Nomadism?

 

 

In introducing the concept of nomadism, Braidotti highlighted its mythical traits and pointed to its connections to a Spinozist take of political imagination—imagining a different world so that social change can become an actuality:

The nomadic subject is a myth, that is to say a political action, that allows you to think through and move across established categories and levels of experience: blurring boundaries without burning bridges. Implicit in my choice is the belief in the potency and relevance of the imagination, of myth-making, as a way to step out of the political and intellectual stasis of these postmodern times. Political actions may be more effective, here and now, than theoretical systems. (Nomadic Subjects, 4)

Despite its mythical and metaphorical traits however, the nomad acknowledges ‘the real’ by pointing to the bodily, material and spatial roots of subjectivity. Nomadic subjects are subjects in transition. They are not characterized by homelessness, but by their ability to recreate their homes everywhere. As Deleuze and Guattari have put it in their treatise on nomadology, ‘the nomad has a territory; distributes himself [sic] in a smooth space; occupies, inhabits, holds that space’ (A Thousand Plateaus, 380). However, this territory, the nomad’s home, is a ‘smooth’, open space, ‘one that is indefinite and non-communicating’ (ibid); it is not ‘striated by walls, enclosures and roads between enclosures’ (TP, 381). Distributed in a smooth space, the nomadic subject is not permanent: it is constituted by continuous shifts and changes, which have their cycles of repetition and recurrence. The nomad is not unified, but is not completely devoid of unity either. The nomad passes through, connects, circulates, moves on; she or he makes connections and keeps coming back: ‘[she or he] follows customary paths; goes from one place to another; is not ignorant of points … Although these points “determine paths”, they are strictly subordinated to the paths they determine’ (TP, 380). It is, however, in passing between these points that the nomad enjoys the freedom of movement. The life of the nomad is the going between, ‘the intermezzo’ (TP, 380). Nomadic subjects cannot be integrated into established social structures, and react critically to the discourses and practices that have set the conditions of their existence in this world.

In this light Braidotti has imagined ‘nomadic consciousness as a form of political resistance to hegemonic and exclusionary views of subjectivity’, (NS, 23); she has further related it to the Foucauldian notion of counter-memory that has the possibility of ‘enacting a rebellion of subjugated knowledges’ (NS, 25). Travelling is not essential in the condition of the nomad. As Deleuze and Guattari have put it, ‘the question is what in nomad life is a principle and what is only a consequence’ (TP, 380), and in this line of analysis the nomad’s transition from point to point is indeed a consequence, ‘a factual necessity’, while ‘it is false to define the nomad by movement’. On the contrary, the nomad is ‘[she or he] who does not move […] does not want to depart […] knows how to wait […] has infinite patience’ (381). Braidotti has therefore noted that ‘it is the subversion of set conventions that defines the nomadic process, not the literal act of travelling’, adding that ‘some of the greatest trips can take place without physically moving from one’s habitat’ (NS, 5). In this light, nomadism is not a situation of being, but of becoming: ‘nomadic shifts designate therefore, a creative sort of becoming, a performative metaphor that allows for otherwise unlikely encounters and unsuspected sources of interaction, of experience and of knowledge’ (6). As Deleuze and Guattari have put it, ‘if the nomad can be called the Deterritorialized par excellence, it is precisely because there is no reterritorialization afterwards’ (381).

 

Please reference as: Maria Tamboukou (2018) ‘Nomadism’, https://mariatamboukou.org/revisiting-the-nomadic-subject-2/archives/concepts/nomadism