I was fortunate to spend last weekend in Mytilene, Greece (Lesbos) for this symposium on assemblage thinking. It was an interesting experience for many reasons, the foremost of which is that I do not not directly engage with much of the assemblage literature, and prefer to deal with Deleuze and Guattari own their own terms. Manuel DeLanda gave a great talk that summarized his work, but I found myself continually thinking that his unwillingness to follow any insights from Deleuze and Guattari’s interest in Marx and his rejection of the their concept of the strata attests to an overemphasized focus on particularity that is doomed to miss broader societal tendencies (he would likely respond by saying there is no such thing as society, but rather different nested assemblages). In my closing comments (and in my paper), I suggested that I thought the war-machine — state apparatus relationship was the key to understanding the relationship between the general and the particular.
The highlight for me was John Protevi’s improvised elaboration of a comment that he and Mark Bonta (who also presented fantastic work on crop domestication) wrote in their Deleuze and Geophilosophy book about adding an ethical axis to any understanding of assemblages. I prompted his comments by saying that I remembered their writing that an important third axis of any assemblage might pertain to the Spinozist idea of joy (increasing one’s power to act), but in describing their thoughts, Protevi clarified that they meant active joy rather than passive joy. This aspect had faded from my memory but his words reinforced my sense that this is a crucial addition to any use of assemblage theory.
The text of the press release is pasted below and the pdf is available here: ENG ΤΕΛΙΚΟ ΔΕΛΤΙΟ ΤΥΠΟΥ ΣΥΜΠΟΣΙΟ ASSEMBLAGE THINKING.
THEORY, ANALYSIS, PRACTICE AND GOVERNANCE
The international symposium “Assemblage Thinking: Theory, Analysis, Practice and Governance”, hosted by the Department of Geography between June 2 to 4, 2017 and organized by professor Helen Briassoulis, concluded successfully. The speakers, besides actively and crucially participating at the Symposium, had the opportunity to learn about the University of the Aegean and the Department of Geography. A small exhibition of the students of the Department of Cultural Communication and Technology, under the supervision of professor Nassia Chourmouziadi, and a composition of teacher-artist Mrs. Vato Fratzoglou were hosted at the Symposium.
The keynote invited speaker was Dr. Manuel DeLanda (adjunct professor at Princeton University, USA), who is considered as one of the main contemporary thinkers in Assemblage Thinking, while circa 30 expert speakers from three continents (Europe, N. America, Oceania) and seven countries (USA, Australia, UK, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Greece), presented their current research and participated in interesting and thought-provoking discussions for the importance of Assemblage Thinking in theoretical and applied research as well as in empirical studies.
The topics presented at the Symposium included: theoretical analyses of assemblages, media sociology, domestication of organisms, prehistoric archaeology, sociology of generations, responses to environmental degradation, constitution, political economic and aesthetics of cities, architectural design, politics, geopolitics, biopolitics (organ transplantations and refugee health care), place and globalization.
The most important conclusion of the Symposium was that diverse scientific fields and studies, with different origins and traditions, adopt Assemblage Thinking in order to comprehend, analyze and explain the complex and multidimensional spatial, environmental, socio-economic, institutional and other phenomena and issues as well as to formulate apposite interventions. Their common characteristic is the rejection of uni-dimensional, static approaches and of predefined, given and strictly delimited study schemas and the acceptance of the particularity and uniqueness of each individual case that emerges, is constituted by and evolves from the co-existence and constant interactions among various factors from different levels in space and time.
Within this perspective, new modes of theorizing, analysis and empirical applications in diverse scientific areas are shaped that orient decision making, management and governance from the local to the global level away from the dominant practice of generalized solutions (OSFA – One Size Fits All) and uniform best practices that do not always prove effective. They encourage, instead, the development of customized ‘solutions’ adapted to the particularities of each case that exploit its inherent capacities and special features and secure the sustainability and effectiveness of the actions undertaken.
The main conclusions and the Symposium presentations will be soon uploaded at the Symposium’s website: http://assemblage-symposium.aegean.gr/
Mytilini, June 8, 2017