Tuesday, December 12, 2006

How can one be Deleuzian?

Though it's always been more than this, Differences & Repetitions began in many respects as a Deleuze blog. At the time I was teaching a graduate seminar, "The Problem of the Media in Deleuze and Guattari," and so, perhaps unsurprisingly, Deleuzo-Guattarian philosophy was very much on my mind in the fall of 2005. In a way it often continues to be, though sometimes other issues and intellectual concerns need to take priority both in life and here on this blog. As this semester winds down, though, I find myself with just a little more time to think and write than when we're in full-swing. And here, in anticipation of composing an essay on the concept of critique, I've found myself more fully engaged once again with Deleuzo-Guattarian (mostly Deleuzian) philosophy.

The odd thing is, inasmuch as I'm gripped by the individual and collaborative writings of D&G, and while many in my department poke fun at my "Deleuzianism" (I bring this on myself, as I have a poster of Deleuze on my office wall), my work rarely comes across as Deleuzo-Guattarian in any clear or direct way--and readers who know my writing are welcome to correct me if you think I'm wrong. Granted, I at times refer directly to the work of D&G, and I occasionally--and I really mean occasionally--pilfer ideas and vocabulary from them. Still, I don't believe that my research reads as particularly Deleuze/Guattari-inspired, at least in the same way as that of many scholars who claim an interest in D&G. I interact intensively with Deleuze and Guattari, in other words, especially in preparation for writing, but in the end I have a tendency to leave them behind.

My question is, why? And it's this question that leads me back to Charles Stivale's brilliant question from his Two-Fold Thought of Deleuze and Guattari: how can one be Deleuzian? I suppose, for me, "being" Deleuzian (or, really, Deleuzo-Guattarian, for as someone with an alphabetically late-occurring last name, I can appreciate the travails of second authorship) means thinking with or alongside Deleuze and Guattari but doing so in the background, more than, say, employing a whole host of their concepts explicitly. So, for example, my book manuscript explores an emergent set of consumer practices that might well be describe in Deleuzo-Guattarian terms as "becoming actual." And yet, I don't use that language until the final chapter, and only then do I use it in passing. In a more general sense, my commitment to cultural studies, and thus to the idea of articulation, in many respects disposes me to think and analyze "rhizomatically." Nevertheless, I cannot really recall a time when I used that specific language in a published essay.

I'm not trying to set out here a normative prescription by which one ought to "be" (or become) Deleuzo-Guattarian. Indeed, I think of some of the most intriguing work coming out of Deleuzo-Guattarian cultural studies, much of which refers more explicitly (and successfully, I think) to Deleuzo-Guattarian language than does my published research. Here I'm thinking of the work of Greg Seigworth, Jennifer Daryl Slack, Steve Wiley, Greg Wise, and others. Still, I wonder if, in the end, the question "How can one be Deleuzo-Guattarian?" is best answered by trying to start from their work, with the intention then of trying to move away from it. That's what's seemed to work best for me, at any rate.

P.S. This might well be my last post of 2006, and if so, let me wish all of my readers the happiest of winter holidays and good cheer for 2007. Peace.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Good will

Yes, indeed, it's been awhile. The last couple of weeks have gotten away from me, owing largely to the US Thanksgiving holiday (a much-needed break) and to the National Communication Association (NCA) conference, which took up most of the preceding week. Now we're in the last week of classes here at Indiana University, with final exams looming just around the corner. I'm still amazed at how quickly the semester's blown by.

I'm writing largely to report on the NCA convention, and more specifically on the interesting roundtable on academic publishing and intellectual property (IP) that I mentioned in an earlier post. The session, which was organized by Mark Hayward, a really bright and interesting graduate student from my alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill, brought together IP scholars, academic book and journal publishers, and an audience of interested parties. The panelists included, on the "academic" side of things, Mark, Kembrew McLeod, Siva Vaidhyanathan, and me, and from the world of publishing, Taylor & Francis' Tracy Roberts and NYU Press' Eric Zinner. Together, we tried to hash out the past, present, and future of scholarly publishing within the framework of intellectual property concerns.

Some highlights--and I'll stress that this is what I heard, not necessarily what each of the participants actually said: Mark expertly introduced the panel, noting how graduate students often find themselves in quite a predicament, given that many feel as though they lack the leverage to insist on reasonable copyright provisions when they're just beginning to get their feet in the door of academic publishing. Kembrew suggested that NCA and other professional associations should formulate "best practices" statements to guide what can and cannot be incorporated into scholarly publications and how (and here, song lyrics were of particular concern). Siva, for his part, offered an impassioned and insightful history of fair use in the US and how it pertains to academic publishing, and made a plea for the use of Creative Commons licensing of academic books and journal articles.

Tracy and Eric's contributions were equally enlightening. Tracy enumerated T&F's "retained rights" provisions, which helped to demystify the company's attitude toward journal publishing, IP, and authors (though I still wish T&F would scale back its 18-month embargo period, which restricts when authors can place PDFs of their published articles on personal websites). Eric, meanwhile, said something that delighted me. He said that much of the hullabaloo (my word) about academic publishing and IP was just that--hullabaloo, especially since the profit margins in academic book publishing in particular tend to be quite slim. He wasn't arguing that academic books should cease being copyrighted, though he did note that suing an academic author or press for copyright infringement probably wouldn't yield much in terms of financial compensation--and with that, he seemed to be suggesting that academic publishers should take a more open stance on the issue of authors' appropriating copyrighted materials in published work.

I've shared much of what I said at the convention on D&R over the past couple of months: that academic publishing may well be headed in some nasty directions, given the looming threat (and even implementation) of unnecessarily restrictive digital rights management schemes and related changes; and that academic authors and publishers, collectively, need to recover our common ground, and perhaps more important, to respect one another's good will a great deal more. And, yes, I really mean that for both sides of the publishing world.

P.S. I should add that our panel was programed opposite another quite intriguing panel in which the participants read and discussed rejection letters they'd received from academic journals. I'd have loved to have sat in on that session, since I gather most of the people involved have gone on to produce some of the most ground-breaking work in the field of communication studies.