Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Process of Becoming-Animal

For this post I wanted to briefly outline becoming-animal as a concept and how it relates to human becomings. Before entering this description I should stress that it will be an extremely truncated and perhaps incomplete reading of becoming-animal since I am still coming to terms with the specifics of this expansive subject. I think that Deleuze and Guattari’s most succinct description of becoming-animal is actually in the chapter on the rhizome when talking about the relationship between the orchid and the wasp (which we read for class). Deleuze and Guattari write (please excuse the length of this quote) that the relationship between these two beings is:

“not imitation at all but a capture of code, surplus value of code, an increase in valence, a veritable becoming, a becoming wasp of the orchid and a becoming-orchid of the wasp. Each of these becomings brings about the deterritorialization of one term and the reterritorialization of the other; the two becomings interlink and form relays in a circulation of intensities pushing the deterritorialization even further. There is neither imitation nor resemblance, only an exploding of two heterogeneous series on the line of flight composed by a common rhizome that can no longer be attributed to or subjected by anything: Rimy Chauvin expresses it well: ‘the aparallel evolution of two beings that have absolutely nothing to do with each other’" (10).

This description of two entities becoming each other is perhaps easier to grasp since the human does not enter into the equation, and along with that issues of choice and intentionality become clearer. What we have in the relationship between the orchid and the wasp is clearly not either party literally turning into the other, pretending to be the other, identifying with, sympathizing or pitying the other (which are all possible misconceptions of becoming-animal). Instead what we find is a co-establishing and transgressing of borders between to two entities, which are, themselves, constructions of other entities. The wasp exists as it exists because of the orchid, although they are still distinct from each other. Yet, despite this distinction, they both transgress their own borders: the wasp finding its inverse image in the orchid, the orchid leaving its pollen with the wasp. In this way each entity’s body is found to be porous and composite in nature, leaving parts of themselves with the other.

This process takes on a political dynamic once the human enters the picture. What we consider essential in humans is brought into question through our interspecies becomings, and once these basic assumptions are called into question so too are a whole host of secondary assumptions upon which we shape our society. Foucault clearly illustrates this towards the end of this debate with Chomsky:

I identify three main myths that are called into question through Deleuze and Guattari’s chapter on becoming-animal: those of human individuality, the basis of our social organizations, and the completeness of the human body. Individuality, our distinct status as personalities fade as we leave ourselves, or open ourselves, in pursuit of relationships outside the human. This takes up Deleuze and Guattari’s fight with Oedipal thinking and the essential narcissism of Freudian psychology (the exact same narcissism that Mark Hansen champions). Thus they argue that little Hans is having an interspecies relationship with the horse, a becoming horse, not an intra-species and introspective relationship with his own memories. Human rights, no longer restricted to the human, lose their essential and inevitable qualities. As Foucault describes in the above clip, the mechanisms of justice, education, the family, the church, the army and so on are revealed as state rather than natural human constructions. The member of the mob, the pack, or the band replaces the individual within the family, the church, or the society. This is one sense of becoming-pack; the other correlates with the concept of becoming-molecular. As the barrier between human and non-human is broken down, so too is the barrier erected by the body. The body becomes, not an independent, stable object onto itself, but a house full of doors and activity, in which outside forces are constantly entering, exiting and interacting. We stop being a body of functioning, goal-oriented organs, and become a streaming highway, a convergence of forces.

-Benjamin Schultz-Figueroa


  1. I just looked up who Rimy Chauvin is and it is pretty interesting. He is kind of the Mulder of Zoology, interested in psychic phenomenon and UFOs. Weirdly enough only the French Wikipedia has an entry on him and not the English one. Here it is using Google Translate:


  2. Along the same line as little hans, I highly recommend dream bank. http://www.dreambank.net/ has almost every conceivable permutation of 'becoming-animal'. Over 20,000 dream reports are available for reading and you can even download and submit your own forms to add to the bank. One particularly intriguing dream I found is of a woman who states that she possess the consciousness of two entities at once. I have used this in fact to argue the openness of conscious states.

    Another highly intriguing venue is that of the vestibular system and the idea that concepts and images have an orientation based on the equilibrium of the inner ear. People in floating deprivation tanks have reported extreme psychic experiences. Can we somehow tie this into the function of inflection?

    Thanks for the intriguing article!

  3. sorry forgot to mention the last post was submitted by caldwell