. Yet, I have argued that historical minorities need to conduct their molar politics of self-determination or struggle to win back what is due to them, not as something peripheral, in the way Deleuze and Guattari seem to suggest, but as an integral part of a total liberatory movement. Obviously, any molar politics incurs the danger of majoritarian reterritorialization - the recreation of repressive and exclusionary power structures. Hence, for a historically determined minority what is required is a paradoxical engagement with molar and molecular politics all at the same time. To give up molar politics would amount to historical suicide; but if they are conducted without the imperatives of nomadic ethics the result is most likely to be the formation of a new majoritarian power . Therefore, in order to remain just, and to avoid sedentary stasis, the politics of rights and self-determination conducted by a historically determined minority need the nomadic ethics of becoming-minority. On the other hand, a nomadic ethics that does not go through the molar politics of minority rights not only remains a form of pure aestheticism but also loses its power of action in the existing social formations. From the point of view of the minorities, what then is required is a continuous movement between molar reterritorialization and molecular deterritorialization. In the striving to sustain this perilous balancing-act - which can never be fully balanced - we can find one of the most practical applications of nomadic Conatus.

[28] Finally, when a traitorous majority and a non-mimetic minority affectively meet each other - which cannot fail to be a joyful encounter - aparallel evolution or involution between them becomes a real or historical possibility; and consequently , leads to the formation of a powerful community of shifting 'in-betweens.' I leave the final words to Derek Walcott: 

. . . History has simplified 
him. Its elegies had blinded me with the temporal
lament for a smoky Troy, but where coral died 
it feeds on its death, the bones branch into more coral,

and contradiction begins. It lies in the schism
of the starfish reversing heaven; the mirror of History
has melted and, beneath it, a patient, hybrid organism

grows in his cruciform shadow. For a city
it had coral pantheons. No needling steeple
magnetized pilgrims, but it grew a good people. [44]



[1] Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. 3, Oxford University Press, London 1934, p. 396.

[2] Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines, Picador, London 1988, p.14.

[3] Ibid., p.94.

[4] Ibn Khaldûn, The Muqaddimah, trans. Franz Rosenthal, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1967, p. 95.

[5] Ibid., p.94.

[6] Yves Lacoste, Ibn Khaldûn: The Birth and the Past of the Third World, trans. David Macey, Verso, London 1984, p. 100.

[7] Khaldûn, The Muqaddimah, p. 118.

[8] Ibid., p.119.

[9] Ibid., p. 114.

[10] Ibid., p. 99.

[11] Ibid., p. 108.

[12] Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Vol. 3.

[13] Ibid., p.395.

[14] G.W.Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. J.Sibree, Dover Publication, New York 1956, p.106.

[15] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi, The Athlone Press, London 1988, p. 381.

[16] Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines, p.3.

[17] James Clifford, Travelling Cultures in Routes : Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, Harvard University Press, Cambridge & London 1997, p. 39.

[18] Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogue, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, The Athlone Press, London 1987, p.7.

[19] See in particular the introduction: The Role and Importance of Expression; chapter IV: Expression in Parallelism ; and the conclusion: The Theory of Expression in Leibniz and Spinoza: Expressionism in Philosophy in Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, trans. Martin Joughin, Zone Books, New York 1992.

[20] Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, p.100.

[21] For instance, Spinoza writes: ' The object of the idea constituting the human mind is a body, or a certain mode of extension actually existing, and nothing more.' Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics, ed. James Gutmann, trans. W. H. White, A. H. Stirling and R. H. M. Elwes, Hafner Press, New York 1949, pt. II, prop. XIII, p. 89.

[22] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.11.

[23] Gilles Deleuze reworks the figure of the simulacrum in the sense in which I am using it here in his appendix to The Logic of Sense , 'The Simulacrum and Ancient Philosophy', trans. Mark Mark Lester and Charles Stivale, Columbia University Press, New York 1990. Deleuze's analysis of Plato's procedures for arriving at the adequate grounds of representation or legitimate knowledge, shows how this project is fractured by its own phantasm. Plato's procedure is organised by the binary circuit of the model and the copy. Since the adequacy of representation or truthful knowledge depends on the nature of the copy, Plato's search for types of copies leads him to the most degraded or phantasmatic of all copies - simulacrum. However, Deleuze finds in Sophist 'the most extraordinary adventure of Platonism', when 'Plato discovers, in a flash of an instance, that the simulacrum is not simply a false copy, but that it places in question the very notion of copy and model.' (p.256) Moreover, by deterritorializing the mimetic circuit of model/copy, simulacrum releases the affirmative force of becoming. Hence, Deleuze sees in the simulacrum a form of repetition that Nietzsche conceived through the concept of 'eternal return'.

[24] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 293.

[25] Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity, trans. Alphonso Lingis, Dusquesne University Press, Pittsburgh 1969, p.39.

[26] Levinas thus draws the historical consequence of egological ontology :' My being-in-the world or my 'place in the sun', my being at home, have these not also been the usurpation of spaces belonging to the other man whom I have already oppressed or starved, or driven out into the world; are they not acts of repulsion, excluding, exiling, stripping, killing?' in Emmanuel Levinas, Ethics as First Philosophy', in Seán Hand (ed.) Levinas Reader, Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1989, p.82.

[27] Levinas writes: 'the identity of the subject comes from the impossibility of escaping responsibility, from taking charge of the other,' ; and, 'the most passive, unassumable passivity, the subjectivity or the very subjection of the subject, is due to my being obsessed with responsibility for the oppressed who is other than myself.' In Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being and Beyond Essence, trans.Alphonso Lingis, Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1981, p. 14 and p.55 respectively.

[28] Wilson Harris, Four Banks of the River of Space, in The Carnival Trilogy, Faber and Faber, London 1993, p.423.

[29] ibid., p.313.

[30] Deleuze and Guattari, A thousand Plateaus, p.106.

[31] ibid., p. 291.

[32] Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans.Constance Farrington, Penguin, Harmondsworth 1967, pp. 252-3.

[33] Nicolás Guillén, Digo que yo no soy un hombre puro ( I Declare Myself an Impure Man) , in ¡Patria o Muerte! The Great Zoo and Other Poems , trans. Robert Márquez, Monthly Review Press, New York 1977, pp. 210 - 211.

I am Impure, what can I say?
Absolutely impure.
I think there are many pure things in the world
that are nothing but pure shit.

[34] Nuruddin Farah, Maps, Picador, London 1986, p.241.

[35] ibid., p. 18.

[36] Deleuze and Guattari, A thousand Plateaus, p.276.

[37] Rosi Braidotti, Pattern of Dissonance, trans. Elizabeth Guild, Polity Press, Cambridge 1991, p.122.

[38] Levinas, Otherwise than Being and Beyond Essence, p. 7.

[39] In his essay, 'From Count Julian to Makbara', Goytisolo, in his reading of his own novel through Edward Said's Orientalism, points out how the orientalist doxa that has constructed the 'Moors' as other provides the mise-en-scène in which his work is set. His justification for re-enactment of orientalist stereotypes is that in order to 'battle. . . against [this] tradition' they must be repeated, because, otherwise the 'grotesque. . .deform[ation]. .. of the 'white' imagination.,' (p.227), can't be dramatised. Juan Goytisolo, Saracen Chronicles, trans.Helen Lane, Quartet books, London 1992.

[40] Juan Goytisolo, Count Julian, trans. Helen Lane, Serpent's Tail, London 1989, p.112.

[41] J.M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians, Penguin, Harmondsworth 1982, p.29.

[42] ibid., p.64.

[43] See Isabel Eberhardt, The Passionate Nomad: The Diary of Isabelle Eberhardt, ed. Rana Kabbani, trans.Nina de Voogd, Virago, London 1987; and Isabel Eberhardt, Departures: Selected Writings, trans. Karim Hamdy and Laura Rice, City Lights, San Francisco 1994.

[44] Derek Walcott, Omeros , Faber and Faber, London 1990, chapt. LIX, sec.II, p.297.