Swarms, Collectivities, Intensities, Networks, and Nodes (SCINN)

  • January 4-5, 2016
  • University of California, Berkeley

Much contemporary thinking moves beyond the category of the Cartesian subject viewed as the source of actions and agency or of substances viewed as singular objects of analysis. It displaces these through more fluid and unstable scenarios: swarms, collectivities, networks, and nodes that do not frame events but are events—emergent, contingent, changing, variable, and relational. What these map are not substances and lexicalizable entities but fleeting congelations, correlations, co-occurrences, symptoms, and distributions of effects untraceable to underlying causes, assemblages that have no foreground and background (undermining the “text/ context” relation), varying quantities of intensity of greater or lesser duration. In the words of Deleuze and Guattari, “The map is open and connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to any kind of mounting, reworked by an individual, group, or social formation. It can be drawn on a wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a meditation. Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of the [rhizomatic map] is that it always has multiple entryways . . . . A map has multiple entryways, as opposed to the tracing, which always comes back ‘to the same.’ The map has to do with performance, whereas the tracing always involves an alleged ‘competence.’” (Thousand Plateaus, 13-14).

Classical antiquity has been canonically formed around subjects, not maps. From Achilles to Oedipus, from Augustus to Augustine, the classical subject is a story of gradual unfolding, formation, realization, and deepening over time and towards a more firmly outlined contour. But at each instance, a countermapping is possible: the swarming host, the rhizomatic city, the ever deterritorialized and reterritorialized Mediterranean basin, the arc of action (praxis) that passes through multiple hands and is never entirely one, the non-propositional and errant word that never means the same thing once. Classical antiquity arguably contains all the resources one needs to counter the narratives that have been wrested from it and imposed upon it: it can be remapped. How would a redrawn Greek and Roman antiquity look on such a remapping? How can its histories be rewritten? Is a philology organized around nodes and intensities conceivable—or is that exactly what philology is, unbeknownst to its users? How would a given piece of literature or art or a historical sequence look on such a view? What kinds of new tools and collective undertakings would be needed to achieve this fundamental change in approach? (Our own workshop may provide one such model.) What would a dictionary, encyclopedia, or companion volume look like if it were organized not by denominable lemmata and headwords but by nodes and networks? How would such a revision alter not only what we know but the ways we come to know it? Finally, does knowledge organized around networks and nodes necessitate the elimination of individuals in favor of swarms, or can these terms complicate, enrich, and extend one another?

Organized by Jim Porter and Brooke Holmes


Monday, January 4


Session One

Daniel Boyarin (Berkeley)
Response: Tony Grafton (Princeton)

Coffee Break

Session Two

Mark Payne (Chicago)
Response: Page DuBois (UCSD)


Session Three

Mark Griffith (Berkeley)
Response: Josh Billings (Princeton)

Coffee Break

Session Four

Shane Butler (John Hopkins)
Response: Alastair Blanshard (Queensland)

Plenary Discussion

Tuesday, January 5


Session Five

Dan-el Padilla Peralta (Columbia/Princeton)
Response: Phiroze Vasunia (UCL)

Coffee Break

Session Six

Judith Butler (Berkeley)
Response: Simon Goldhill (Cambridge)


Session Seven

Constanze Güthenke (Oxford)
Response: Glenn Most (Pisa/Chicago)

Coffee Break

Session Eight

Helen Morales (UCSB)
Response: Tim Whitmarsh (Cambridge)

Final Discussion

Jim Porter (Berkeley)
Brooke Holmes (Princeton)