Assemblies and Assemblages: Postgraduate and Early Career Workshop

  • June 10, 2016
  • University of Cambridge

Defining the relationship between parts and wholes is one of the longest-standing conceptual challenges. In an Aristotelian taxonomy, the form that the components take and the roles they assume is always predetermined by their subordination to the overall function of the whole, like the pistons of an engine.

Yet that kind of organic, organised teleology is far from the only model. This workshop takes from Deleuze and Guattari the idea of the ‘assemblage’ and explores its usefulness and its limits for classicists. For Deleuze and Guattari, the assemblage is an aggregation of co-dependent but unorganised parts, interacting through flows and variable intensities rather than according to a hierarchical principle of design.

The word ‘assemblage’ is chosen partly so as to shift our conceptual metaphors away from the intellectual and metaphysical (inherent in ‘design’) towards the mechanical (elsewhere, they also adopt ecological metaphors, speaking e.g. of viruses in similar terms). But this does not rule out the application to the human sphere: far from it, in fact. The word ‘assemblies’, indeed, points to the potential for thinking through new models of political cooperation in the democratic (or even non-democratic) sphere.