Becomings and Goings and Something Called Woman

History has produced many different technologies for the purpose of organizing bodies (Foucault: 1986), and the latter half of the last century saw a revival of discourses on embodiment. The body is scarcely a new subject for feminist scholars. For many years they have identified the neglect of the body as a product of the unifying order of rationality and the dualisms of Cartesian thought. Contemporary feminist discourse locates the body as a site of resistance and productive potential, and is finding ways of developing an ethical understanding of corporeality which is mutable enough to deal with the speeds and intensities of post-modern culture, without losing site of the multiplicity and complexity of women’s global situations.


In this paper I will take the current materialist feminist debate on embodiment as my point of departure, examining in particular the theories of Rosi Braidotti (1994), Elizabeth Grosz (1994) and Moira Gatens (1996). I intend to explore the ways in which they are developing an understanding of embodiment which de-territorialises dualistic thought, and the way in which they are re-figuring subjectivity and desiring processes. I aim to show however, that even when their discursive strategies attempt to avoid such dualisms as interior/exterior, mind/body etc., they are forced back into the dualistic trap by maintaining a binary notion of sexual difference. Though these feminist discourses do much to interrogate and de-territorialise other dualistic boundaries, my feeling is that by retaining the sexual dichotomy man/woman their movements risk being blocked by the very sexual stratifications which are fixing women into a minoritarian zone of exclusion.


I suggest that the problematics, which such feminist positions encounter, can be subverted through a rethinking of embodiment not only in spatial terms but also to include the relative and variable speeds and durations of intensities of desire. In this sense I will examine, through the work of Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1994), how sexual difference can be conceptualized pragmatically and ethically as a multiplicity and placed on differing zones, operating differing intensities through differing assemblages of desire.



Making Waves; feminist re-territorialisations of embodiment.


For materialist feminists, ‘Being’ commences with being embodied and various moves have been made from this point in order to develop their political and ethical strategies. This demands a challenging re-evaluation of second wave feminist movements, which has been beginning since the late 1980s and is closely linked to materialistic theories of embodiment and situated experience of real women. The very description of the movement as ‘wave’ reveals important aspects of its strategies.  A wave is constituted by millions of micro-particles in a continual process of combining and breaking down and varying speeds and intensities. It’s furthest edge moves to the shore then pulls back, shifting boundaries and moving through its own currents and complexities of flows, de-territorialising and re-territorialising spaces. These movements mark the passages I wish to explore within contemporary feminist debate, which shift towards the re-figuration of women’s embodiment. These strategies have been developed largely in response to the ‘crisis of subjectivity’ which is a contemporary debate connected implicitly to the Western tradition of privileging the mental over the corporeal. This tradition has had severe consequences for relations between the sexes, as mental/rational/transcendental aspects have been traditionally masculinised at the expense of the ‘other’, which has been relegated to woman- as-opposition. This has been made apparent through feminist re-readings of discourses as divers as Plato and Freud.


Some feminist scholars are attempting to de-territorialise these dichotomies by developing notions of an embodied subject. These moves take place between biological determinism and social constructionism in view of the fact that both are based on a rigid binary opposition; part of the process of dialectical operation inherited from Hegel. We must remind ourselves that these feminists are struggling to reassess their political project with a fight for equivalence[1] rather than equality. This is undertaken through a reflexive critique of the foundations of traditional Western thought and through the production of creative narratives aimed at a re-figuring and understanding of women as political and social agents speaking with their own voices. This strategy has been incorporated into feminist discourse to varying degrees. I am interested particularly in those discourses, which attempt to displace concepts of womanhood and femininity, which for too long have centered upon biologisms and reproduction, without resorting to a purely social constructionist view. We are already too familiar with readings that have shown the violence of biological determinism and phallocentrism (Irigaray: 1986, contra Freud: 1932, contra Lacan: 1967), whereas the social constructionist stance and it’s reliance on textual bodies does not take into account the problematics of the physical body and its real affects and positive creativity (contra Moi: 1989 and Derrida: 1978). The materialist feminist debate seeks a re-figuration of embodiment that will allow movement between and through biological processes and social practices and begin to disrupt the phallocentric oppositions in which they are rooted. Some feminists of difference use deconstructive strategies that move in waves and at the same time propose a radical sexual alterity. The concept of difference has been at the heart of European philosophy since the late 1960’s. Critical reflection upon historical, social and economic circumstances and the structures of desire have resulted in multiple discourses across bodies and subjectivities. These feminist scholars have taken the operation further, to explore the relations between masculinity and subjectivity and have argued that the binary coding of the subject is itself a notion, which has historically privileged the male and resulted in the exclusion of women. Their project is thus motivated by a need to re-dress the balance and their intention is to develop a notion of subjectivity that is socially and politically pertinent to women. I will now explore these movements and their consequences.


In an attempt to avoid the problematics of the traditional attachment of sex difference to biology and gender difference to culture, Moira Gatens distinguishes between qualitative and quantitative attributes. For Gatens, the crux of the historical problem is that there are built into the structure of dualistic notions of difference, implicit quantitative and qualitative values, which result in differences in degree rather than kind. For example within such dualisms, (man/woman, rational/emotional, mental/physical etc.), analysis shows the former to maintain privilege while the latter acts as a negative notion; merely that which its predecessor is not (Gatens: 1996). This negative polarization positions woman as the ‘other’ of man, with a non-specific, undefined subjectivity whose attribute, if present at all act as the props for the male phallocentric subject. Following the positive series of male/rational/transcendental, Gatens shows how embodiment, over-bestowed on women also becomes negative trait. As such, female bodies are leaky, monstrous and dis-organized (Shildrick: 1997).  Gatens, like many feminists, while attempting to develop a concept of radical sexual alterity, wants to de-territorialise sexual difference which is based on biologistic essentialism, as clearly this would re-enforce phallocentrism. Gatens’ strategy involves the figuration of bodies as steeped in culture and localised knowledges. Drawing on the psychoanalytic concept of the body image, Gatens describes an imaginary doubling of the body produced through our relations with other bodies and simultaneously productive of subjectivity. In this instance, coherence and consistency of self is maintained through this “mimetic or introjective” method (Gatens: 1996; 31), in that bodies internalise what is lost to them in order to preserve its integrity.  Though Gatens makes an initial move to develop a female subjectivity in this way, her understanding of difference (like that of psychoanalysts Freud and Lacan) is negative and processes of desiring are driven by lack.  She goes on to adapt her psychoanalytic theory by modifying object relations, replacing these notions with the “body as a whole” (ibid. 32). This concept operates closure upon the body by organising it as unified entity whose boundaries are fixed and stratified. In the process of doubling itself the body image becomes the ‘body of the body,’ which acts through the physical body is unable to function without an internalised notion of itself. Gatens’ imaginary bodies serve to mediated between the physical and mental realms, yet such concepts retain the rigid dualistic boundaries (internal/external, imaginary/real) which make the feminist re-figuration of embodiment and desire redundant. It is not at all clear how the processes of desiring must operate through internalization rather than being able to interact directly with the external world.


In an attempt to transgress masculinist stratification and explore the potentials of more fluid body boundaries, Rosi Braidotti defends a re-figuration of embodied subjectivity which is  “multi-differential and non-hierarchical” (1994:146). Braidotti strives to break from the phallocentric tradition of Western philosophy throughout which difference has been marginalized as a result of the privileging and preservation concepts of sameness and unity. Aware of the danger of negativising difference to ‘that which is absent within the self’, Braidotti’s political project is sensitive to the complexity of individual lives through all aspects of their multiplicity; age/culture/race/ability/economy/sex etc. Her strategy forms a nomadic transgression of traditional disciplines of thought. This nomadology involves an ethic by which it takes into account its own operations and is therefore fluid and open to change. Such reflexivity is vital for any political strategy, which attends to the complexity and multiplicity of our socio-cultural movements in order that it may retain enough mutability to meet the varying demands of location and duration placed upon it. Thus the rigid stratification of fixed, theoretical knowledge is de-territorialised and opens up to a continuous process of knowing which applies to the body’s movement within its spatial and temporal environment. The nomad must be continually aware of the changes in forces and processes around him/her, in order to avoid stasis. This is Braidotti’s strategy for opening spaces for individuated narratives that transgress the dichotomies of truth/falsity, fact/fiction, making them more pragmatic and fluid; a series of situational knowledges. This has the double effect of promoting a reciprocal listening space and a concernful process of attending which is obliged to take into account specific contexts and contents without reducing them to universals or abstract generalizations. In this way nomadic movements pass through subject/object distinctions into de-territorialised spaces with fluid boundaries which erode the dialectic strata. Importantly Braidotti avoids explaining the material body as encoded or inscribed purely by external social influences or conceptual stratification but recognises the productive movements through and beyond stratifications.


The nomadic re-figuration of embodiment involves a threefold deconstructive process. Firstly, subjectivity becomes very much embodied. This means that it is potentially accessible; that the body speaks itself as a subject rather than having an internal energy which projects itself through the body. Thus mental/physical, biological/psychological processes are not discrete. Secondly it de-territorialises the subject by breaking down rigid boundaries which locate subjectivity as a unified and consistent core of being. The political consequence means that subjects that do not conform to one or other pole of a dichotomy are free to transgress technologies which strive to capture and regulate them. Thirdly, the body is always situated; this marks a positive move away from the concept of objectivity which privileges universals at the expense of singularities. . Thus individuals, whatever their race, class, sexuality or ethnicity can explore and express their differences within and among their cultures and sub-cultures. Again this emphasizes the value of situated knowledges.


Elizabeth Gross’s nomadic movements shift from the tracing of genealogical histories towards a re-composition of women’s bodies through individual narratives in all their diversity. Grosz (1996) has incorporated textuality into her re-figuration of embodiment and again de-territorialises many problematic and restricting dichotomies such as inner/outer, biology/culture. Grosz invokes the image of the moibious strip to elicit the complex movement of forces which come to play upon the body’s surface. The rigid boundary between internal/external dissolves eroding with it the psychic interiority through which psychoanalysis has pathologised many bodies. The body then becomes “ [a] possible infinite set of tendencies” (Grosz:1994:191). For these nomadic feminists inscriptions upon the body are not a set of signifiers of something hidden, not a map of the body but a sexual map upon which some areas may be more intensified than others. There is nothing natural or ahistorical about these modes of corporeal inscriptions and therefore Grosz warns us to remain aware of corporeal ‘inculturation’ by various discourses, reminding us if our creative processes.


While Grosz and Braidotti are in agreement that no body is limited by its morphology, their nomadic subjects retain a radical sexual difference between men/women. It is difficult to see how and where these fixed sexual identities are inscribed in such a way as to correspond to male and female subjects and at the same effect a multiple and creative sexuality.  Further, in privileging bodies’ sexual spatiality, these feminists have neglected to consider the temporal durations, speeds and intensities of desiring and its de-territorialisations.  It would seem that these feminists wish to retain a female subjectivity else risk the momentum of their political movement. However I suggest that this is restricting their project precisely because this re-figuration of subjectivity is exclusive to female subjects, and that this amounts to a move towards a form of ‘gynocentrism.’


If we are to become nomadic, to transgress the dualistic restraints traditional western of subjectivity through a rethinking of embodiment, then the conflicts arising through the reinsertion of the male/female distinction must be questioned. If this final binary opposition is not de-territorialised then we are forced forever to fall back upon sexually divided subjects who are either/or, or at best both; forever within the shadow of Oedipus. I suggest that although the feminists discussed have made great contributions to the rethinking of embodiment and subjectivity that they have not taken these issues far enough. With this in mind I would like to describe how this is possible.




“Everywhere a microscopic tran-                  “The new spaces unfolded

sexuality, resulting in the women                  by Deleuze and Guattari….

containing as many men as the man             are not only body-less, but

and the man as many women, all                  less often explicitly

capable of entering – men with                                genderised as well.”

women, women with men -into                                 Jardine:1986:209

relations of production of desire

that overturns the statistical order

of the sexes.

Deleuze & Guattari:1994:295-296



Un-organising the body – a re-thinking of becoming-woman.


Few feminist theorists have entered into debate with Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari despite their explicit and controversial discourse on “becoming-woman” (1994:209-267). Those feminist who have engaged in readings of the work have tended to reject much of it while attempting to make it more “arboreal and systematic” (Grosz:1996:102), which rather solidifies the fluidity of the Deleuzian project. I find it rather astonishing that considering the complexity of the processes D&G have figured in their texts and the political implications that becoming-woman has for both men and women, that such disparaging readings have been made by feminists. I suspect that the reluctance to move along such rhizomatic lines of flight is symptomatic of a certain closure in some areas of feminist theories, particularly those discussed earlier. It would seem that in order to subvert phallocentrisms one is always at risk of reasserting them through a process of negative dialectics which seeks to pull something from the space between binary oppositions rather than exploring the external conditions of relation. It is important to transgress this dialectic in order to break free from binary oppositions that I discussed earlier.


A closer examination of feminist critiques of the work of Deleuze & Guattari reveals a crucial problematic within the discourses of feminists of difference and their political movements. It is clear to see what has motivated those feminists who have ventured into the rhizomatic thinking of Deleuze & Guattari; here lies the strategies of de-territorialisation outlined previously. However I believe that the feminist approach and rejection of rhizomatics and ‘becoming-woman’ amounts to a slippage back into reversed binary opposition which amounts, by their own definition, phallocentrism. In rhizomatic terms they have too quickly and too readily frozen their body Without organs and thus blocked all flows. I will proceed to show how this position has been reached and how it can be de-territorialised.


Among feminist critiques of ‘becoming-woman’, I have found common misunderstandings of its processes. These I will outline below.

(i) That the metaphor ‘becoming-woman’ is a male appropriation of women’s struggles. (Grosz:1994, Jardine:1986)

(ii) That the metaphor ‘becoming-woman’ neutralises man’s search for their re-territorialisations. (Grosz:1994, Braidotti:1997).

(iii) That because ‘becoming-woman’ is a male appropriation it prevents women from organising their own specific becoming/desiring productions. (Grosz:1994, Irigaray:1984).

(iv) That the movement of ‘becoming-woman’ is phallocentric in that it places woman as the grounding which holds all other movement in place.

(Irigaray:1984, Jardine:1986).

(v) That ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’ subordinates women to a lower level of existence. (Grosz:1994).

(vi) That the machinic metaphors which are involved in the elaboration of ‘becoming-woman’ are regressive and phallocentric. (Braidotti:1994, Grosz:1994, Irigaray:1984).


Firstly I feel it is necessary to emphasise that the process of ‘becoming-woman’ should precisely not be understood as a metaphoric procedure and that it is in this mis-understanding that the feminist rejection of the process is rooted. Indeed to define ‘becoming-woman’ as a metaphorics is to reinstate it into the politics of representation from which it breaks alliance. The process of ‘becoming-woman’ operates upon the “molecular level”, as do all becomings (D&G:1984:287) through transitions to the “molar level”. It is these degrees of distinction, which replace the binary oppositions of real/imaginary, inner/outer, signifier/signified, through a threefold process. The molar level marks the stratification of entities such as the subject, woman, object, whose boundaries are rigid and categories segmented. The molecular marks the side facing away from the strata and flight paths across and through the stratifications, consisting of assemblages, becomings and de-territorialisations. There are differences of speed, intensity and viscosity between these levels. Thus it is in the molar realm where phallocentric organisations are solidified. The molecular components of subjectivity involve desires, sexualities; singular movements whose boundaries do not necessarily correspond to the boundaries of the molar, organ-ised body. All becomings are molecular and all molecular movements have molar effects. Here we can see the de-territorialisation of the organ-ised body and also that this process is more than a mere metaphor; it is not representative and as we move further we will see that it is not mimetic either.


The fact that molecular movements have molar effects marks the movement of de-territorialisation of the rigid strata of molar entities be they social, sexual, economic etc. It is through these movements that ‘becoming-woman’ takes effect.


“Molar entity – the woman defined by her form and

assigned a subject – Becoming-woman is not imitating

or assuming female form, but emitting particles that

enter the relation of movement and rest or the zone

of proximity, in other words, that produce in us

molecular women, create the molecular woman.”     (D&G:1994:275)


This emission of particles involves singular shifts, contextual shifts. Their movements are towards de-naturalising human bodies and placing them into direct relations with the movements and flows or ‘particles’ from other bodies/entities/organisms in which all things regardless of their type can create linkages. This movement amounts to a de-territorialisation, that is to say it will affect both sides[2] of the strata and the rigid boundaries which the intensities move between. For example, in  becoming-woman, the term ‘woman’ is displaced in its metaphysical and grammatical status as subject and becomes an effect, a proliferation of desire. Thus this movement is reflexive in that there is a sense in which language ‘talks back to itself’. Through the creating of new assemblages and new intensities upon the Body without Organs, the subject is produced. These movements are not causes and effects but are simultaneous. Thus a spatio-temporal map is produced which is linked by the movements of desire through the simultaneous processes of production, recording and consumption.


The value of these processes lies in the potential capacities known and unknown of new practices for bodies to engage in, rather than the static representations of petrified bodies. Deleuze & Guattari urge us not to forget that bodies are always in motion and that this involves greatly varying speeds and intensities. This de-territorialises the rigid ontology of  ‘being’ and its effects are threefold. Firstly it takes into account the fact that subjects are always changing, developing and thus empowers us with the capacity for greater creativity. Secondly it is a move away from the negative attribution of desiring. Thirdly, becoming is not a notion which is representative of woman or any other category, therefore it neither borrows nor takes anything away from women other than the rigidity of a universalising concept. Becoming-woman then is not a metaphor but rather a metamorphosis. It is geographical and topographical not genealogical or arboreal.


The movement from being to becoming does not amount to a subordination of women firstly because becoming is a process which affects all bodies and secondly because it aims towards the de-territorialisaiton of the stasis being presents. Becomings are never immediate or generic, they are always becoming something; their particular configurations are multi-vocal and operate through movements of  “double articulation” (D&G:1994:142-143). It is this motion which has been surprisingly neglected by feminist discourse despite Irigaray’s movements of asymmetrical reciprocity (1997) which has the potential but is not taken as far as the process of becoming. Perhaps this is due to Deleuze’s & Guattari’s insertion of a mediating third term through which the process of becoming flows; the woman becomes wolf through the howling of the pack or the rattling of grandma’s bones (Carter:1974). The third term is a relation to something else indiscernibly animal or human through which subjects enter into a synergistic connection. Thus both sides of the territorial boundaries are moved. For men and women becoming-woman shifts the boundaries of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and also their relation to animal and plant; disrupting the organism as a whole. This multiple de-territorialisation is essential for any political movement in order that political change may be effectuated. In this respect Grosz’s criticism (1994:189) that becoming-woman neutralises men’s processes is unfounded; it actually extends his possibilities.


Jardine’s fears that becoming-woman will bring about the “disappearance of woman” (1994:89), denotes a clinging to the solidity of philosophical modernity against which the post-subjective currents of our culture are flowing. The disappearance of ‘woman’ which the movement of becoming denotes is that de-territorialisation of the phallocentric/rigid/molar entity which striates differences. In this sense then it denotes a positive disappearance for it is the opening of solidified formations of the ‘female subjects’ which blocks the political agenda of women through the assertion of a radical difference which now begins to appear oversimplified.


Becoming-woman is a radical de-territorialisation, which opens up smooth spaces upon which wo/men’s embodiment and politics can be re-figured pragmatically in all aspects. As such it makes a significant shift away from representations towards assemblages; fluid arrangements upon a plane of consistency. The synergistic nature of the double articulation of multiplicities produces new and often enhanced real effects which manifest. Thus libidinal zones and intensities of desire are continually in the process of being transformed through various practices, accidents or contingencies of everyday life. All these factors are variable and the smoothing out of the surface makes everything potentially available upon Deleuze’s ‘plane of immanence’ (1994:152). This is not a regression (contra Irigaray and Grosz) but according to Deleuze is an ‘involution’ or a folding. That is to say he recognises the consistency of duration while at the same time acknowledging field of limitation imposed by interactions which fluctuate through fluid boundaries at variable speeds and intensities.


That becoming woman is the initial process of becoming marks it as the moment of transgression of the oedipalised body. As such it displaces the disguises which psychoanalysis has set up as men and “little men” (Freud:1932:35). It also transgresses biologically determined sexuality. Neither of these restricting striations can be disrupted without a radical de-territorialisation of wo/men within the molecular level, upon bodies, through assemblages where the Oedipal aggregates must be obliterated. This movement then is primary in the sense that temporally it is the key to or the becoming of all future de-territorialisations, because it transgresses the most rigid of striations and molar entities; the opposition of men and women. It is the de-eodipalisation which has a “particular introductory power” (D&G:1994:304). Surely this is a movement which is much in line with the aforementioned feminists in the deconstruction of binary oedipal machines. But as Deleuze’s and Guattari’s movement gains speed and intensity, feminists seem to be losing their pace, encumbered by their sexual redoubling and parlance of ‘woman’. It would appear that the movements of these feminists themselves have become re-territorialised and striated, their boundaries hardened to semi-permeability and movement restricted to a single, linear direction. Only women’s and men’s movements that have adapted to the processes of osmosis can fly at the infinite speeds of rhizomatic thoughts. Each molecular wo/man must become a swarm of termites eating at their own boundaries.


Grosz charges Deleuze and Guattari of “robbing the little girl of her body” (1994:193) by rendering it equivalent to a generalised ‘in-between’ – a de-particularisation, an abstraction of the girl’s corporeality. Becoming-woman certainly displaces corporeality  to varying degrees, as I have already explained; boundaries are mutable. But the body does not become neutered in the sense which Grosz expresses. Deleuze is not in fact de-particularising the body but de-territorialising it. That is to say he attempts to use his new concepts to free the body from the grip of oedipalisaition. It is through the developmental stage outlined by Freud, and particularly the Oedipal phase in which sexual, genital striations are imposed upon the body of boys and on girls (who are inscribed as a weaker variation of boys, with a sexual lack.) Deleuze’s becoming woman attempts to rid the body of this stasis in the strata of Oedipus by challenging us to examine and understand our bodies on a molecular level, where it is our desires which simultaneously create the  ‘objects’ of our desire. This becomes a positive process rather than the drive to fulfil a lack. Further it becomes a process which can be shifted through one’s own intervention without the need for psychoanalysis to create a picture of our desire for us. The body then, sexualised on a molecular level is encoded with  “a thousand tiny sexes” (1994:295) and is not neutralised at all but abounds with new intensities of desire, more complex and creative than the rigid stratification of our bodies under Oedipus. Deleuze claims it is becoming itself which is a girl  or a boy (D&G:1994:276, 1977:114). This destabilises rigid masculine/feminine identities and excludes the possibility of sexual difference as being an ontological difference. This is not to advocate bisexuality for that would amount to an internalisation of binarised sexuality, and it has already been shown that physical interiority in this sense is a striated space which becoming woman is in the process of smoothing.


Now we can see that becoming woman is a dismantling of molar sexual identities and definite/solid sexuality, and that for both women and men this involves the de-structuring and rethinking of phallocentric/oedipal sexuality; of forms of genital domination. This is disrupted through the insertion of micro-femininities and movements of multiple sexuality. This is not a demand that feminists relinquish their struggles for their concerns, but that they increase their awareness of the need for adaptability and creativity. No political activity should content itself with a final goal but should by nature be ever changing and endless. Becoming-woman is an active movement, it is involved in women singing at peace camps, wo/men exploring multiple sexualities, wo/men of colour writing forms of resistance, wo/men who share parenting responsibilities, unemployed wo/men struggling in cycles of debt and unemployment; all possible configurations. It seems contradictory to me that feminist are fighting against fixed subjectivities , essentialist identities, fixed subjectivities all of which they cite as phallocentric and yet appropriate the term feminism for a subjectivity which is to be exclusively theirs.


The assembling of molecular becomings through desiring machines is not a process of adding mechanical replacement parts or phallocentric prosthetics. Desiring machines do not conform to standard blueprints, they are productive of themselves through their interactive movements. This movement is that of rhizomatics which undermines the dialectical process, which we have inherited from Hegel. The dialectical movement is one which involves a linear progression whereby premises/events are followed by their opposite and a gradual synthesis of the two is produced as an improvement on the two initial premises. This method is restrictive in that it is based on binary opposition and the negative differences between the two, in has only one point of entrance and exit and moves only in one direction.  Deleuze’s project shows that we can retain affirmative movements of becoming which need not follow the rigid dialectical path. Rhizome is a term that Deleuze has adopted from biology[3] where it is used to designate a type of plant which does not have a typical root system but instead has tubers or puts out runners (e.g. potato, buttercup, and couch grass). For Deleuze this concept offers a useful method that breaks away from the arboreal, genealogical linear development of dialectical systems. Rhizomes have multiple entryways and exits, they consist of anachronisms and molecules assembled from all over the available strata, each movement links up a new becoming, creates a molar de-teritorialisation and produces a new combination of linkages; a new affectivity. We could say that becoming rhizome is the becoming-plant of humanity. We can count beyond the number two. Desiring machines do not move in linear fashion, they do not form links within a single, simple chain. They are the cause as well as the affect of any making process; a produced, producing product (D&G:1994 399-400). A desiring machine is a rethinking of creativity and the death drives in its absolute de-territorialisation of negative-dialectics, in a way which take Irigaray’s ethical becomings of the ‘sensible transcendental’ (1996:Ch.4-5),beyond its furthest limits. Becomings belong neither to an original and unified beginning (ontology) nor a determined design which is advancing towards perfection (teleology).


Our migratory path has now led us a long way from the dualistic body/mind inherited from Descartes to which Braidotti (1984) alludes. Deleuzian machinics construct and are constructed through linkages with other assemblages/bodies but here it is important to stress that ‘bodies’ in the Deleuzian sense are not the molar entities stratified through Oedipus and capitalism. Deleuze invokes souls, imaginings and such ‘elusive’ entities, in states of dis-organisation, that is to say ruptured from their molar stratification where they are plunged into the darkness of deep unconscious and attributed to parallel subjective and physical boundaries. Thus the particles of these entities are linkages because they are no longer partial to the entity, but assembled in their singularity through the process of rhizomatics. This is the becoming-termite of the wo/man. The body now becomes not an organ-ism but a swarm or pack of intensities of desire, this both complicates processes and opens a wealth of new potentials. The assemblage is open, composed, decomposed, recomposed through the proliferation of desire which is productive of and produced upon the Body without Organs; this being the absolute limit to which each body aspires. Such movement affects both sides of the strata, both the rigid molar ordering and at the intersection of the BwO. The body of subjectivity is thus de-centred and re-territorialised depending upon its particular desires and activities at any given moment rather than  through a unifying psychic centre or a cohesive consciousness or intentionality.


Rather than de-politicising feminist/wo/men’s struggles I believe that the process of becoming-woman multiplies their possibilities for change to infinite degree. What is clear in this process is that this morphology will affect the relations within an assemblage and beyond it, Therefore the spaces and folds are neither disembodied (in the sense that they are transcendental) nor neutralised but take place through singularities upon the Body without Organs.


“The more a population assumes divergent forms

the more its multiplicity divides into multiplicities

of a different nature.” (D&G:1994:353)


At this moment traditional means of conceptualising bodies and communities through representative identities are failing politically and socially because their methods are too reductive of the complex flows and processes. In this sense Deleuze’s and Guattari’s work offers exciting new strategies and concepts for political movements and between new generations of feminists and their predecessors which may alleviate the rising conflicts between second and third wave feminists.[4]


In excluding becoming-women from their strategies, feminists are operating an internal control device which orders a solid representative core i.e. men cannot be involved in becoming-woman other than metaphorically. This blocks their project by re-appropriating the attributes/characteristics of ‘woman’. This whole argument presupposes the existence of such categories, which is a contradictory move and undermines the feminist argument for the proliferation of multiple subjectivities.


Becomings then do not involve imitating or taking attributes for this would again be tantamount to fixing identities and asserting essential categories that are internal to subjects and objects. Thus, becomings involve connecting diverse and disparate intensities upon a Body without Organs.  The Body without Organs being the smooth space upon which desire and the socius meet and upon which surface productions of desire are recorded. The Body Without Organs is not synonymous with or parallel to the physical or subjugated body but always exceeds this through its various dimensions. Becomings therefore cannot be unitary but remain multiplicities in the sense each woman is a community of women. This serves to emphasise the rejection of the process of dialectical thought through which all divisions must be dual or bi-polar. Assemblages produce the body as a surface of interchangeable singularities. These surface effects are not superficial but generate an interior such as psyche/soul/mind as bi-product. As these interiors are constructed they proliferate intensities of desire at variable speeds and may be potentially gratified to varying degrees. It is in this sense that the body becomes re-inscribed as a text and all the ambiguity which applies to the relationships between texts/readers/writers will apply.


The ‘subject’ then is de-territorialised, and allocated to the boundaries of desiring machines as part of their process of production. In this sense subjectivity is dependent upon the operations and flows of desire.  It is clear then that if the hierarchical stratification of the molar realm-where the organisation and coding of phallocentrism takes place-is to be de-territoriliased in order to subvert phallocentrism that the process must also include the binary division of male and female, and that this de-territorialisation will not undermine the feminist project but in fact will offer it new potential.



Braidotti R. (1994) Nomadic Subjects. Routledge

Butler J.(1993) On the Discursive Limits of Sex. Routledge

(1990)Gender Trouble;feminism and the subversion of the subject. Routledge

(1997) Excitable Speech; A politics of the performative. Routledge

Deleuze G.& Guattari F. (1984) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Athlone Press

(1988) A Thousand Plateaux. Athlone Press

(1990) The Logic of Sense. Athlone Press

Gatens M. (1996) Imaginary Bodies; Ethics, power and corporeality. Routledge

Grosz E. (1994) Volatile Bodies; towards a corporeal feminism. Indiana University Press

(1995) Space, Time and Perversion. Routledge

(1996) ‘A Thousand Tiny Sexesin “Giles Deleuze and the Theatre of             Philosophy”. Routledge

Haraway D. (1991) Simians, Cyborgs and Women. Free Association Books

Irigaray L. (1993) An Ethics of Sexual Difference. Routledge.

(1993) Je, Tu, Nous: Toward a Culture of Differene. Routledge

Min-Ha T. (1989) Woman, Native, Other; writing post-coloniality and feminism.

Indiana University Press


Corinna Underwood

[1]Equivalence is here intended to denote a balance of rights and choices which are politically and socially relevant to men and women without them being reduced to the same.

[2] This denotes a double process affecting both the molar strata (that plane which organises and restrains) and the body Without organs (that molecular plane which consists of the intensities of desire and their absolute limits.

[3] This move itself is part of rhizomatic in that language from any discipline can by interjected into any other thus causing an exchange of becoming between two disciplinary strata.

[4] See the collection of essays in “Hypatia” Vol. Summer 1996


© 2017 Corinna Underwood Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha