Week 13: Last weekly post

Please post your responses to Deleuze & Guattari, Browning, and Levine below.

Reminder: we are meeting offsite tomorrow, check your e-mail for details.

This is your last weekly post, and you have until May 8 to post any missing posts from previous weeks.  Each weekly post is worth 2% of your final grade.

One of the performances that came to mind for me while re-reading the BwO essay:

Xandra Ibarra, “Spic in Ecdysis”

and of course, Barbara Browning’s uke cover of Punk Protest

and the flyer from Jon Greenberg’s funeral


7 thoughts on “Week 13: Last weekly post

  1. This is my third time reading Deleuze and Guatarri’s “How to Make a Body Without Organs”, and the meaning of some moments in the text remains elusive to me. However, I think that a lot of Deb Levine’s “How to Do Things With a Dead Body” and Barbara Browning’s “Pussy Riot’s Act of Faith” could be read through Deleuze and Guattari’s BwO theory.
    In “How to Make a Body Without Organs”, Deleuze and Guattari describe one example of a BwO, the “schizo body” as, “waging its own active internal struggle against the organs, at the price of catatonia” (Deleuze and Guattari, 150). Schizo, meaning divided or split, could be used to describe the body of ACTUP as an organization. It is split into various affinity groups, an example of which is the Marys that Levine describes in such depth. The Marys, as one part of multiple, waged an struggle with the “organized” conception of the deceased body. For some members of the affinity group, this struggle was indeed internal, since it was their bodies that would eventually become the material used to disorganize the political function of a dead body, “As Mark, Tim and Jon became progressively sicker, the group came to realize that all the research they had done on how to obtain and preserve bodies in order to mount a political funeral would actually be directed towards their own circumstances, specifically to support the PWA members who had articulated this political direction” (Levine, 8).
    Deleuze and Guattari go on to theorize the “plateau” that is significant to the creation of a BwO. They write, “A plateau is a piece of immanence. Every BwO is made up of plateaus. Every BwO is itself a plateau in communication with other plateaus on the plane of consistency. The BwO is a component of passage” (Deleuze and Guattari, 158). The term “plateau” is officially defined as “a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress” (google dictionary). For Deleuze and Guattari, the plateau is important because it prohibits the reaching of a climax. This ties into their writing on desire. This theory is also indicative of the state of the deceased body in Levine’s article. “In ’Bury Me Furiously,’ Mark identified his AIDS diagnosis as the impetus for reflecting on Wojnarowicz’s understanding of funerals and memorials as rituals that worked to enable the affected community to accept the crisis as the normative state of exception. Without rethinking those rituals as another component of biopolitics, each successive death relegated the corpse back to the position as an atomistic subject accepting death as a natural endpoint” (Levine, 7-8). In their attempts to avoid the climactic effect of death imposed on dead bodies by state ritual and law, the Marys made every effort to prolong the plateau of the bodies of their deceased friends and coconspirators by utilizing them in political funerals, and also by holding onto, archiving, and sometimes even ingesting their remains in order to attach the dead to the living. These not-so-final acts allow for the ongoing plateau of the body that never reaches the state-mandated climax of total and complete inaction. Instead, the plateau of the dead body is simply a period of little change after a period of progress, both material and political.
    Browning’s “Pussy Riot’s Act of Faith” compares ACTUP’s use of St. Patrick’s Cathedral for an action protesting the church’s condemnation of the use of condoms and other dangerous anti-gay/anti-AIDS dogmatic principals to Pussy Riot’s use of a Moscow Cathedral for their “Punk Prayer” performance. I mostly read this article through Deleuze and Guattari’s insistence that even BwOs “mimic the strata”. Particularly, I am thinking of the moment in Browning’s essay when she describes Pussy Riot’s argument that they could not have desecrated the cathedral with their performance, “The arrested members [of Pussy Riot] have… expressed their experience as the opposite of a desecration, despite the state’s attempts to paint them as anti-religious. In their closing statements, they unironically quoted the Gospels and reminded the court that Christ was similarly derided as ‘mad’ and ‘blasphemous’…leading Nadezhda Tolokonnikova to conclude that it was, in fact, ‘the prosecution [that was] trampling on religion’” (Browning). I believe Deleuze and Guattari would have approved of this action and this defense, since they write, “You have to keep enough of the organism for it to reform each dawn; and you have to keep small supplies of significance and subjectification, if only to turn them against their own systems when the circumstances demand it” (Deleuze and Guattari, 160). It is evident from Browning’s article that the circumstances did demand that Pussy Riot turn the religion against its own system.


  2. I’m super stoked that one of my last readings for undergrad is also my third encounter with Deleuze and Guattari’s Body without Organs. It never fails to fuck me up. I admit this has become more digestible with every read; that being said, I in no way claim a comprehensive understanding of it. This time around though, I’m particularly drawn to the concept of the BwO being about a constant state (plateau) of want — immanent desire. “The BwO is the field of immanence of desire, the plane of consistency specific to desire (with desire defined as a process of production without reference to any exterior agency, whether it be a lack that hollows it out or a pleasure that fills it),” (154). I’m relieved to finally imbed desire within the body; at least, that’s what I think is being said here in the phrase “without reference to any exterior agency,” (154). But can we say that desire is implicitly an internal, omnipresent phenomenon? According to D&G (lol the first time I’m not taking that acronym as Dolce&Gabbana), the BwO is a constant horizon of potentiality that has been historically interrupted by “[t]he negative law, the extrinsic rule, and the transcendental ideal” a.k.a. lack in the form of castration, pleasure in the form of jouissance, and ideal in the form fantasy (154). I’ve definitely been conflating pleasure with desire, and I was finally able to definitively separate the two this time, so I’m happy to finally make that distinction. When I read complicated thinkers like D&G though, I have a tendency to just believe what is said so I can process it. Let’s discuss tomorrow. After all, the BwO “is desire as well as nondesire,” so I have a feeling there’s more for me to unravel here (149).

    Secondly, I have to be sappy and just say thank you, Hella. I’ve been finding myself lost in the cultural aesthetics and spectacle of queerness and in turn I forget the history of neglect and oppression that has surfaced when queer bodies are actually in danger and actually dying. Levine’s essay How to Do Things with Dead Bodies was the most appropriately-timed jolt back to reality for me. Anecdotally, I couldn’t help but break into tears at some parts of this reading because the disregard for the lived body of queers is perhaps even more evident in a discussion of our postmortem bodies. Even the opening sentence drew me in. “In the U.S., the anticipated recipient of ones ‘left’ remains is not politics, but science,” (Levine). This shift in focus of the leftover remains of the body as potentially political and not scientific stuck with me. As someone who pridefully checked yes on the organ donors box when I got my license at 18, this really made me question the system under which we live and the privilege I have as a relatively non-stigmatized body to decide what to do with it after I’m gone. Too many times have I heard the narrative of the dead queer whose family wouldn’t dare go near their theoretical “loved-one” or completely disregarded their intentions for their own body. This, Levine points out, is an inherent problem of the state and its presumptuous patriarchal ideology that family knows best when for some of us that just isn’t true. “Upon pronouncement of death, the body becomes the ‘quasi-property’ of kin, which theoretically obligates the closest blood relation to assume responsibility for the body’s burial (Rentein 2001, 1006),” (Levine). But what if your closest blood relation is a fuckhead homophobe? What if your “kin” isn’t necessarily blood related? This is also where I find Levine’s depiction of the ensemble/assemblage and its collective potential empowering, specifically in the form of the Marys and their powerful public performances of the funeral ritual for PWAs. A moment I keep remembering is that even as PWAs “increasingly became the gravitational center of affinity and the locus of speech to address the crisis” in public protests like the Marys’ funerals, “what [the Marys] didn’t anticipate was the physical experience of the corpse’s weight, and the unstable relationship they felt to these bodies as Mark and not Mark, Tim and not Tim, Jon and not Jon…Who and what they were bearing was never a stable entity. Each spoke of knowing the body was a corpse, but other times they referred to him as they would a living subject (Episalla 2008, Hughes 2008, Baggett 2008),” (Levine). I find this an excellently affective turn in discourse about a political reality that is always personal and lived. This moment solidified Levine’s assertion that “demonstrations of affinity enabled a political location for the dead to speak the conditions of their own finitude by creating an ensemble composed of the materiality of corpses and the animative capacity of the living,” (Levine).

    Finally, Browning’s juxtaposition of ACT UP’s die-in at St. Patrick’s and Pussy Riot’s infamous performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior was brilliant. Pointing out that members “expressed their experience as the opposite of a desecration, despite the state’s attempts to paint them as anti-religious,” Browning recalls the final act of prostration performed by one of the members. “In their closing statements, they unironically quoted the Gospels and reminded the court that Christ was similarly derided as ‘mad’ and ‘blasphemous’…leading Nadezhda Tolokonnikova to conclude that it was, in fact, ‘the prosecution [that was] trampling on religion’” (Browning). This reminds me of D&G’s assertion that the BwOs must “mimic the strata,” (160). This also reminds me of J. Halberstam’s assertion in Queer Art of Failure that alternatives are already embedded in the dominant discourse and of Butler’s assertion that one must subvert the standard through a citing of the norm with difference as the constitutive outside — the abject, the stigmatized — are actually still within the discourse of normativity. One challenge though, Browning says “[D]espite the carnivalesque aspects of [Pussy Riot’s] action, there was genuine belief being expressed—precisely the kind of ‘strong prayer’ that took place in the Stop the Church action,” (Browning). Is there an implicit lack of authenticity within the carnivalesque? Does a spectacularization or a more colorful performance inherently mean that that performance cannot have something real at stake? I struggle with this as someone who enjoys a bit of showmanship and is from a city where our biggest holiday is literally named Carnival (Mardi Gras).


  3. I always enjoy reading this chapter from A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. However I always feel very overwhelmed and confused afterwards. I know most of this will be clarified in class today, but from what I gather (since it’s been a while since I’ve read this for a class and had it further explained), the organs within us cause limitation on the body whereas a body without organs is able to operate in and navigate through spaces that are inaccessible to a body with organs (yet at the same time one does not exist before the other and they operate in tandem with each other)? Bodies without organs are occupied by intensities, which can pass and circulate through bodies without organs. I think these intensities are related to pleasure and it is through pleasure that the self is discovered. The body without organs, fights organization and the subjectivity that is determined through said organization and challenges us to detach from the things that hold us as subjects (is this even possible to do? What would Althusser say about this?). The nagual dismantals the strata, and the strata is included in the tonal which is described as being everything (but the nagual is also described as being everything). The tonal relates more to bodies with organs and the nagual to bodies without organs? What is the strata, how does the plane play a role in this? And why do we “have to protect the tonal at any cost”?

    While this isn’t completely related to the reading, I thought it was interesting that on page 153, the quote “No organ is constant as regards either function or position…sex organs sprout anywhere…”, sort of relates to a lot of the content in Testo Junkie and how areas of pleasure or sexuality don’t have to be confined to the spaces they are usually designated to through the “rules” of hetero-normative reproduction.

    I found the reading “How To Do Things With Dead Bodies” by Debra Levine, to be really interesting. The way that she addressed how bodies can be used after death and the ways in which certain bodies can be used while others cannot was something that I had never really considered before. Levine’s development of how stigmas were (and are) used to label a body/bodies based on behavior or social relations can lead to the discrediting of bodies and how disease does not recognize this is puzzling in terms of the way in which stigmas in life affect bodies of the dead. Levine goes on to discuss how these stigmas prohibit the use of certain bodies from being charitable after death and entering a realm of recognizing their humanity through the eyes of the political. After someone had passed away “the deceased’s pre-death image became the dominant placeholder that symbolized the sentimental and historical value of the subject’s lost presence among friends and lovers” (3). For those outside of this group, stigmatization is the only thing that is really visible when sticking to a body. This relates to the Mary’s work to make PWA bodies matter and strip away the stigmatization that was there and expose these bodies in the realm of humanity, “We want the public to witness a body in order to understand that people with AIDS are real and we are dying unnecessarily” (7).


  4. Deleuze and Guattari’s “How to Make a Body Without Organs” is frankly a fucking doozy of a read. Without something to apply it to as physical as the AIDS crisis, I don’t know if I would have been able to find my footing on my own. OKAY SO! the BwO is has many forms, and the reading begins by giving many exampls of bodies which, in one mode or another, seek to fix themselves, their schizo (or split) selves, by filling or emptying (masochists, drug addicts). The way we discussed it, a body without organs can also be a movement in conjustction with other movements, a swirling sort of moment in timespace which brings together individual bodies of participants as well as the bodies of political and social initiative, forming plateaus. “A plateau is a piece of immanence. Every BwO is made up of plateaus. Every BwO is itself a plateau in communication with other plateaus on the plane of consistency. The BwO is a component of passage” (Deleuze and Guattari, 158), and it was especially important for me to understand that one can be engaged in infinite plates in timespace at the same time, and that each plateau is both a separate and completely unique happening, as well as is always influences by other plateus, other bodies, and those bodies within those plateus. Each body seeks pleasures (and plateaus), and that is where desire comes into play. “There is desire whenever there is the constitution of a BwO under one relation or another. It is a problem not of ideology but of pure matter, a phenomenon of physical, biological, psychic, social, or cosmic matter” (Deleuze and Guattarri, 165). This is useful in the context of the AIDS crisis, which deals both in th physical biopower of a deprioritized and stigmatized body, as well as the body of Act Up as an institution, the body of the disease itself. In “How to Do Things with Dead Bodies” by Debra Levine, we get a comprehensive history of ACT UP as well as some context as to the language assigned to AIDS patients. Levine really solidifies why the AIDS body creates such a fear by asking, “So is it possible that an HIV-positive corpse may be feared not for its ability to transmit the virus but instead for its queer performative power? …Or, could it be that the corpse in question might yield knowledge that would require an investment in public health resources that exceeds the value that society places on the donor body?” (Levine). Hailing back to Butler, these devalued bodies to begin with (queer or drug addicted bodies, the low), are both not worth the effort in the eyes of those in power, but also are to be feared because of the power they could yield.


  5. The Body Without Organs exists in many forms, and is very confusing. Deleuze and Guattari frame the Body Without Organs as something that everyone has, whether that’s in the form of the “hypochondriac body,” who is the person who feels that they have no organs due to some kind of damage, the “paranoid body” that is constantly being both degenerated and regenerated by outside forces, the “schizo body” which is attacking its own organs, the “drugged body,” which is trying to perfect the body, and the “masochist body” which prevents the function of its own organs in what re normally considered “painful ways”. This brings up Margot Weiss’ idea of pain that is “tricky” because of how “aversiveness” is inherent to the definition. She says that to think of pain in this sense, it’s easier to think of a deep tissue massage or eating spicy food. They then go into the idea of looking at the body’s parts as different than what they are normally used for. This is similar to the Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor video all the way back in Week 4, where Taylor speaks of how she often carries cups with her mouth in public, which makes people uncomfortable. Then they describe a very specific BDSM session, and I’m not quite sure what they’re saying, but it seems like they’re saying that my picture of that in my mind is precisely the body without organs, that can think of/experience these sensations without being tied down by organs that would feel pain or that would be unable to complete the program due to not being able to heal in time for a doctor’s appointment. I honestly didn’t understand most of the rest of this text (and didn’t really understand this part either), so I’m just going to move on.
    Dob Levine’s “How to Do Things with Dead Bodies” is about the ways that members of the AIDS crisis used their dead bodies to protest. The perception of the HIV/AIDS virus shifts to meet the “social constructs of contagion” and the stigma around it. The inability to donate blood or organs was based on assumptions about people that had HIV/AIDS that were not always true, but that had the effect of othering them and preventing them from entering certain spaces, creating more of a stigma. He then goes into the weird politics that allow PWA to donate organs after they die, but not while they are still alive, which serves essentially as proof that the focus is to other them.
    The last reading is about Pussy Riot, a feminist performance group in Russia. They did a performance in a church that involved prostrating themselves to show that this church was already involved in performances on the part of the Russian Government. She ends the article with anecdotes of how most people thought that the performance was offensive because of religion or least distasteful because of the choreography, but how she sees the message and the medium as intertwined.


  6. In Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s “How Do You Make Yourself a Body without Organs?” the writers urge their readers to deconstruct everything that they have ever seen or known. What is a body? Why do we see it a certain way? How can one break away from the chains of society, and see something for what it really is rather than what we are told it is? The two write, “is it really so sad and dangerous to be fed up with seeing with your eyes, breathing with your lungs, swallowing with your mouth, talking with your tongue, thinking with your brain, having an anus and larynx, Head and legs? Why not walk on your head, sing with your sinuses, see through your skin, breathe through your belly” (Deluze 150-151). We are living in a world that has told us who we are and what we have to be. We see our “limits” and believe them to be limitations, because society has always told us that is what they are: “The body is now nothing more than a set of values, locks, floodgates, bowls, or communicating vessels, each with a proper name” (Deluze 153). What would it be like to exist beyond our limits? How can we take what we know and turn it into something else? The two write “significance clings to the soul just as the organism clings to the bottom, and it is not easy to get rid of either. And how can we unhook ourselves that secure us, and nail us down to the dominant reality” (Deluze 160). Our bodies are craving to be accepted by society. These challenges to the norm are not internalized, because people want to be significant. People want to matter, and if you are labeled as being against the norm then you are often not taken seriously. There is a way to challenge the norm through Protest. Barbara Browning and Debra Levine write about the protest that took place in St.Patrick’s Cathederal during the height of the AIDS crisis. In “How to Do Things with Dead Bodies” Debra Levine writes that “Stigma prohibits bodies, Live in Dad, from contributing to political life precluding a full recognition of their humanity. At the same time, other assistance is discursively central in order to establish the legitimacy and soul of the “non-contaminated” group designated as such by their ability to act charitably” (Levine 3). Levine continues by saying, “[d]eath marked the limit of how about a body could be value” (Levine 3). AIDs victims were seen as inferior because they embodied the idea of being a body without organs. Death marked them as being different so they were not taken seriously. In Browning’s Pussy Rioyt’s Act of Faith, she writes, “there are moments when obscenity has to take the stage in order to bring light to a political obscenity” (Browning 4). There is a time to challenge the powers at hand. By taking a space that is not seen as being a performance space and making it political, forces people to acknowledge the issue at hand. Browning talks about this when she says, “[m]any impassioned members. Making both a highly spectacular and also ritual statement in that space would be the only way of clarifying how it had already been made a political stage” (Browning 3). The St. Patrick’s intervention was necessary in order to force people to acknowledge AIDS victims.


  7. In Guattari and Deleuze’s book A Thousand Plateaus? they argue to displace our understanding and conception of meaning, with a series of explanations about desire and intersecting planes. Their chapter “How Do You Make Yourself a Body Without Organs” dissects organs away from the body to show that humanity exists with complexity and seemingly without reality. They unravel the idea of an endpoint, imploring that everything is in a stage of becoming.
    In her article “How to Do Things with Dead Bodies,” Debra Levine strives to deconstruct institutions using the example of the ACT UP affinity group focusing on the Marys. This group was a coalition hoped to death and dead bodies to illuminate issues in political institutions. Death became a matter of protest rather than a matter of stagnancy. The Marys did this for political agency relating to AIDS and HIV positive bodies, which were married to social construction of sexuality. She points out that disease does not in fact point out scientific issue of disease. The Marys gave dead bodies agency and the voice to speak about the lack of agency in bodies riddled with HIV and AIDS, and almost broadly, queer and other marginalized bodies. I find it interesting that anger was deliberately removed from this exercise, as it forced emotions to live in a space with more acceptable agency, something that I hope to take on as an agent of black womanhood.
    In Barbara Browning’s article “Pussy Riot’s Act of Faith,” Browning examines the relation between Pussy Riot standing up to the Church and ACT UP standing up to the Church. Both are organizations that are highly condemned by Church catechism and teaching. Pussy Riot protest through their “Punk Prayer,” with a lyric as radical as “HOLY SHIT! THE SHIT OF THE LORD!” Browning relates this protest to ACT UP standing up to Cardinal John O’Connor’s backwards view of condemnation of homosexuality and contraception and its distribution, even if for the prevention of AIDS spreading. These protests are ultimately unsurprising, especially with my experience in Catholicism, which is one of the most historically backwards institutions to date.


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