Summary of “Deleuze and Space,” edited by Ian Buchanan and Gregg Lambert

Deleuze and Space

Deleuze and Space

“Deleuze and Space,” edited by Ian Buchanan and Gregg Lambert, is a comprehensive exploration of the philosophical implications of space as conceptualised by Gilles Deleuze and further elaborated by various contributors. The book situates Deleuze as a significant spatial thinker, examining his and Félix Guattari’s ideas on the production of space, its conceptualisation, and its implications for subjects within various sociopolitical and cultural contexts. Through a collection of essays, the editors aim to elaborate on Deleuze’s spatial concepts, such as smooth and striated space, nomadology, and the Body without Organs, among others, applying these ideas to diverse fields ranging from architecture and urban planning to art, literature, and cinema.

The introduction by Buchanan and Lambert sets the stage for the collection, emphasising Deleuze’s contribution to understanding space not just as a physical dimension but as a complex conceptual framework influencing and intersecting with various aspects of life, thought, and creativity. The book argues that Deleuze offers a revolutionary way to think about space and spatial relations, challenging conventional notions and encouraging a reevaluation of how space is produced, perceived, and experienced.

Contributions to the volume explore specific Deleuzian concepts related to space, offering insights into how these ideas operate in different contexts. For example, essays delve into the notion of the “fold” in relation to architectural practices, the significance of “smooth” and “striated” spaces in understanding urban and social fabrics, and the role of space in cinematic expressions. Each essay not only applies Deleuzian theory to its specific subject matter but also expands on the theory, demonstrating its relevance and adaptability to contemporary challenges in understanding and engaging with space.

“Deleuze and Space” is significant for its interdisciplinary approach, bringing together contributors from various fields to engage with Deleuze’s spatial theories. This collective endeavour not only highlights the breadth of Deleuze’s influence across disciplines but also underscores the complexity of space as a concept that is simultaneously physical, conceptual, political, and aesthetic.

Smooth and striated space

The concepts of smooth and striated space, articulated by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, offer a profound and nuanced way to understand the organisation, perception, and production of space in various domains of life, including the social, political, and artistic. These concepts challenge the traditional binary oppositions such as open/closed, bounded/unbounded, or linear/nonlinear, presenting instead a dynamic interplay between different modalities of spatialisation.

Smooth space (espace lisse) is characterised by its open-ended, continuous, and non-hierarchical nature. It is a space of nomadism and becoming, associated with movement and the constant transformation of its own organisation. Smooth space is not empty or anarchic; rather, it operates with a different logic from the conventional, metrically defined spaces. It is about intensities and events rather than fixed coordinates. In smooth spaces, the point of interest is not the position but the movement itself, the paths taken, and the speeds achieved. Art, particularly music and painting, often embodies the qualities of smooth space, focusing on the affective and the experiential rather than strict formal structures.

Striated space (espace strié), on the other hand, is defined, bounded, and organised according to clear, hierarchical structures. It represents the space of the State, architecture, and settled society. Striated space is characterised by its capacity to measure, control, and allocate positions within a grid or a system of coordinates. It is the space of property, boundaries, and governance, where movements are regulated, and spaces are allocated for specific purposes. This modality of space production is associated with stability, predictability, and control.

Deleuze and Guattari argue that smooth and striated spaces are not mutually exclusive but coexist, intertwine, and transform into one another. The interaction between them is dynamic, with the potential for smooth spaces to be striated and for striated spaces to become smooth. For instance, a city (a striated space) can have pockets of smooth spaces in parks, markets, or areas where informal, spontaneous interactions occur beyond the strict control of urban planning. Conversely, the forces of striation can penetrate nomadic, smooth spaces through processes of colonisation, mapping, and regulation.

These concepts are particularly influential in fields such as geography, urban studies, architecture, and art theory, offering a lens through which to analyse the production and experience of space that transcends traditional dichotomies. By focusing on the fluid interaction between smooth and striated spaces, Deleuze and Guattari provide a powerful conceptual toolkit for understanding the complexities of contemporary spatial practices and the potential for new forms of spatial organisation and experience.

Deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation

Deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation are critical concepts in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, providing a dynamic framework to understand the flows and movements within various systems—be it social, political, psychological, or ecological. These concepts transcend the literal sense of territorial boundaries to delve into the intricate processes of change, adaptation, and identity formation across different contexts.

Deterritorialisation refers to the process of unbinding or disconnecting from established roles, norms, or identities. It’s a movement away from a defined territory, which can be physical, like land, or metaphorical, such as cultural norms or psychological states. This process can be seen in various forms, such as the migration of people which disrupts traditional social structures, the evolution of language that moves away from classical forms, or the spread of digital technology that transcends physical boundaries and reshapes social interactions.

In a broader sense, deterritorialisation embodies the fluidity and potential for change inherent in all systems. It represents the capacity for lines of flight or escape from rigid structures, enabling new connections and possibilities to emerge. This concept is particularly relevant in the context of globalisation, where economic, cultural, and technological forces are constantly reshaping the landscapes of societies, economies, and individual identities.

Reterritorialisation is the process that follows deterritorialisation, where new structures, norms, or identities are formed as entities become reattached or integrated into new or modified territories. It’s not merely a return to the status quo but the creation of new territories or the reconfiguration of existing ones. This process can involve the establishment of new cultural practices by migrant communities, the adaptation of new technologies within existing social frameworks, or the formation of new political identities in response to changing geopolitical landscapes.

Reterritorialisation underscores the resilience and adaptability of systems in response to disruption and change. It reflects the ongoing negotiations and compromises that entities undergo as they seek stability or coherence within new contexts. This process is evident in how societies assimilate immigrants, how traditional industries adapt to digital transformation, or how individuals renegotiate their identities in the face of changing social norms.

Interplay and Implications
The interplay between deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation illustrates the dynamic nature of change, where destabilisation leads to the creation of new forms and structures. These concepts offer a nuanced understanding of transformation, highlighting the continuous movement between states of flux and stability. They provide a valuable framework for analysing social change, cultural adaptation, and the evolution of identities in a rapidly globalising world, suggesting that change is not merely destructive but also generative, leading to the formation of new territories of meaning, belonging, and action.

In essence, deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation capture the essence of modern existence, where traditional boundaries are constantly challenged and redefined. By examining these processes, one gains insight into the complexities of change and the potential for innovation and renewal in the face of disruption.

Overall, the book is an essential resource for scholars and students interested in Deleuze’s philosophy, spatial theory, and their applications across disciplines. It offers a comprehensive and nuanced exploration of the myriad ways in which space is conceptualized, produced, and lived, according to Deleuzian thought, and encourages further exploration and innovation in thinking about space and spatial practices.

The collection “Deleuze and Space,” explores Gilles Deleuze’s profound engagement with spatial concepts in philosophy. Deleuze is celebrated for integrating space into his philosophical inquiries, envisioning a dynamic, desert-like expanse where concepts roam freely. He introduced innovative ideas such as smooth and striated spaces, nomadic versus sedentary lifestyles, and processes of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation, alongside the notion of the fold. These concepts not only illustrate Deleuze’s spatial thinking but also equip us to think about space in novel ways.

This compilation, featuring contributions from esteemed Deleuze scholars like Reda Bensmaia, Ian Buchanan, Claire Colebrook, Tom Conley, Manuel DeLanda, Gary Genosko, Gregg Lambert, and Nigel Thrift, applies Deleuze’s spatial theories across various domains including architecture, cinema, urban planning, political philosophy, and metaphysics. It marks the first critical commentary on the intellectual and philosophical responses evoked by Deleuze’s spatial theories over the past decade. Targeting students and scholars in art, architecture, urban studies, and philosophy, the book presents a comprehensive guide to understanding Deleuze’s impactful work on space, which continues to resonate and expand in influence. Its lucid, introductory style makes it accessible to a broad audience, including those less familiar with Deleuze’s work.

Buchanan, I., & Lambert, G. (Eds.). (2005). Deleuze and Space. Edinburgh University Press.

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