Poetics of Relation
MANIFESTO-ESQUE BREAKDOWN AT END:
ROOT VS RELATION (SO HE REPLACES RHIZOME WITH RELATION) Summarizing what we know concerning the varieties of iden- tity, we arrive at the following:
-is founded in the distant past in a vision, a rnyth of the creation of the world;
-is sanctified by the hidden violence ofa filiation that strictly follows from this founding episode;
-is ratified bya claim to legitimacy that allows a commu- nity to prodaim its entitlement to the possession of a land, which thus becornes a territory;
- i s preserved by being projected onto other territories, making theiI' conquest legitimate-and through the
project of a discursive knowledge.
Root identity therefore rooted the thought of self and of
territory and set in motion the thought of the other and of voyage.
-is linked not to a creation of the world but to the con-,scious and contradictory experience of contacts among cultures;
i s produced in the chaotic network of Relation and not in the hidden violence of filiation;
-does not devise any legitimacy as its guarantee of enti- tlement, but circulates, newly extended
-does not think of a land as a territory from which to project toward other territories but as a place where one gives-on-and-with rather than grasps.
(LATER: LAND VERSUS TERRITORY [REAL VS ABSTRACT]]
Relation identity exults the thought of errantry and of totality. 144
2. Errantry, Exile
[HIGHLY INFLUENCED BY DELEUZE RHIZOME 10 YEARS EARLIER—AND KINDA CONTRA WHITE TEETH SECTION ABOUT ROOTS] “Roots make the commonality of errantryl and exile, for in both instances roots are lacking. We must begin with that.2
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari criticized notions of the root and, even perhaps, notions of being rooted. The root is unique, a stock taking aIl upon itse1f and killing aIl around it. In opposition tO this they propose the rhizome, an enmeshed root system, a network spreading either in the ground or in the air, with no predatory rootstock taking over permanently. The notion of the rhizorne maintains, therefore, the idea of rootedness but challenges that of a totalitarian root. Rhi- zomatic thought is the principle behind what 1 calI the Poet- ics of Relation, in which each and every identity is extended through a relationship with the Other
In Western antiquity a man in exile does not feel he is helpless or inferior, because he does not feel burdened with deprivation-of a nation that for him does not yet exist. It even seems, if one is to believe the biographies of numerous Greek thinkers induding Plato and Aristotle, that sorne expe- rience of voyaging and exile is considered necessary for a being's cornplete fulfillment.
CENTER AND PERIPHERY WERE ONCE SYMMETRICAL During this period [antiquity] of invading nomads ...Their capitals went where they went. "Rome is no longer in Rome, it is wherevcr 1 am." The root is not important. Movement is. ...Center and periphery are equiv- aIent. Conquerors are the moving, transient root of their people.
IDEA OF CENTER/PERIPHERY/METROPOLITAN THOUGHT WAS EXPORTED FROM THE WEST The West, therefore, is where this movement becomes fixed and nations declare themselves in preparation for their repercussions in the world. This fixing, this declaration, this expansion, aIl require that the idea of the root gradually take on the intolerant sense that Deleuze and Guattari, no doubt, meant to challenge. The reason for our return to this episode in Western history is that it spread throughout the world. The model came in handy. Most of the nations that gained freedom from colonization have tended to form around an idea of power·-the totalitarian drive of a single, unique root- rather than around a fundamental relationship with the Other. Culture's self-conception was dualistic, pitting citizen against barbarian. Nothing has ever more solidly opposed the thought of errantry than this period in human history when Western nations were established and then made their impact on the world.
However, and this is an immense paradox, the great found- ing books of communities, the Old Testament, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Chansons de Geste, the Islandic Sagas, the Aeneid, or the Mrican epics, were aIl books about exile and often about errantry
DEFINITION OF POETICS OF RELATION--TITLE DROP—THE MAIN THING HE’S TRYING TO CREATE—PRESCRIPTION/THESIS I began wondering ifwe did not still need such founding works today, ones that would use a similar dialectics of rerouting,4 asserting, for example, political strength but, simultaneously, the rhizome of a multiple relationship with the Other and basing every community's reasons for existence on a modern form of the sacred, which would be, a11 in all, a Poetics of Relation. 16
AN ADAMANTLY STAGIST ARGUMENT Let us suppose that the quest for totality, starting from a nonuniversal context of histories of the West, has passed through the füllowing stages:
-the thinking of territory and self (ontological, dual)
-the thinking ofvoyage and other (mechanical, multiple)
-the thinking of errantry and totality (relational, dialectical) .
IDENTITY IN RELATION RATHER THAN THE ROOT--EXAMPLES? KARL AND ADAM IN AW Errantry, therefore, does not proceed from renunciation nor from frustration regarding a supposedly deteriorated (deter- ritorialized) situation of origin; it is not a resolute act of rejec- tion or an uncontrolled impulse of abandonment. Some- times, by taking up the pl'oblems of the Other, it is possible to find oneself. Contemporary history provides several striking examples of this, among them Frantz Fanon, whose path led from Martinique to Algeria. That is very much the image of the rhizome, prompting the knowledge that identity is no longer completely within the root but also in Relation.
NOW TALKS ABOUT THE LOCALS WHO DONT TRAVEL At this point we seem to be far removed from the sufferings and preoccupations of those who must bear the world's injus- tice. Their errantry is, in effect, immobile. They have never experienced the melancholy and extroverted luxury of uprooting. They do not travel. [well except migrant labor…maybe a bit of elision here] But one of the constants of our world is that a knowledge of roots will be conveyed to them from within intuitions of Relation from now on....Those who stay behind thrill to this passion for the world shared by aIl. Or, indeed, they may suffer the torments of internaI exile. 19
NOT SURE WHAT HIS DEFINITION OF EXILE IS Whereas exile may erode one's sense of identity, the thought of errantry-the thought of that which relates-usually rein- forces this sense of identity. lt seems possible, at least to one observer, that the persecuted errantry, the wandering of the Jews, may have reinforced their sense of identity far more than their present settling in the land of Palestine.
The thought of errantry is not apoliticaL nor is it inconsistent with the will to identity, which is, after aIl, nothing other than the search for a freedom within particular surroundings. WHOA JUST DROPS THAT BOMB AND LEAVES IT If it is at variance with territorial intolerance, or the predatory effects of the unique l'Qot (which makes processes of identification so difficult today), this is because, in the poet- ics of Relation, one who is errant (who is no longer traveler, discoverer, or conqueror) strives to know the totality of the world yet already knows he will never accomplish this-and knows that is precisely where the threatened beauty of the world resides. 20
VERY ANTI-UNIVERSAL IN A WAY I MIGHT PUSH AGAINST Errant, he challenges and discards the universal-this gener- alizing edict that summarized the world as something obvi- ous and transparent, claiming for it one presupposed sense and one destiny. He plunges into the opacities ofthat part of the worId to \vhich he has access. Generalization is totalitar- ian: 20
OKAY BUT THIS IS DO LIKE The thinking of errantry conceives of totality but willingly renounces any claims to sum it up or to possess it. 21
IMAGINING SAME SPED-UP-WORLD CONTEXT AS JAMESON/HARVEY “A poetics of language-in-itself”…. “A poetics of structure”…”But there is yet another—unnoticed, or rather evaded—that we shall call a poetics of Relation” 26 –new historical conditions speed up and make us more aware of relations with the Other 27 (sounds like Harvey…or Jameson?)
To the extent that our consciousness of Relation is total, that is, immediate and focusing directly upon the realizable totality of the world, when we speak of a poetics of Relation, we no longer need to add: relation between what and what? This is why the French word Relation, which functions some- what like an intransitive verb, could not correspond, for example, to the English term relationship. TOTALITY OF RELATION, NOT AN INDIVIDUAL TWO-ACTOR “RELATIONSHIP” 27
SERIES OF TRAJECTORIES ACROSS A CENTER/PERIPHERY MAP, GLISSANT’S IDIOM FOR THE HISTORY OF COLONIALISM
the movements of this poetics can be located in space as ries, their poetic import being aimed at completing these tra- jectories in order to abolish them. These trajectories link the places of the world into a whole rnade up of peripheries, which are listed in function of a Center.**
The first of these led from the Center toward the peripheries.
A second itinerary then began to form, this time from peripheries toward the Center. Poets who were born or lived in the elsewhere dream of the source of their imaginary con- structs and, consciously or not, "make the trip in the opposite direction,"
In a third stage the trajectory is abolished; the arrowlike projection becornes curved. The poet's word leads from periphery to periphery, and, yes, it reproduces the track of circular nomadism; that is, it makes every periphery into a center; furthermore, it abolishes the very notion of center and periphery. MODEL OF FANON’S THIRD WORLD ALLIANCE--AN EXAMPLE WOULD BE ADIGA WRITING HIS LETTER TO CHINA AND MAKING US PERIPHERAL OR AW FOCUSING ON MSIA/INDO CONFLICT, ENGLAND PERIPHERAL [I might disagree with this point about abolishment—rather, there’s a proliferation of different-scale centers, central metropolises connected to the center] 29
*******HE TOTALLY ELIDES THE CLOSE RELATION OF METROPOLITAN AREAS TO THE CENTER****** Poets from the Caribbean, the Maghreb, and other parts of Africa are not moving toward that elsewhere that is the aiM of projectile movement, nor are they returning toward a Center. They create their works in metro- politan regions, where their peoples have made a sudden appearance. The old expansive trajectory and the spirituality of the itinerary (always frorn Paris toJerusalem or elsewhere) yield to the world's realized compactness. We have to enter into the equivalencies of Relation. 31
4. A Rooted Errantry
I LIKE THIS GRAMMATICAL DESCRIPTION OF STRIVINGS TOWARD THE UNIVERSAL For Saint-John Perse universality is optative. [VERB MOOD EXPRESSING WISH "IF ONLY"] Not that it was predicated by him in a desolate mood (like someone who takes refuge in the thought of the universal, because he con- siders no specifie situation his responsibility), but because, steadfastly and without pause, he projects it before himself. 37
5. Expanse and Filiation
Myth, therefore, contains a hidden violence that catches in the links of filiation and absolutely challenges the exis- tence of the other as an element of relation. The same is true of the Epic, which singles out a community in relation to the Other, and senses Being only as in-itself, because it never con- ceives of it as relation.
6. Closed Place, Open Word ON RESEMBLANCES BETWEEN DISTANT PLACES, AND ON THEIR SHADOW RELATIONS WITH OTHER PLACES
The Plantation system
There are grounds for understanding why, despite very different linguistic areas engaged in very divergent political dynamics, the same orga- nization would create a rhythm of economic production and form the basis for a style oflife. That takes care of the spatial aspect.
The Plantations, entities turned in upon them- selves, paradoxically, have aIl the syrnptoms of extroversion. They are dependent, by nature, on someplace elsewhere. In their practice of importing and exporting, the established politics is not decided from within. 67
CAN I ARGUE THE SAME THING FOR CITIES FAR APART?
11. Transparency and Opacity
The literary text plays the contradictory role of a producer of opacity. 115
Opacities must be preserved; an appetite for opportune obscurity in translation must be created; and falsely convenient vehicular sabirs must be relentlessly refuted. The ü"amework is not made oftransparency; and it is not enough to assert one's right ta linguistic difference or, conversely, to interlexicalit:y, to be sure of realizing them. 120
14. Distancing, Determining
VERY TAKEN BY THE POMO ACCELERATION IDEA LIKE JAMESON AND HARVEY ETC Contemporary violence is the response societies make to the immediacy of contacts and is exacerbated by the brutality of the flash agents of Communication.1 It is not aIl that easy to forego the comfortable expanses of time formerly allowing changes to occur imperceptibly. In cities this speed becomes concentrated, and the response explodes. These same mech- anisms are at work both in cultures of intervention and in emerging cultures: New York or Lagos.* In the shantytowns and ghettos of even the smaIlest cities the same gears engage: the violence of poverty and mud but also an unconscious and desperate rage at not "grasping" [com-prendre] the chaos of the world. Those who dominate benefit from the chaos; those who are oppressed are exasperated by it. 141
18. For Opacity
(THESE ARGS, LIKE SPIVAK'S, ALWAYS A LITTLE ULTIMATLEY IMPOSSIBLE--CRITICS ALWAYS MUST TRY TO INTERPRET--LIKE GLISSANT'S SILENT MAN ON THE BEACH)
Agree not mere1y to the right to difference but, carrying this further, agree also to the right to opacity that is not enclosure within an impenetrable autarchy but subsistence within an irreducible singularity. Opacities can coexist and converge, weaving fabrics. To understand these truly one must focus on the texture of the weave and not on the nature of its components.