Introduction

Introduction

“We know nothing about a body until we know what it can do, in other words, what its affects are, how they can or cannot enter into composition with other affects, with the affects of another body, either to destroy that body or be destroyed by it, either to exchange actions and passions with it or to join with it in composing a more powerful body.”

- Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus



Are human bodies the only actors in political life? Can the weather affect politics? Does taking Selfies with my Smartphone undermine my autonomy? Who is the political subject—me or my IC number? What is the relationship between me as a bio-psychological organism and as a unit of labour within the circulations of capital?

The human body is exposed to and engaged with nonhuman forces of all kinds. Geological, inorganic, machinic, biotic, atmospheric, cybernetic, animal, chemical, technological—we are constantly entering into exchanges with other bodies that sustain, enhance, degrade, secure, diminish, entertain, nourish, endanger, and enliven us.

Organized into three sections, this module looks at the three circuits of human-nonhuman assemblages —Body-Capital, Body-Nature, and the Body-Machine—that shape the contours of political life. Throughout it, we ask: 1) How might an acknowledgment of our more-than-human involvements change our conceptions of agency, autonomy, and responsibility? 2) How might our responses to political problems differ if we take seriously these human-nonhuman relationships?