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2 The Territory of Milieus

Deleuze and Guattari (1988, p. 313) differentiate between various milieus: “an exterior milieu of materials, an interior milieu of composing elements and composed substances, an intermediary milieu of membranes and limits, and an annexed milieu of energy sources and actions-perceptions.” All these together constitute the multiplicity of the milieu: “the milieu is not unitary: not only does the living thing continually pass from one milieu to another, but the milieus pass into one another, they are essentially communicating” (1988, p. 313). Imagine a series of papers folded into one another, their folds becoming one common fold that trammels all, yet remains different for each one of these sheets of paper: one milieu yet multiple, whose space extends and contracts in various directions. The spatiality of the milieu is complex, not only because of its amoeba-like quality that belies Euclidean understandings of space but also because of its blatant indifference towards questions of inside and outside. For while there are interior and exterior milieus (and some in-between and some exceeding), milieu as multiplicity unfolds itself across all such distinctions. Let's look at the example of a spider web that Deleuze and Guattari employ as perhaps the clearer indication of such indifference towards inside and outside: “an animal milieu, such as the spider web, is no less “morphogenetic” than the form of the organism” (1988, p. 51). The spatiality of the spider's milieu includes, while crossing, both the body of the spider itself and the web that the spider generates. The morphogenesis of the interior milieu (the body of the spider) is shared with the exterior milieus of oxygen, water, nourishment, climate, wall, web and so on. There is no difference between body and its surrounding space—indeed, there is no such thing as surrounding space. Body and surrounds are one ontology, indeed one milieu whose confines cannot be placed squarely and neatly around its own body, or even 'home': “the street enters into composition with the horse, just as the dying rat enters into composition with the air, and the beast and the full moon enter into composition with each other” (1988, p. 262). Each body (enterprise, creative gesture, intelligent chat, etc.) can never operate outside its milieus: its own internal milieu in direct ontological continuation with the milieus located between, around and even further outside its internal milieu. This is space and time in full material presence. The composition of the various milieus form an assemblage (or agencement in the original French, which points more explicitly to its agentic qualities), namely a rhizomatic gathering of body and milieu around their reciprocal spot of determination: “one certainly cannot say that the milieu determines the form; but to complicate things, this does not make the relation between form and milieu any less decisive... The form.. .can only be constituted in an associated milieu that interlaces active, perceptive, and energetic characteristics in a complex fashion... and the form can develop only through intermediary milieus that regulate the speeds and rates of its substances” (1988, pp. 51–52). What is fascinating, and indeed relevant to the present discussion, is the impossibility of isolating either the role of space or the process of knowledge production from this reciprocal generation of milieu and form. The constitution of the assemblage both necessitates and relies on the generation of continuous knowledge (of self, of milieu and of the link between them, if one were pedantic enough to separate them), itself unfolding on a busy spatiality of material movements.

Let us look at the role of space more closely. While Deleuze and Guattari never make explicit references or give specific definitions to space and spatiality in general, it is clear that there are at least two basic spatial directions in the construction of a milieu: one that goes from external milieu to the body ('the form' or the interior milieu), and one that goes from the body to the external milieu (that includes exterior and annexed milieus, namely material such as nourishment, atmosphere, cultural and geographical specificities and so on, and the generated annex of the 'web', which could be seen as the sphere of influence of the body). A positive, form-generating milieu allows for the emergence of a strong assemblage that affects and is affected by other rhizomatic bodies in a way that the assemblage itself can manage. A problematic milieu may easily (but not necessarily—the causality is not inescapable) have the opposite effect. In their analysis of Kafkás work, Deleuze and Guattari write (1988, p. 214): “If Kafka is the greatest theorist of bureaucracy, it is because he shows how, at a certain level (but which one? it is not localizable), the barriers between offices cease to be “a definite dividing line” and are immersed in a molecular medium (milieu) that dissolves them and simultaneously makes the office manager proliferate into microfigures impossible to recognize or identify, discernible only when they are centralizable.” In this case, bodies dissolve into a sea of weak forms, where individuality is subjugated to the overflowing bureaucratic milieu. These two directions are not simple externalinternal links but lines that cross the space of every milieu's multiplicity.

It is clear that for Deleuze and Guattari, and for us here, space cannot be considered a container, a background or a mere question of measurement. Far from that, space is everywhere and every-body: bodies are space, just as milieus are space. Spider is space, rather than simply something that takes up space. Spatiality is not something assigned to one layer of a milieu. Rather, milieus are spatial through and through. Milieus, however, are also time. The spider web is constructed across space and time, just as the birth and death of the spider and the dissolution of its web extend across the wall corner and the days of its life. These milieus are repetitive, pulsating with rhythm: “every milieu is vibratory, in other words, a block of spacetime constituted by the periodic repetition of the component” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p. 313). This rhythm is not an ancillary trait of the milieu but the only way of its survival: “the milieus are open to chaos, which threatens them with exhaustion or intrusion. Rhythm is the milieus' answer to chaos” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p. 313). Milieus emerge from chaos and never lose their rhizomatic openness to it, itself a force of attraction and destruction. Rhythm, however, is not a mindless repetition of the same, like meter or cadence would be. Rather, rhythm is the production of difference through repetition (Deleuze, 2004). Rhythm is knowledge-production at its most material: blocks of movement across time and space combine to build, every time anew, a form of identity that is radically divorced from similarity and fully given to the difference and individuality of every beat.[1] Rhythm always generates a different milieu, like a moving target whose sole aim is to escape the seduction of chaos. So, if rhythm organises milieu against chaos, what is it that organises milieus in relation to each other? Deleuze and Guattari offer what impressionistically seems a distinctly spatial answer: territory.

Territorial discourse is a complex one, and here we shall limit ourselves only to a few remarks. The relation between milieu and territory is one of emergence: a territory is built out of blocks of milieus: “A territory borrows from all the milieus; it bites into them, seizes them bodily (although it remains vulnerable to intrusions). It is built from aspects or portions of milieus” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p. 314). Yet, territory is not a clear-cut spatiality (what would that be anyway?). Rather it is, again, a spatial and temporal process, an act with three movements in no causal order: reterritorialisation, deterritorialisation and territorialisation. “The territory is the product of a territorialization of milieus and rhythms” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p. 314). Through territorialisation, milieus are being set up in relation to each other (not necessarily in oppositional relation) on the plane of material markings. Territory is our connection to the world, to the Umwelt, to the multiple milieu that includes our own body (with its own identity, spatiality and so on). Deleuze and Guattari (1988, p. 10) have woven a memorable and explicit connection between body and Umwelt in the following: “the orchid deterritorializes by forming an image, a tracing of a wasp; but the wasp reterritorializes on that image. The wasp is nevertheless deterritorialized, becoming a piece in the orchid's reproductive apparatus. But it reterritorializes the orchid by transporting its pollen. Wasp and orchid, as heterogeneous elements, form a rhizome.” Territorialisation consists in spatial and temporal claiming. Such claimings are not necessarily in the nature of ownership; rather, they are mostly intended as nomos, namely as spatial distribution: “the nomos as customary, unwritten law is inseparable from a distribution of space, a distribution in space” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988, p. 312). The nomic side of spatial distribution has to do with occupying certain spots against others in order to construct and maintain one's identity. While this may be converted into the logic of ownership, nomos does not contain the strict boundaries of exclusion and permanence that ownership has (see Brighenti, 2010; PhilippopoulosMihalopoulos, 2012). The nomos of territorialisation is given to the milieus and the rhythms which it territorialises, entering into a relation of reciprocal determination. Thus, according to the needs of an interior milieu and the offerings of exterior milieus, the body may territorialise other milieus, and in the process modify itself according to the new data.

In his work on territorology, Andrea Brighenti has convincingly argued the following positions on territory: first, that a territory is not an object and should not be confused with the space where it takes place (Brighenti, 2006). Brighenti's position is that a territory does not have to be spatial. We will depart from this, in view of the above discussion and the connection between milieu and territory, and attempt to interpret it somewhat more broadly: while territory no doubt is also spatial, it cannot be thought of as exclusively spatial. Rather, and this accords with Brighenti's position, territory is the effect of various affective relations between actors. We will add to this that it remains a spatial, although not exclusively so, effect of affective relations. Second, although as we mentioned above, territory is not about ownership but about social relations, the latter are not necessarily devoid of hierarchical, modernist traits: “the focus of territory is not exclusion from a given area, but creation of ordered social relations, which are, in many cases, relations of dominance” (Brighenti, 2010, p. 67). With these two positions, Brighenti builds a processual, eventual understanding of territory, and as such given to the flows of affects between various bodies. We shall talk about affects below, but here suffice it to say that affects are the way in which bodies prove their power against each other. Thus, the affective nature of territory means that it can easily turn into dominance. This is controlled by legal instruments of boundary marking and maintaining, themselves however not immune to the seduction of power (PhilippopoulosMihalopoulos, 2011). Further, Brighenti's discussion attempts at bringing together the spatial and the relational. However, while he answers the question of the passage from the material/spatial (say, spatiality of territory) to the immaterial/ relational (say, social relations) through the use of technology (Brighenti, 2010), he omits to discuss the opposite, namely how the immaterial passes into material. The question is particularly relevant for our project: what is the reason for which creativity and innovation dwell in specific urban geographies, as the second part of this volume shows? We shall look into this in the following section, when the nature of creativity is explored.

  • [1] This is what Deleuze and Guattari call hacceity, namely a departure from the limiting and fixing qualities of traditional identity politics, for a sort of identity of difference that “consists entirely of relations of movement and rest between molecules or particles, capacities to affect and be affected” (1988, p. 262). Hacceity is an understanding of identity as a hybrid collectivity that does not focus on the individual but on the connection of the individual with other bodies in the broader sense of the term
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