# Five
- 2015

All the versions of this article: [English] [Español]

A conversation with Suely Rolnik (Universidad católica de Sao Paulo)

Universidad Complutense de Madrid / Independent research


NOTE: Conforms to their expressed desire, the interview has been reformulated and rewriting in english by Suely Rolnik (30-12-2015/13-04-2016)

P. – We recently read an interview with François Dosse (Gilles Deleuze y Félix Guattari. Biografía cruzada. Madrid: FCE, 2010) which said: “Deleuze had very expressive metaphors regarding their shared work. He compared Guattari to a lightning flash in the middle of a storm. And he, Deleuze, would be the lightning conductor which captures that lightning and makes it reappear elsewhere, yet peacefully.”
Where do you place yourself in this scene?

Suely Rolnik – For me, this image that Deleuze came up with, as a way of  mapping out the places they each occupy in their joint work, is perfect. With their radars fixed on the storm, one of them was the lightning flash and the other the lightning conductor. Guattari was very susceptible to storms [1]. Incredibly susceptible. His reaction was quick, like a lightning flash striking and indicating a place where desire could make connections able to create a territory in which life could find a form. Something which would perform the conditions that had caused the storm, so that life could flow again. An exceptional clinical capacity. With this same speed, his writing was the very lightning flash which outlined the state of things in real time, in wild words, tricky to decipher. Like a lightning conductor, Deleuze would capture the lightning flash and he would take all the time he needed to cultivate a calmer territory within writing, and he would then give it back to Guattari, who in turn would rework it. That’s how the dynamics of their collaboration operated, which resulted in that fabulous universe of thought which we have the possibility of inhabiting. Deleuze needed the Guattari-lightning, and Guattari, in turn, needed the Deleuze-conductor. Perhaps that’s why their collaboration was so fruitful and constant, right up until Guattari’s death. More than creating just a metaphor, this image of Deleuze’s was, as I see it, his way of performing what was really going on between the two of them.
Where do I place myself in that scene? Of course, the strength of my work cannot be compared to that of such a diabolical duo; but thinking in terms of that scene, I kind of see myself inhabiting both places at once, flitting between them. I’m very susceptible to storms, and experiencing them always brings out in me the need to take immediate action, right there in the eye of the storm; in that regard I identify with Guattari. But I also need to write from and for the effects the storm has on my body, and that takes a long time. Those effects have always been that which compels me to write. Encountering Deleuze and Guattari has bolstered this mode of existence, due to the resonance I found between their thinking and the politics of thought that I was attempting to practice. And not only regarding the content of their thinking, but particularly their way of producing it, by coming up with concepts which would carry along the pulsation of the affects produced by the storm.  In his need to create the lightning conductor through writing, I identify with Deleuze. Of course, in no way am I trying to compare how powerful our writings are, and despite having studied philosophy as part of my education, my writing is not philosophical like Deleuze’s, but rather it is hybrid, with a strong clinical-political component: I am interested in describing the experience generated by the storm, and trying to make writing the very task for confronting it. That is what it tends to bring out in readers, something which, eventually, allows them to stop denying the storm, to let the lightning strike, and create their own lightning conductor. Something which, of course, can never be guaranteed.


But I think we can squeeze more out of the question you’ve asked me: “Where do you place yourself in this scene?” – looking beyond little old me, who is only interesting as one example, among others, of a certain perspective on the relation that the reader chooses to establish with a theory. The question itself entails the politics of the reader’s position in relation to a text, this position being an autonomy of thought which immediately drags the reader away from their usual symbiosis with the author, a tendency which transforms the reader into a disciple of a school of thought, a follower of a sect, a soldier in an army. In this same sense, it is useful to bring up Deleuze’s phrase, because it reveals the tension in the difference between him and Guattari as the prime source of their two-headed or rather multi-headed thinking; as they themselves say, their work is inhabited by many. It is not a symbiotic relationship which flattens all differences, and nor is there a hierarchy of places and their respective values; instead, an alliance of distinct capacities is forged, which expands what both of them can do on their own. For me, the attempts to imprison Deleuze in the categories of the history of philosophy are deeply irritating, turning him into a fetish, a new philosophical system closed in on itself, to consume him, to cling onto his body and imitate him, in order to guarantee their own recognition. To achieve this, that kind of approach gets rid of the savage, the ungodly rumble of the lightning, which goes by the name of Guattari in this oeuvre. That mode of relation with the text is, in the academic world, symptomatic of the dominant politics of the production of subjectivity and, inextricably, thought, within the setting of the Western capitalistic culture that I refer to as “anthropo-phallo-ego-logocentric” (I mean “culture” not in the sense of a supposed symbolic superstructure, as separate from a society’s supposed material infrastructure, but rather in the sense of the modes of existence in each context and their respective representational sketches). The effects of such a view on theoretical thinking are harmful, really harmful. I’d say that being the lightning in the storm is the clinical side of the work, its micropolitical side, something which Guattari so beautifully put into practice, both in his clinical work with psychotic or neurotic patients, and in his activism and all his relationships: a political clinical practice, and a clinical activism. From my point of view, it is the very neutralisation of those two powers of human practices which characterises the dominant politics of subjectivation and desire in Western capitalistic micropolitics. This happens via the dissociation of our ability, or rather of our body’s ability, to be affected by the forces of the world as a living being. This dissociation has highly pathological effects, with devastating consequences for the individual and their sphere of relationships; that is, their social life, as well as for planet life as a whole.


Allowing oneself to be affected by the storm’s forces, and trying to hold on through the state of tension which that experience brings about in the image of oneself and of the world, until a space will be created for those affects – this is what defines ethics in the task of thinking, which effectively shifts the anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centric perspective. Of all the people I’ve ever known, Guattari is the one who best captures the storm in different situations, the one who knows how best to find an opening through which life can breathe again, and who best knows how to invent a mode of action for mobilising desire in the sense of finding an active outlet for all that the storm has produced. That came through very strongly in Guattari; I have thousands of examples of actions of that kind he carried out in various different situations with groups or with individuals, as was my case. The power of lightning is exactly that. Therefore, the attempts to remove the lightning from the Deleuze & Guattari partnership means a regression to the anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centricism which their work had so majestically managed to displace. This is a serious point, because it means neutralising the storm and turning Deleuze & Guattari into empty, seductive, prêt-à-porter rhetoric, ready for consumption: this is what I call the “Deleuze deodorant” (DD). It is a “cult” product which magically transforms the bad smells of stifled life into something perfumed and charming. The cost of casting this anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centric spell is that the storm-making affects stay anaesthetised, and thought loses its power of germination and contagion.

AFP/AP – The anaesthesia of the storm’s affects…


SR – Yes, let me explain this idea a little better, because it’s important for our conversation. To make this clear, I need to mention a few ideas which will take a little while to explain. I have to talk about two kinds of experiences that we make of the world. The first is the immediate experience based on sense perception and the emotions of the ego. Such perceptions allow us to decipher the world’s forms according to the current contours of cultural greed. I mean, when I see a form, or when I hear, or when I feel something, I immediately associate it with the repertoire of representations I have at my disposal, in such a way that whatever I see, hear or feel is marked by it. Of course, I say that this is really important because it allows us to live in society. But it is just one of the experiences of subjectivity; it is the side of that experience we call “subject”. In our Western tradition, “subjectivity” is confused with “subject” because only that capacity tends to be activated. However, the experience which subjectivity makes of the world is far broader, and much more complex.


The other kind of experience that subjectivity makes of the world is what I call the “outside-of-the-subject”; it is the experience of the forces which shake up the world, as a living body that causes effects in our body, in its condition as a living entity. And those effects consist of another way of seeing and feeling what happens at any given moment (that which Deleuze & Guattari called “percepts” and “affects”, respectively). It is a state without images, without words. It’s not that the world as a supposed “object” influences us as supposed subjects, but rather that the world “lives” in our body as affects and percepts. And given that this state is that of a kind of embryonic world, which has no images or words and which, on principle, cannot be translated into the prevailing cultural greed given that this is exactly what eludes it, a friction comes about between the two. It is precisely such friction that causes the storm; an unavoidable experience, in any kind of cultural landscape and in any era, because it comes from the very essence of life. What changes from one landscape to another, or one era to another, is the kind of relation with the storm, which predominates in subjectivity in each specific context. This has hugely important consequences, because it is the very experience of the storm, which summons up the desire to act, seeking to regain a vital equilibrium. The perspectives which guide that action are distinct and politics of desire depend on them: if both capabilities are active, and if subjectivity holds on in the tension of destabilisation, of deterritorialisation as fostered by the relationship between the two, the embryonic world which inhabits it will have a chance at germination. The action of desire is what takes on the responsibility for this germination, in a process of creation driven by the effects of the world’s forces on our body, a process which has its own temporality. The thinking-action of desire will consist of choosing connections in order to invent something which, having now become an image, a word, a gesture, a work of art or another way to feed oneself, to love, another mode of existence, albeit as the carrier of the pulsation of whatever asks to be let through. And if it manages to do so…

AFP/AP – And…if it manages to do so?


SR – If it manages to invent a form which carries this pulsation, the embryonic world becomes sensitive to others and it will have the power of contagion, of immediate contamination; because when bodies affected by the same forces find that form, conditions are set so that subjectivity can hold firm in the state of destabilisation, in such a way that the process of creation might break free, carried off by its own desire, which will produce a different form. In those processes, different becomings of oneself and one’s relational field come into being. The compass which guides desire in this case is an ethical compass. Its needle points to life itself, towards that which is asking to be let through so that life can keep breathing, pulsating. A compass which does not guide desire by means of form or content, this being exactly what will have to be created so that the new way of seeing and feeling finds a place. The reference that guides its needle is the perseverance of life (which Spinoza has called Conatus) as the fundamental criterion of evaluation.
What happens with desire from an anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centric perspective, the one guided by the colonial-capitalistic unconscious, is completely different. In short, this consists of anaesthetising the affects and percepts, the body’s ability to decipher the world from its condition as a living being, that is, from the effects of the world’s forces on the forces, which make up the body. It is the outside-of-the-subject experience which is blocked. Subjectivity thereafter only exists in its experience as a subject. Under those conditions, the friction between, on the one hand, the prevailing territories and their cartography and, on the other, the state of discomfort produced by the experience of the forces, is lived like a threat. Without access to the embryonic world that has been generated, subjectivity succumbs to the subject’s hurried interpretation. As the subject is inseparable from a certain cultural landscape, and they are mixed up as if this were the only possible world, he would interpret the breakdown of “one” world, supposedly his, as a sign of the end of “the” world, and of himself. From that perspective, to be able to interpret the cause of his discomfort, the subject can but find the cause in a supposed deficiency in himself, or otherwise project it onto the world, specifying who or what is the screen for this projection. They could choose a person, a town, a skin colour, an ideology, a political party, etc.

AFP/AP – And what happens in each one of those interpretations?


SR – In the first one, in which the ego will project onto itself the cause of its discomfort and its supposed breakdown, it will poison itself with guilt. The subject begins to see himself as insufficient, incapable, inferior, weak, a failure, a loser, undesirable…a piece of shit…There, one of the ways in which desire will act to regain a balance will be the consuming of something from where subjectivity takes on a new shape, recognisable so that it might free itself from the feeling of exclusion. In the context of the dominant politics of subjectivation, the objects of that consumption will be the variety of products offered by the market: if I’m a woman, in those moments in which I find myself trapped in these politics of desire, I will turn, often compulsively, to consuming creams, clothes… or thousands of household items. If I’m a man caught in that trap, the consumer goods that will reel in my desires are cars, the brand new and most expensive model if possible, or other things like that (in Brazil, this kind of behaviour is still very common, even among the working class, whose wages have gone up since the Workers’ Party governments came to power). But consumer products may also be worldviews, and in that case there is no difference between the Evangelical Church and Marx or Deleuze & Guattari (here, the duo become a luxurious deodorant), because the intention is the same: to mimic this discourse, in order to reclaim a setting and a meaning. Worldviews, be they religious or laic, ideological or theoretical, begin to work like any other moral system, within which this kind of compass guides us.


From the second perspective, the ego projects the cause of its discomfort onto the other (in terms of race, gender, class, ideology, etc.), and demonises them, and ends up poisoned by hate and resentment. This can lead to extremely aggressive actions, with a power for contagion which often creates the right conditions for a fascist uprising. In Brazil today, for example, we are living through something like that: by means of the manipulation of images, the malaise of the country’s current crisis is being projected onto Dilma and the Workers’ Party. Looking beyond Brazil, the experience of extreme destabilisation that we are living through on today’s planet also entails that kind of risk. This is a sad fate of the experience of destabilisation, considering that it is a fundamental experience of subjectivity insomuch that it is the alarm indicating that life has taken us to an unknown state, already present in the body but still with no image, no word, no gesture. It is a state which imposes on desire a demand for thinking/acting, to provide existential consistency. They are moments in which the collective imaginary is triggered to invent a new way of existing, other alliances, new feelings, etc. It is the very power of desire, as summoned by destabilisation, which is pimped by capital, via the media which reinforce the phantom of eminent danger, dreamed up by the subject, spreading fear, to transform that state of destabilisation into the potency of submission. This is the real danger, and it comes from the ego’s imaginary danger, as manipulated by the media, the main ally of capital in contemporary society. These are the two fates of the politics of desire, as driven by the modern subject’s colonial-capitalistic unconscious, in its current form.

AFP/AP – How do you designate this politics of desire production?


SR – In the last few years, I have used the term “colonial unconscious” to refer to this politics of subjectivation, desire production and thought. As a quick and superficial rundown of some of the key moments of these politics, I would say it starts with the pimping of Christianity by Rome in the 4th century, under Constantine, who himself converts to Christianity and makes it a Church, the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, which has been imposed on various regions in the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa and which helped strengthen the Roman empire. Following the fall of the Roman Empire and later the decline of feudalism, that mode of production of subjectivity and desire is imposed far more broadly in the 15th century, with the rise of the colonial enterprise in America, Asia and Africa, as well as the enslaving of Africans to work in these colonies, which would lead to the dawn of capitalism. In the same period, and along with this colonial enterprise, Queen Isabel of Castille brings the Inquisition by the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church to the Iberian Peninsular, an utterly psychopathic measure, which would last until the 18th century. By means of this operation, the Catholic culture was violently imposed upon other cultures in Spain and its colonies, destroying their respective modes of subjectivation in which the knowing-body of the “outside-of-the-subject” was active. In the late 18th century, with the Enlightenment, such politics of subjectivation are freed from religion, and they catch a second wind. Brought along with the prevailing trends of the Enlightenment is the emergence of the modern subject, which still operates on us. Today, with “worldwide integrated capitalism”, these politics managed to spread all over the world. This WIC is a notion of Guattari’s that I have recently recovered, in re-reading our book in preparation for its Cuban edition [2]. His idea is that capitalism is worldwide and integrated because it managed to colonise the whole planet, and there is not one single human activity which is not imbued with this operation; he doesn’t like the term “globalisation” because it refers to an exclusively economic and capitalist phenomenon which, in addition, covers up and overlooks its colonising side. With this in mind, we can say that the operation of colonialisation in all its unfolding is not only macropolitics and macroeconomics, it also has an impact on the unconscious itself, and that is why it permeates the destinies of all human activities. Rediscovering this idea has been great, because whenever I called this kind of unconscious “colonial”, it annoyed me how people would understand it solely within the framework of the coloniser-colonised, dominator-dominated, and, even worse, with a victim’s pathos, object of the colonisers’ blame and pity: “oh, those poor colonised folk!”, or of the colonised people’s own self-pity. What I wanted to refer to with this concept goes much further than that. The idea of the WIC offers conceptual consistency regarding the meaning of the “colonial” notion as I use it here, which is not exclusively about the coloniser-colonised, or Western-Westernised societies, or North and South, opposites which form part of an exclusively macropolitical logic. It’s more complex than that. The notion of the colonial unconscious is micropolitics: it is the politics of the unconscious, typical of Western Europe, of which we in the so-called South form part, given that we were founded in that context and our origins lie there. What I call the “colonial unconscious” corresponds to the mode of desire production in worldwide integrated capitalism, which today predominates everywhere, and drives all spheres of human life, not only the macropolitical and macroeconomic spheres. I am not comfortable with the idea of “South, the saviour”, which is fashionable in the postcolonial wave, because it is a gaze reduced to the macropolitical plane, and it maintains an anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centric perspective despite the sincerest of intentions to move away from colonial logic. It is not enough to just swap around north and south as the needle’s reference points on a compass which would nevertheless remain a moral one. It is another displacement that we urgently need to face today: the moral compass must be replaced by an ethical compass. For me, micropolitical resistance consists precisely of acting on this dimension, disarming the “colonial unconscious”. Otherwise, postcolonial thought remains mere academic wishful thinking, politically correct. Perhaps, to avoid any misunderstandings, I should call it the “colonial-capitalistic unconscious”. Or simply the “capitalistic unconscious”, since “capitalistic” – a notion also proposed by Guattari – entails the idea of the colonial, given that it signifies the operation which over-codifies and homogenises the peculiarities of the varied and variable multiplicity of worlds which make up a human existence, submitting desire to its design. Yet at the same time I think we should keep the word colonial, because it reveals the contemporary mode of the colonial operation, which has a long history, and which has been broadened out and sophisticated over the centuries.


AFP/AP – Between the “grace” discussed by Deleuze, i.e. “never lose your grace”, and being a “techno-shaman”, as you were called by Paul B. Preciado when he introduced you in the last Independent Studies Programme at the MACBA… He also made reference there to witchcraft, to white magic. And if, on top of all that, we add the book by Silvia Federici (Calibán y la Bruja, Madrid, Traficantes de Sueños, 2010), the CA2M’s “enchanted system”, Lazzarato & Melitopoulos’s work on the Animism exhibition, etc…From your point of view, what revolutionary potential does all of this hold?


SR – That’s a really good question. I’m going to start from another angle. For me, that is precisely where “the” revolutionary potential itself lies. I believe that what happened in the Soviet Union, and what we are now going through with the leftist governments in Latin America, are very sad and disappointing experiences, yet also very precious. Why? Because they let us see what the left can do but also what it can’t do, given the insurmountable limits of its own logic. So, what the left can do is offer as much resistance as possible within the framework of the state. It is a kind of resistance which entails fighting for a democracy which is not just political, but also economic and social: a fairer distribution of material wealth, which includes the right to housing, to health, to education etc. For that reason, I’m grateful to our ancestors on the left, the people who have resisted within the context of the bourgeois democracy, despite the fact that some of them are braver than others, more lucid, more persistent and even, above all, more honest than others. In that sense I can say that I have always been, I am and I will probably continue to be left-wing. In fact, instead of thinking in terms of left and right, I appreciate Laymert García dos Santos’s idea that we should think in terms of a state’s lesser or greater degree of permeability to neoliberalism, to its assumptions and to how it acts on a global scale [3], shoulder to shoulder with WIC. Being in favour of a fairer state, less permeable to neoliberalism, is the bare minimum. Lacking any of that moral conscience is psychopathological, leaning heavily towards psychopathy.


AFP/AP.- And looking beyond what the left can do, just what are its limits?


SR.- If we feel betrayed by the fate of the 20th century’s so-called revolutions, that is because we still believed that one day there would be an all-encompassing Revolution (a vestige from the monotheistic idea of paradise, not only because of the supposed absence of evil, but mainly due to its supposed everlasting perfection, in which we would seemingly be free from the inescapable disruptions of life and the varying reactions to the resulting conflicts). However, what is happening in Latin America gives us another degree of lucidity, which relies on an ethical knowledge, more than just a moral conscience: what the left can do crashes against its own limits, the limits of the anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centric regime of which it forms part. This is exactly what, in some countries in the continent, has taken the left to extremes of authoritarianism, as in the case of Cuba and, currently, Venezuela and Ecuador, in different ways and to different degrees. This is also what has led the left, in other countries in the continent, to high levels of corruption, as in the cases of Argentina and Brazil. Clearly, the dismantling of the left not only in the South American continent but also in the international context is highly dangerous (the fascist mass and all that crap), but, on the other hand, it allows us to realise, through our own bodily experience, that macropolitical resistance is not enough. Why? Because, from the micropolitical viewpoint, no matter how much is done on the macropolitical level, no matter how brilliant the ideas and strategies are, no matter how brave the actions are, no matter how successful they may be, even if they are not authoritarian or corrupt, what is achieved in the best case scenario is a repurposing of the same map, the only difference being that it is fairer. And it all goes back to where it left off. I’m not at all surprised that everything repeats itself and goes back towards what we were trying to leave behind. I feel no resentment, or rage, or hatred, nor do I feel betrayed, because I know that within the frame of this logic it couldn’t possibly be any other way. In addition, and thanks to this situation, we can see far more clearly that we must move away from the dominant micropolitics, the reactive micropolitics of the colonial-capitalistic unconscious that rules over the modern subject we continue to be.

AFP/AP.- So you were referring to the colonial-capitalistic unconscious when you said that what the left can do crashes against its own limits, the limits of the regime of subjectivation which I call anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centric, and of which the left itself forms part?


SR.- Yes, exactly, the power of the colonial-capitalistic unconscious encompasses the left itself. Even among the leftist militants, the modern subject tends to affirm itself more uncritically, given that their ideologies justify denying the value of resistance within the politics of the production of subjectivity and desire, as this is, for them, a bourgeois and individualistic value. This prejudice comes from their tendency to reduce subjectivity to the subject, not only theoretically, but also in their mode of existence, which characterises the anthropo-phallo-ego-logocentric politics of subjectivation.


Moving away from that mode of subjectivation involves a “revolutionary becoming”, as Deleuze put it. This becoming is driven by the bursting out of the knowing-body’s affects, which forces us to reinvent reality, and which has nothing to do with “the” Revolution, absolute and with a capital R. The idea of Revolution belongs to this same logic of the colonial-capitalistic unconscious, a leftist version thereof: when the outside-of-the-subject experience is anaesthetised, we are unable to decipher the world based on the destabilisation-induced affects, and our only compass is the cultural map we find ourselves in. Thus, we live “that” world as an absolute totality, ever closed in on itself. In this case, we have no way of imagining shifts within this cartography, and nor can we deem it possible or even desirable. The most that one can possibly imagine is another supposed totality, which will replace it as one single block, by means of the seizing of state power. A totality projected into the future, supposedly more perfect, guaranteed to go on forever thanks to the absolute power of the state, which is inherent to the idea of Revolution.


That’s the idea which guides the actions of desire in the politics of anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centric subjectivation, the left-wing version. Due to not having any way of acting in the sense of reinventing reality wherever it may be necessary from and for what life demands, desire ends up acting against life; it turns reactive. A clear example are the totalitarian turns, which include certain left-wing governments in this continent, like those I’ve just mentioned; and equally serious are the governmental actions related to the environment, which stem from completely ignoring the ecological catastrophe which is threatening the very conditions of life on the planet. This also applies to certain left-leaning governments, or those which are not entirely permeable to neoliberalism, like those of Dilma and Lula (these governments ignore the serious plight of the indigenous peoples in Brazil, an issue they have dealt with catastrophically, by bowing to the demands of agribusiness).


These are the reasons why, for me, it is not at all surprising that everything goes back to where it left off. The figure of Hannah Arendt inspires me to deal with the difficult times we are going through in the world, especially in Latin America, i.e. the reality with which I have most direct contact. When she was there at the Eichmann trial [4], instead of putting herself in the place of the victim, consumed by feelings of hatred and resentment, she managed to stay in touch with the affects of the storm caused by that scene, waiting for the lightning flashes to come, to capture them and give them words. To get closer to those affects and find the language to express them takes time, and Arendt allowed herself that time. That’s why she couldn’t meet the deadline for her New York Times article. She needed a year to find the right words for the lightning that had struck her body during that storm, which connected her to the body memory of her own experience with Nazism in the concentration camp. She thus managed to describe how evil is produced and how it is present in the banality of everyday life. By continuing to think actively, in order to decipher the affects of Nazism on her own subjectivity, setting aside the toxic feelings born of fear, she managed to pinpoint the origin of evil in the very absence of thought. Therefore, she saved herself from the terrible fate which these effects could have generated in her subjectivity, which would be precisely the collapse of her capacity to think. In a way, her idea about the absence of thought as the origin of evil has to do with my idea about the politics of the production of thought under the colonial-capitalistic unconscious, even though Arendt’s theoretical work deals with a different dimension of this phenomenon.

AFP/AP.- And how does this help when it comes to confronting the current situation?


SR. - As I said before, and I repeat, I don’t get down about what’s happening - instead, I’m attentive and really mobilised, keen to meet people and groups who are thinking about it all, so that we can share ideas about the situation we are living through, as well as ways of facing up to it. I think we are in a rare situation to be able to problematise the idea of resistance and to look beyond not only its assumptions, but also and especially the scope of human life in which it intervenes and the kind of practices it involves. Neoliberalism, the political theory of worldwide integrated capitalism, is the sole discourse, the “occidentic”, as Laymert put it [5], which is imposed on human life and which overcodifies its multiple forms and constant variation. This is how resistance goes on to confront what disrupts life, at all times and in all contexts. We are being confronted with the urgent need to turn in that direction: in order to do so, the knowing-body must be activated, and there must be micropolitical action, even regarding the problems posited in the macropolitical plane. From this perspective, instead of saying I’m left-wing or, rather, that I’m in favour of a fairer state which is less permeable to neoliberalism, I would say that I feel part of a kind of transnational community which resists the intolerable, fighting for the affirmation, preservation and expansion of life, through acts of creation which answer its demands. And if - of course - that fight includes a macropolitical dimension, it can’t be reduced to that. The object of resistance in the micropolitical sense is much broader, subtler and more complex than the object of the state’s inner battles, mainly when they are reduced to the conquest of power.


To answer your question about grace: keeping the knowing-body activated and trying to mumble out words, outline gestures, etc. in order to express the affects, sustaining oneself in the state of fragility it involves – this is what I understand by the “grace” of a life, as well as its revolutionary becoming. This phrase of Deleuze’s (“Never lose your grace, that is, the power of a song”) has been a very precious gift. He was referring to the letter I’d written to him when Guattari died. In that letter, I’d told him that my decision to return to Brazil, after ten years of exile, was made with zero thinking or planning when, just as I was singing a song by Caetano and Gal from before Tropicália, I noticed the return of a certain timbre in my voice, one that I’d silenced. There was a certain serenity there, a certain tenderness, far away from that timbre marked by the storm caused by the trauma of prison and the media’s total destruction of my public image. That is, there was more life in that timbre, due to the reactivation of the memory of the outside-of-the-subject experience, which had hitherto been anaesthetised. This is what allowed me to desire/imagine the possibility of inhabiting that language again, shedding the skin graft offered to me by the French language when I got to Paris, after the disaster. The time had come to start reconstructing a skin in that language, a new shape which would include the density of the experiences lived therein. The words of Deleuze to which you refer were probably his way accompanying me through the effects that he believed Guattari’s death could have on my subjectivity. I think he was afraid that, without my dialogue with Guattari, I might have a breakdown, become fragile again. When I arrived in France in 1970, my ego was badly bruised, and the amount of energy it was taking me to stay alive was so immense that I even attempted suicide, because I was so exhausted and I couldn’t take it anymore; I just wanted a rest. Meeting Guattari was crucial in getting me back on my feet. I met him in 1973 when I was starting to emerge from that state. The analysis work we did at the beginning helped me rediscover the will for a possible reconnection, and the friendship which began there was, from then on, a rare source of resonances and dialogue which continued until his death. But Deleuze had got it wrong, because at that point (1992) there was no longer any risk of me falling into the abyss (at least, not with the same intensity). Deleuze didn’t know that, because I had returned to Brazil thirteen years beforehand and we hadn’t met since then. That’s why he puts himself in Guattari’s place in saying “this should carry on between you and I, me and you”…It is a kind gesture amidst his own storm caused by Guattari’s death. In a way, with these words he was seeking to be the echo of the Guattari-lightning in my own lightning, and also the “lightning conductor which makes it reappear elsewhere, yet peacefully.” To achieve grace, you must weather the storm, let the lightning strike and capture it without disturbing desire, in order to let it search for the connections which allow what is heralded by the lightning flash to find its place. This is when life takes a leap and reasserts itself. And the connection can be with something as simple as a song, as it was in my case. That’s why Deleuze writes: “Never lose your grace, that is, the power of a song”. He made me remember my own strength, and to activate it to be able to find, even in the simplest things like a song, enough energy to stay alive. So yes, to sum up: he was afraid that, with Guattari’s death, my desire would risk losing its power for connection, and consequently, my thinking would be inhibited again.

All this is related, albeit in a different way, to shamanism, witchcraft, trance, etc. These are distinct collective rituals for deciphering the diagrams of forces and bestow them with words or gestures which certain cultures hail as fundamental knowledge, since this is the knowledge of life. Taking charge of their own storms and actualising the virtual worlds announced therein are ethical principals from this perspective, in which there isn’t even a word which corresponds to “culture” as a specific domain of human activities, since what we mean by culture in our societies as a separate domain is present in all activities in their daily lives. We can find that in different ways in American Indian cosmogonies, in African cosmogonies… or in those of the people of the Iberian Peninsula before the Inquisition (the Christians before the imposition of Catholicism, the Arabs, the Jews). And, without a doubt, that is what Paul meant by “techno-shamanism”, and what Maurizio and Angela managed to get across in their beautiful work on the Animism exhibition. And I suppose that Silvia Federici focussed on the same issue with Calibán y la bruja, given that you mention it (I haven’t read it but you make me want to buy it). The same goes for the CA2M and their “enchanted system” which I haven’t yet had the chance to look into, but I can imagine what it’s like, because I know many other works they have done in the CA2M, and I took part in one of them. So I’m comfortable with the term “techno-shaman”, though I realise my powers are limited…I do what I can…Anyway, it’s just like any other function but highly necessary, especially in current times, due to the level of anaesthesia in the experience of forces which we are beginning to see today…

AFP/AP – Yes, you were already beginning to sense something about it when we met at the seminar in Cuenca [6].

SR – Yes, that meeting in Cuenca was important for me, as well as thoroughly enjoyable. I identify greatly with Spain, ever since I was first invited (I think it was 1998, when Manolo [Borja-Villel] was starting out as the director of the MACBA). I’d always identified with the Mediterranean. When I was living in France, I went to Morocco and I decided to stay there for a few months, together with a Berber family. I feel most at home in regions like this. There is something there which I also find in Brazil, in the Candomblé communities of the Afro-Brazilian tradition, which I’ve always had contact with. Of course, I don’t feel at ease in Spain with that world inherited from the Inquisition Catholicism, imbibed with guilt and sin, all sinister, producer of Fascism, that world which Víctor Erice captures so subtly (I adore Erice’s films), but I love being with my friends, with people who try and think, and create…When I went to Granada, to a seminar organised by Manolo [7], I took Marcelo Araujo with me [8], a great friend of mine who, at that time, was the director of the Pinacoteca in São Paulo. I wanted to connect him with the movement of critical thought regarding the contemporary art museum, which at that time was being debated in several countries, but which had not yet reached Brazil and which still hasn’t made it there, unfortunately. We went to the Alhambra together, and we stayed for a long time in the Sultan and Sultana’s house, and around that area. I adore the atmosphere of those houses; it’s where I feel most comfortable. That’s why I’m so sure I come from there. I recently found out that many of the Jews who have lived in Poland are descendents of refugees who were fleeing from the Iberian Peninsula during the Inquisition. That’s why I have a Polish name, which is in fact a false name; I don’t know what the original one was, but I imagine it comes from the Mediterranean. Well, the thing is that when I went into the house everything brought to mind subjectivity’s ability to decipher forces and, following this experience, create something where life is at ease. That was certainly how this house was conceived, and that is what the Arabian houses of the Mediterranean were like. I was thrilled. Afterwards, we went to visit the house of Isabella I the Catholic, and her husband Fernando de Aragon, that man who bowed down to the wishes of his wives and who accepted the religious unification scheme as proposed by Isabella and which resulted in the cruellest Inquisition of all time. This betrayed the tradition of the Kingdom of Aragon, in which the Jewish people had played important roles - even his own father, John II of Aragon, had been married to a Jewish woman. It was all deeply distressing for me there, but, on the other hand, it made me refine my ideas on what the turn of events during the occupation of the Peninsula meant for subjectivity, and its effects on the colonial empire. That experience was undoubtedly one of the origins of the colonial unconscious concept that I began to work up five years later. Even today, I get goosebumps when I think back; that house was dreadfully oppressive. When I was there it became very evident that not only the knowing-body concretised in the Arabian house was completely absent, but that everything there had been made and intended to completely block it out. That is precisely one of the main characteristics of the colonial unconscious.

AFP/AP – Yes, when we were at the Cuenca seminar we stayed next to the Inquisition building. Do you remember the impression it left on you? You spoke to us there about this memory of the colonised and humiliated body…Does there need to be a thorough review of all this in the Spanish state?

SR – Yes, I think there does need to be a reinterpretation of all this macabre history, from a micropolitical viewpoint. Yes, absolutely. My intellectual work, to the best of my abilities, is always related to the affects of what is happening, and often what mobilises me are the experiences of the body memory which allow me to refine it, such as the one I have just mentioned. The same thing happened both with the Inquisition building in Cuenca and, that same year, in Munich, where I went to a seminar [9]. The lecture I gave there has been one of the most pleasing for me, of all the ones I’ve given on the colonial unconscious over the last four years, since I began working on the concept. It was for people from the world of theatre and performance. I simultaneously knew and didn’t know – something in my subconscious knew, but I didn’t – that the place where I gave the talk (Haus der Kunst) was where Hitler had held the so-called “degenerate art” exhibition, and furthermore the building itself have been constructed by him. It was exactly the same situation as the first time I went to Germany (I’m making the link just now, I hadn’t thought of it before). I never went to Germany when I was living in Paris because at that point I was in no fit state to confront “all that”.  It’s not that I was harbouring hatred, or resentment, or anything like that, it’s just that I didn’t have the psychological resources to deal with it. I was even awarded a study grant by an institution of the Evangelical Church, which had been founded in Bochum in the early seventies to offer grants to foreign students, and which, when it was founded, favoured Latin-American exiles in Europe, of which there were a great many at that time. Despite the fact that it was a generous programme of the leftist German Evangelicals, I never made it to Bochum to meet them. My first trip to Germany would be in 1997, when Catherine David invited me to Documenta X, which was when my shift towards art came about. Catherine had got in touch with me to give a lecture on Lygia Clark. And when I was there, she asked me to give a second lecture. Without realising, for that second talk I chose an essay I’d written one year beforehand called Toxicómanos de identidad (“Identity Addicts”) [10]. There, during the discussion with the audience, I realise that choosing that text over any other had not been fortuitous; I knew, without knowing it, that I was in dialogue with the memory of Nazism so deeply imbued in that environment, a clear example of identity addiction and of the harmful effects of that kind of addiction. Because you can only think in terms of identity if your subjectivity is reduced to your experience as a subject, while your outside-of-the-subject experience is completely anaesthetised. That leads to the image of oneself as a closed totality, as well as the idea of a culture as a stable and eternal totality, naturalised by its supposed separation from the forces which lead us to change the forms of reality, their representations and their meaning. And the effect of that image is that any experience of destabilisation is threatening, as I said before. So without realising, even if my unconscious did, I chose to speak about “identity addiction”, and now, in Munich, about the “colonial unconscious”. It was a genuinely important experience for me to do it in these two places, so laden with the memory of the banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt would say. By the way, on my first trip to Germany I was shocked by the fact that German people of my generation had long been confronting that memory, and they’d been working on it infinitely more than I had. That inspired me to start confronting the toxic effects of that memory on my own subjectivity.

AFP/AP – The little man (the subject) and that question mark beside him. We started drawing it, tentatively, on the whiteboard, in one of our seminars with you [11]. Recently you’ve swapped it for the Moebius strip in Caminhando by Lygia Clark. Ways to speak about forces…?

SR – Meeting your study group at the Complutense was perhaps the first public presentation about my work on the colonial unconscious. I had just started working on it. If my memory serves me right, I had a set of images, sketched out very tentatively. I’m referring to the drawing of a stick man, and next to him, a question mark. And then somebody from your group went up to the board and started to come up with other ways of drawing it, in dialogue with me and with the others, which improved it significantly. Or was the first sketch made there? Either way, the important thing is that I left that meeting with a less tentative set of images, about forces and their relation with forms.

Sometime later, I started using the Moebius strip, and particularly the way Lygia Clark had explored it in her Caminhando (“Walking”) proposal. This was a huge leap forward, because it allowed me to visualise the paradox, which defines the relation between subjectivity’s two modes for deciphering the world, i.e. the subject and the outside-of-the-subject. The images I had at my disposal up to that point transmitted a binary logic of opposition between the two experiences. That prevented me from fine-tuning my thinking on how the virtual worlds that the forces produce in the body only exist in a process of creation of something that will perform them, which invariably generates a displacement of reality’s forms and their cartography. Therefore, the logic of the relation between these two experiences is not one of opposition, not even dialectic, but rather one of a paradox, which generates becomings. In that moment, the question mark also moved away from the outside-of-the-subject and repositioned itself in the friction between it and the subject. The question mark is the problem brought up by this friction, which generates disquiet and mobilises desire. The psychoanalyst João Perci Schiavon, who completed his doctorate in our programme and who is now with us for a post-doctoral project, has worked on that idea, but from within the psychoanalytical discourse, with his notion of the “driven unconscious” [inconsciente pulsional]. He starts off with his idea that drive only exists in the expression thereof, which can be verbal, musical, visual, existential, or in other forms. Dedicating oneself to that expression, according to him, is what defines psychoanalytical ethics. Going back to the images we have been using in this conversation, I would say that capturing the lightning in the storm is the first step of that ethics, but it’s not enough. I can capture the lightning, but if my desire does not move to create “the form” which might carry its pulsation and manage to place itself in the cartography of the present, the lightning which carries the affects generated by the storm is extinguished; the affects continue to pile on pressure and the storm goes on. And if one essentially understands life as a process of continual creation and differentiation, it is clear that in this politics of desire it is life itself which is interrupted.

We can return here to the duo of Guattari & Deleuze. Deleuze’s research background was focussed on philosophers who had managed to position themselves from that perspective to create their concepts, but he didn’t even have any experience of clinical or political practice which worked from that perspective. Encountering Guattari was indeed encountering that experience and, between the two of them, their words were refined to become more in tune with the music of the forces. This is the root of their joint work’s strength, in which everything we’ve been speaking about pulsates in every word, in every line. It was a gift to the 20th Century, and it’s still with us. You can consume it like a new fetish (the Deleuze-branded deodorant), of course, but you can also be affected and from there find the strength, from the knowing-body, to trace your own way within thought, to refine it more and more and entirely devote yourself to that ongoing task of creating an utterance for drive.

AFP/AP Does the resonant body help empower us in the face of fear? Is the “militant” self-conscious of vulnerability, in similar terms to Butler’s, a certain form of resistance?

SR – Yes, the “resonant body” helps us, as long as we keep in tune with what it points out to us, and our actions live up to what it asks of us. This is the condition for not succumbing to fear. However, for a few years now I have preferred to call it the “body-that-knows”, the “knowing-body”. I always choose words strategically: which word is going to have the pulsation of that which I am trying to make more sensitive, and which word isn’t going to have it, and that takes a while. When I came up with the concept for this capacity of the body, I called it vibrátil (“vibrating”), but I soon realised that this word is loaded with a whole pile of new age shit, inherited from the daft side of the hippy movement…Marina Abramovic comes to mind as a case in point of this perspective. In one of her works she includes supposed “spectator participation”, and they are invited to sit in front of a stone and stay silent to connect with its vibration. If they manage to get into the experience, it goes like this: “I absorb the stone’s energy, which is pure, because it is part of nature, which is all pure, and I am thus elevated to great heights and cleansed of all the world’s filth”. It’s pathetic, isn’t it? This idea of separating nature and culture is highly toxic, which in addition places them in a hierarchy as respectively pure and impure; nature as supposedly pure and stable, bearer of the powers to clean the supposedly impure human element and fill it with “good vibes” which take it to “superior” states of knowledge. When I use the word “vibrátil” to qualify the body’s power for becoming vulnerable to forces, the most real, the most earthly, I run the risk that all this loaded esoteric meaning will get in the way, like a veil. It would thus impede the reader’s or the audience’s subjectivity, in connecting with the body’s capacity to be vulnerable (the outside-of-the subject) and in recognising it as the main instrument which gives him or her the strength to guide the choices and actions of desire. Quite the opposite; my words will launch the reader or the audience to the supposed “heights”, where the mysterious powers would be and, therefore, he or she rids him or herself of the responsibility to face the affects and to act responding to their demands. However, when I say “body-that-knows”, it’s more likely to be associated with an experience which is already in his or her body, to really get to grips with it and take charge of that responsibility. Therefore, when I was still using the word vibrátil in Portuguese and in the Latinate languages, I never translated it as “vibrating body” in English, but rather as “resonant body”, a body which resonates or echoes the world’s forces. The thing is that in English, that semantic load which comes from the hippy movement and its new-age incarnation is even heftier, all of that good vibes stuff… But today, after years of working on that construction, I can use vibrátil again in Portuguese and the Latinate languages, since for those who follow at least some of my work, that word now carries another meaning. Let it be clear that I do not think the hippy movement all comes down to cheap esotericism. It undoubtedly brought about a very important shift to the outside of the capitalistic-colonial unconscious in subjectivity and its modes of existence, as it has activated the outside-of-the subject experience. And it is precisely this experience that has been interpreted from an esoteric point of view by some tendencies within that movement, which have lost the political strength of their practices.

Regarding Butler, I’m not familiar with her idea of the “militant self-conscious of vulnerability”; I could say for now that I’m a little suspicious of this notion, but that would be an irresponsible remark to make, given I haven’t read it. If I understood rightly this notion of Butler’s that you mention, I’d say it another way. The issue is, as I said before, that it’s not enough just to bring up vulnerability. Firstly because we must define what kind of vulnerability we are speaking of, for it could simply be the subject’s emotional or sensorial vulnerability. And then because, even if it concerns the outside-of-the-subject vulnerability to the forces and to their paradox in relation with the prevailing cultural landscape, it is something which does not guarantee that the action of desire will be driven towards inventing a form to carry what is heralded by the forces’ affects. And it is there, in this kind of action, where micropolitical resistance would be found.

AFP/AP – In other words, as you often insist, “There can be no resistance today if you do not activate your ‘soul’”.

SR – The soul… It’s such a dangerous word… I only use it in certain contexts in which it directly refers to the experience of the body-that-knows and its access to the forces of life and their movements. Sometimes, I even call it the “spirit”, depending on where I happen to be. But I rarely use those words, because both bring along with them harmful distortions, imposed by the monotheistic religions and by the philosophers who didn’t manage to get out of there. This kind of question always makes me think about Spinoza, one of those who did manage it, and, therefore, his texts tend to activate human’s power from the experience of the life forces, and they take charge of creating the world, which for Spinoza is the definition of ethics. And he managed it because he removed the monotheism, which pimped out that experience, thus impeding access to it, which in turn has denied any possibility of using the ethical compass to guide existence. Upon liberating it from this terrible fate, the soul becomes the power for immersion in immanence, the immaterial real. With that shift, thought returns to immanence. I dare say that the fundamental principle of this ethics is that if we keep the word sacred, then the sacred is life itself, and looking after it so that it can persevere is the most important task in any existence. To go back to what I was saying about the traditional left, what is missing in their subjectivity is precisely the possibility of accomplishing that task. In being reduced to the subject, the left remains anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centric, controlled by the monotheistic unconscious, now in its colonial-capitalistic version.

That’s why I think resistance today has to be micropolitical, and it has to be active even in macropolitical actions. When I was in Senegal I got the opportunity to experience a country in a more consistent way than how the usual tourist would (I have no interest in “tourism”). What I saw there, among all the people I met, was that many of them have a clear macropolitical conscience, they’re highly politicised (let’s not forget that they were once socialists) and, at the same time, they have a potent micropolitical outlook due to their own cultural tradition, which remains active in their unconscious and has not entirely bowed down to the colonial unconscious. I noticed this in several conversations: when facing up to the fact that a macropolitical decision must be made, but that, on the other hand, this would have some disastrous micropolitical consequences, they do not take that first path. Because micropolitical evaluation is essential; life comes first, ultimately.

As I have said before, I think we are living in a moment which favours the intensification and expansion of micropolitical activism. To go back to the idea about vulnerability you mentioned quoting Judith Butler, I think that becoming vulnerable again depends precisely on taking out of its anaesthesia the ability that outside-of-the-subject subjectivity has to evaluate what happens, taking life as a guideline for action.

AFP/AP – Well, we’ve found the word that joins us then…

SR – Yes, it’s nice that this is the word that joins us. Vulnerability is fundamental: I refer to the capacity of vulnerability to the forces as the main ethical principle. Such a principle unfolds in three acts. First: “to activate this vulnerability”. Second: “to be able to hold on through the vulnerability and discomfort you find yourself in, because of the deterritorialisation”. Third: “to be able to hold on in the uncanny state, without considering it negative and having to interpret it immediately in order to recover a meaning. On the contrary, “to recognise it as an essential experience and withstand being there, to ‘give’ enough time for a sense-shape to start taking seed”.

AFP/AP – But speaking about Butler…

SR – I’ll have to read this Judith Butler stuff you mention. I’m interested in finding out if the vulnerability to which she refers shares this same perspective. In any case, regarding the idea of “militant self-conscious”..., I don’t think I’d call it “militant”, or “self”, or “conscious”. For me, those three words are complicated. “Self” has to do with the subject, and we are speaking of a subjectivity based on the tension between the subject’s and the outside-of-the-subject’s experiences. And knowledge of that friction does not operate on the conscience, which does not mean it is irrational or unattainable; and it isn’t a vacuum in which you will project a feeling or fill it with the symbolic, is it? It’s simply another mode of knowledge which, yes, is attainable, but not by the subject and through the meaning that it will project onto it, but rather by the outside-of-the-subject, which implies that the meaning will have to be created. The word “militant”, in turn, refers to a “military” action, guided by a fight between adversaries. It is a word heavily loaded with the macropolitical struggle, and in that environment it is suitable because, in fact, it is about a conflict of opposing interests; even so I prefer the word “activist”. But when action has to do with the paradoxical relationship between forces and forms, the image of the militant does not work, and nor does that of the activist. As I have said, they are not opposed, but rather, from the friction between the two, a becoming emerges. The word “militant” corresponds to an action which moves towards a predefined form (in this case, a form of society organisation and its representations), whilst in the micropolitical sphere, the form is a result of action. As words are the vehicle of forces, and not just of meanings, the word “militant” runs the risk of transmitting to subjectivity the wrong kind of force - even in the situations in which action, from a micropolitical perspective, has to be aggressive in order to sustain the displacement it has brought about, against the reactivity of those who cannot withstand the violence of this displacement in their own subjectivity. In short, the words “militant”, “self” and “conscious”, to qualify resistance, are overloaded with macropolitical meaning. Therefore the vulnerability which Butler refers to seems to be more related to the psychological affection of social, political and economic injustice, and not to the affect of the paradox between forces and forms. However, I agree that we should retain the word “resistance” for the micropolitical sphere, but we would need to find other words to qualify it, rather than “militant”, “self”, or “conscious”. But, and I repeat, I don’t know how Butler has handled them and my comments might well be wrong.

AFP/AP – Let’s return to the “body-that-knows”, and fear…

SR – I don’t think it is the body-that-knows which is afraid. No, I don’t. That which is afraid is the ego, the subject. And it’s afraid because its access to the body-that-knows is blocked in our mode of subjectivation, and it has no way of knowing where discomfort comes from. I mentioned it before: when the ego is destabilised, deterritorialised, its fear tends to make it aspire to a reconstitution of itself, via consumption. The problem is that fear, and the responses that the ego finds to protect itself, reinforce the anaesthesia of the body-that-knows. This is where the conditions for desire exploitation and voluntary submission come about. That’s what happens in a crisis situation, like that which we are going through today on an international level, which is actualised in different ways in each context. For example, here in Brazil we are living through a grave economic, political and social crisis, and the new kind of power which is coming into effect; in other places, the crisis is actualised, for example, in heightened cruelty, as is the case of Islamist terrorism, or Europe’s sinister reaction to the waves of refugees arriving to the continent, as well as the clear rise of conservatism everywhere. In these crisis situations, the fragility due to destabilisation is intensified, and fear goes beyond the threshold of what’s tolerable. So, all the media have to do is manipulate this fear, and project daily, and incessantly, the cause of the discontent onto the progressive forces, thus promising a return to the serenity associated with neoliberal political forces, so that these can take power with little fuss, with no resistance whatsoever.

AFP/AP – Should we therefore be particularly afraid of that which manages to paralyse our capacity for imagination? Is that why you insist on stating that fear and humiliation are so harmful for this capacity?

SR – Fear and humiliation, yes… I don’t know which one is worse, because they’re so tightly bound, aren’t they? That’s how humiliation works: I humiliate you, I humiliate you, I humiliate you, I humiliate you, I humiliate you… If I, humiliated, utterly humiliated, don’t have the resources to rebuild myself, then fear (of exclusion, of torture, of death…) will take over. And so I stop existing; that is, I paralyse my capacity for imagining, so as to not risk death or forever being a “nobody” or a “nothing” in social life.

I personally went through the experience of being humiliated when I was detained during the dictatorship. There were two very violent episodes. The first was when they came to arrest me. It was the much-feared “Raul Careca”, from the paramilitary organisation Comando de Caza a los Comunistas (the CCC; literally the “Commando for Hunting Communists”) [12], with their band of primitive machos, brimming with testosterone, their colonial unconscious in its raw state. But what most tore me apart, what most wore me down – eventually driving me to the suicide attempt I mentioned before – is what the media did. The narrative that has been projected onto the reason of my imprisonment had been orchestrated by the military government and the federal police, whose objective was to bring down the counterculture. I was “lucky” enough to be identified, along with six other friends, as a possible symbol of what they considered to be the “evil” that was corrupting Brazilian youth. Regarding our imprisonment, all the media, all the magazines, the newspapers (not only the Estado de São Paulo and la Folha de São Paulo, the two most important in the country, but also the sensationalist press), all the TV channels, would convey that narrative, piecing together an utterly humiliating picture of us. The degree of humiliation was such that when I left prison, nobody would speak to me. I couldn’t even go to the faculty; I was in my second year of Social Sciences at São Paulo University, where Marxist thinking reigned supreme, and where most of the teachers and students were militant. They too humiliated me, because micropolitical resistance, the reason I was imprisoned, was indecipherable from their macropolitical perspective. And what can I say about the Jewish community…, for the left-wing Jews it was abhorrent, for the same reason as for my colleagues at the faculty, and for the right-wing Jews it was equally abhorrent due to the changes in customs brought about by the counterculture; in short, I was a disgrace to the community. They humiliated me greatly: they kicked me out of the left-wing Jewish school I was teaching in at that time, and the conservative leaders of the community humiliated my father, and because of all that he had a stroke and was paralysed on one side, though he did recover afterwards. And my old friends from the counterculture wouldn’t speak to me, because at that time if the police saw anyone speaking with somebody that had been in jail it was suspicious, and they could be put in prison.

It was complete exclusion. I had no place, nowhere to go, not even the flat I was renting, because the owners kicked me out of there too. I was excluded from absolutely everything. Some very few exceptions to this gave me just enough oxygen to keep going. I’ll tell you about one of them, which was a huge deal for me: an uncle of mine, my father’s brother, who was the only reactionary in the family, came from Río to São Paulo to talk to me. He said: “I know what you’re made of, nothing can destroy you”. And for me, at that time, those words saved me. Just one little phrase. Later, in Paris, I met Deleuze, Guattari…, with the different groups of people working closely with them, and beyond them, with a whole community that has lived through the  experiences of 1968, which gave me the right conditions to exist again, due to the harmony I found there, which allowed desire to reconnect, as I have already mentioned. My trial came to an end three years later. They had nothing to go on; it had all been fabricated by the government, via the CCC. But it took me another seven years, ten years in total, to feel like I could go back to Brazil. Back then, even if I just heard the Brazilian language (not Portuguese from Portugal…), I’d feel sick, due to the summoning of the memory of the affects associated with its timbre. Today, for having got through all that and having managed to keep on living from that perspective, I feel like I have the desire and responsibility to keep searching for words to express what the body knows, and try, with them, to mobilise that knowing and the need to work on what it summons up, through all my different actions. If I tell this story in detail it is not to play the victim, which is the worst possible reaction in the face of violence; instead, it is to describe, more closely, the toxic effects of public humiliation on subjectivity, and how the work of thought has the power to resist those effects.

AFP/AP – Is that why what you call (and we are manipulating a little) “oxygenation processes” are so fundamental for you?

SR – The oxygenation process is a product of the act of creation, which is needed when life, in its new diagrams of forces, does not find a way to express itself in the present forms. If we allow desire to find the way of expressing it, if we manage to create it, then life regains oxygen. Keeping life oxygenated is the number one principle of ethics; it is our ethical responsibility, very different to moral duty.

AFP/AP – You always say – and we love it: “all that shit” (the sovereign subject, the traditional family, sexism, the prevailing futility of academic thinking; in short, what you call anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centricism). What kind of power of dissidence do we have in university? Do you think, in terms of teachers at least, that just raising awareness is enough?

What do you think about the relations between thought and action? (We should of course mention how much you like William Blake’s verses: “He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence (…) Expect poison from the standing water”.

SR. – Good question. Yes, I’m sure that it is possible to bring about shifts in the dominant mode of thought production in academia. In fact, if I have been working at university for 37 years (since I came back from exile) it is only because I believe in that. I wouldn’t be there otherwise, because it would be incredibly dull; I’d rather be alone in my office, at my desk, or walking the streets, getting to know people outside of the academic world and, even further beyond, outside the world of the white anthropo-phallo-ego-logocentric middle class and elite… (laughter)… really, it can be so dull, unbearable! I think that, nowadays, university is where the least thinking takes place, in the way I understand what thinking is. Let me try to define it quickly. Thinking is the very action of desire towards the invention of a form – a theoretical concept, in the case of university – which will carry along what life demands in each moment. It is a movement of creation unleashed by the experience of the real, and which produces becomings in oneself and in the reality of one’s environment, as I have been saying. An autopoiesis. That is thinking. But in the colonial-capitalistic unconscious, since only the subject is active to decipher what is going on, to think is to reaccommodate an existing system of concepts, which is projected and superimposed upon what happens, with the illusion of “unveiling” a supposed hidden truth, reflecting it like a mirror, and therefore producing a delirious explanation for the cause of discomfort that triggered the need to think. Thus, the real cause, the friction between forces and forms, is denied and one doesn’t carry out the work that this friction demands. In this sense, thinking is “consuming” a theory, even Deleuze & Guattari’s, and restricting oneself to doing a few “bits and bobs” with its concepts, which turns them into a carcass drained of all life. The consequence is, as Blake says, to “expect poison from the standing water”.  This is exactly the politics of thought production of the colonial-capitalistic unconscious, typical of an anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centric subjectivity. And that is deadly serious, because while you carry it out, given that thought is influential, you, as a teacher, reinforce that dissociation with respect to the body-that-knows. So what thinking needs is more implication, and less explanation…

AFP/AP – What a great phrase, Suely!

SR – Let me tell you a story. Have you heard of Amílcar Packer [13]? He’s an amazing guy, an artist as well as a theorist, and he studied philosophy at the Universidad de São Paulo (USP). In the first class with a highly prestigious professor, Amílcar raised his hand to say “professor, I think that…” and the professor said to him: “No one is interested in hearing what you think”. Despite all that, Amílcar managed to complete his degree, but he gave up on his theoretical work and writings for a few years and he stuck to art. Luckily, he never gave up the exercise of thinking within his artistic practice. Not long ago, as he was approaching 40, he took up theoretical work again in a Master’s, working under my supervision. After the huge effort he had to make to free himself from the “academic superego”, imposed on him in that sad scene, he wrote a reeeeeally interesting thesis, in which he develops ideas that contribute to an escape from the capitalistic-colonial unconscious.

The power of the “academic superego” is just one of the many effects of anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centricism on subjectivity and, therefore, on thinking (in that case, on theoretical thinking); this is where my insistence on stating “the need to mobilise the knowing-body at university” comes from (of course, not only there, but everywhere). And as my work is fundamentally theoretical or, more precisely, clinical-political-theoretical, university is one of the environments where I try to summon up that knowing: the experience of the outside-of-the-subject, the right and the ethical duty to think. I love working at university, because there we do a job (I say “we do”, because there are four of us teachers in the Centre for subjectivity studies in the postgraduate programme I mentioned) in which a territory is set aside, a kind of free zone where everybody – the students, and us teachers – share this search for the knowing-body and for the assertion of the power of the living in thought. And that has nothing to do with just making students aware, because raising awareness belongs to a perspective in which there is supposed to be one truth, and the teacher is its bearer and who in addition conveys it to the student, who is a kind of blank slate (this is exactly what happened in the case of Amílcar). That perspective in thought production is not only sterile, and fails to respond to the emergencies, but its influence makes sure that this politics of thinking is reproduced in the surroundings. Do you see why this is so serious?

How can we start acting differently? To answer your question, I’d say that you have to be insistent in summoning up the power of thought in the student, beyond their submission to the capitalistic-colonial unconscious. There are many possible ways of doing it, depending on the group and the context. What I’ve been doing for the last few years is suggesting that the students try and write from their own disquietude, that they search for the words to express the embryonic world, which generates their state of estrangement. Their text gets sent to the other students and we work on it together, every fortnight. The idea is that we observe at what point the knowing-body is present, and if the words that express it are sufficiently in tune with what it announces; and at what point the connexion with the knowing-body has been interrupted, and we strive to decipher what happened to produce such interruption… Supervising a thesis is a largely collective task. Sometimes they’re my own texts which we subject to this discussion. It’s clear to us that, at university, in most cases, the knowing-body escapes due to the power of the “academic superego” over the unconscious, which always makes it submissive again, because it is terrified of being excluded and humiliated. One sign of this interruption is when one “quotes” Deleuze and others. So, if a student writes on one of Deleuze’s concepts, or Guattari’s, or whoever it may be - Foucault, Isabel Stengers, Bruno Latour, Paul B. Preciado, Donna Haraway, Agamben, Negri, Viveiros de Castro…, and these are the ones who interest the most our students – if one of the them tries to tackle these concepts we say: if you managed to find in there a way of saying what you’d been trying to say, now try and say it in your own words! That’s when a word or phrase turns into ten pages, with thought pulsates throughout. Currently, with my postgraduate students, that’s all I do; I don’t teach “classes” anymore. I only teach classes when I see that the students, or at least some of them, are trapped in the colonial-capitalistic unconscious and I feel this might the best way to shake them awake at that moment. They are theoretical classes which work as a strategy for clinical-political action. At other times, the strategies are different.

I think it is not only possible, but in fact a huge ethical and political responsibility we have as intellectuals or teachers, because the weight bearing down on us from the other side, the side of the reactive forces, in the academic environment, is enormous. The colonial-capitalistic unconscious exercises a mighty pressure on (against) thought which tends to render it impotent. So we must come up with dispositives which foster a displacement, and, when they work, their effects often spread like wildfire. And I really enjoy doing that, in fact it’s what I most enjoy doing. Every time a student manages it, it is a sheer, unimaginable joy, not only for the student, but for the group and for me. The end result of a thesis is a remarkable happening. Even when we select the students, both for the Master’s and the PhD programme, we stick to that principle: if an erudite student turns up, with a large amount of information, having read everything, highly serious, a good writer, but yet we cannot detect any unrest pulsating within them, no mumbling, at all, we don’t accept them. If somebody else turns up, who studied in mediocre, middle-class private schools or in peripheral state schools (the educational system in Brazil is a catastrophe), who doesn’t even know where to place commas, and their text is a complete mess, but, despite all that, we manage to see some kind of urgency pulsating in its words, an inescapable need to think, presented in a kind of mumbling and still not at all fully-formed, we’ll accept them. Of course, that quality is not a prerogative of any social class; somebody who has been to good schools can also have it, and somebody coming from a lower class might not have it. The doctoral thesis, for us, is a process of subjectivation, the becoming of the person who is carrying it out. If that isn’t there, it’s because they haven’t managed to access the knowing-body, or they haven’t managed to express it; or rather, they haven’t managed to think.

AFP/AP – Look what Guattari said: “For me, cartography is linked to the concern for putting together new practices. What concerns me is the antagonism between practice and theory. For me, there is a practice which, in an immanent sense, implies theory. There is a theory which is the producer of practices, a producer which I call an existential focal point or an existential source” (Félix Guattari).

SR – That’s it, exactly. Where have you got that from? I want it! [Laughter]. Where is it?
For me, thought is what is in the action of desire, as I have just said. It is what is generated along with the movement of an action, it is its abstract dimension, and so it is absurd to even imagine that they could be separated. That’s what I understand from that phrase of Guattari’s you mention: “practice which, in an immanent sense, implies theory”. The politics of desire’s thinking actions go from the more active to the more reactive. Those which move from the colonial-capitalistic unconscious are an example of reactive micropolitics, and active micropolitics correspond to those which  try to actualise, in favour of life, the virtual world that the knowing-body points out in its tension with the current form of reality. The practice of desire therefore bears what is being lived in the immanence and the reactive ones, are driven to dissociate themselves from immanence, to deny it. That’s what I love about the phrase “He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence”, which you mentioned in a previous question. But that idea of Blake’s is only useful for the active micropolitics of desire’s thinking actions, those moved by an ethical compass, given that these actions depend on the actualising the virtual worlds which promote becomings in the present cartography, in such a way that they manage to give life its pulsation back. And what’s more: those who desire and act also can breed pestilence, when they do it guided by a moral compass and not by an ethical one, in the sense I previously described.

Let’s move on to Guattari’s concerns regarding the antagonism between practice and theory. Yes, that exact antagonism is a sad Western invention which has had various names over the course of history, but it holds onto that same perspective. It is present, for example, in the ideas of the superstructure, the symbolic, and in the idea itself of “culture”, an entirely Western idea which Guattari considers a reactionary concept (this is even the title of a lecture Guattari gave in Brazil, which has been published in our book; it is no coincidence that I chose it as the opening text). It’s worthwhile remembering what I said before about the American Indian peoples, where there is no section of human activity which encompasses what we call “culture”, because they inhabit the paradox between forces and forms, and that is where they act from. Guattari used the term “cartography”, as I understand it, to refer to a mode of thought production which redraws the map of a new territory of existence, at the same time and inseparable from the process of creation of that territory, answering life’s demand. Cartography is the name of that politics of desire’s thinking action. I think the urgency which moved him to create this concept was that of acting micropolitically to undo the dominant mode of subjectivation that naturalises maps, i.e. the drawing out of prevailing existing territories, which are also naturalised. That is the perspective of a subjectivity reduced to the subject. In introducing this idea of cartography, he summons up in us the experience of the outside-of-the-subject’s subjectivity, and desire’s strength to create worlds. I suppose that is what Guattari means when he writes: “cartography is linked to the concern of putting together new practices”.

AFP/AP – And the existential focal point or existential source?

SR – Let me give you an example, based on an experience I had with Guattari towards the beginning of my time in Paris. I sought him to be my psychoanalyst when I was starting to get better, I felt like I was re-beginning to live. This was some time after my suicide attempt. I mean, I sought him out not because I was feeling bad, quite the opposite. So I told him: “I was in such a bad way, so bad that I want to understand what happened so that I can protect myself”. He completely understood. He immediately took me in for analysis, and he refused to charge me. We started working in the consultancy, but later he began to suggest things for me to do outside of the consultancy. First he proposed a task for me in La Borde clinic [14] one Christmas, where they would always come up with a theme. That year, the theme was “The Chinese Revolution” [laughter]. And because at that time I was doing a documentary course with the film-maker Jean Rouch, he asked me to make a video about the clinic’s Christmas party. I went, but the Chinese revolution didn’t exactly move me, since my strongest connection was with the counterculture; so it didn’t work out as a source of existence. Then he asked me to organise a Carnival party in La Borde; I suppose it was because he thought it might be something which would connect me with the body memory of my life in Brazil, albeit “soft”. Making attempts forms part of this perspective in clinical practice. I had three months to prepare it all, and the way I tackled it was what today we would call “curating” [laughter]. I put something together which would involve everybody in the clinic, both the “cared for”, as they called the patients there, and the “carers”, as they called those who worked there: not just the psychiatrists, the psychoanalysts, the nurses, but all members of staff, such as the cooks, because it was the daily life of that community that which was deemed to have the therapeutic power. So, I proposed that everybody create a fantasía (‘costume’ in Brazilian Portuguese), a character for the party. That led to me getting in touch and doing a project with the people from the artistic circles I’d met in Paris, French people but foreigners as well, even two or three Brazilians who were around… I invited them to run workshops to create the different elements in the composition of the characters and their costumes. To give an example, one of these friends of mine, Philippe Pochan – who is still my friend to this day – was living in La Borde thanks to Guattari, who had admitted him as supposedly psychotic, just so that he could get out of military service. Philippe is a visual artist, and back then he was also making improvised contemporary music, free jazz; he played the violoncello. He suggested running a music workshop to compose the sounds of the costumes. Ulises, one of the patients, was an Israeli cellist from the symphonic orchestra of Tel Aviv, and he’d had a psychotic episode and he couldn’t play anymore. Well, this man chose a butterfly character. He then went to Philippe’s workshop, and together they started to search for the music for his butterfly. Later, in the costume workshop, he created its clothes, in the mask workshop, its mask, etc. Not everybody wanted to take part, of course, but most of the clinic got involved. It was all a dispositive with which I tried to summon up an utterance for each person to express what was trying to break through in their body but had not yet found the form, or rather, they didn’t have enough strength to do so. Many of them did manage to find that strength within the collective conditions that had been laid down for all, as well as a chance to actualise it in the construction of their Carnival character. And then it was the big day. The party started late on Friday evening, and it went on until Sunday. Many people came from Paris, and they camped out all around La Borde’s land, which is in the countryside. One of the friends of mine who had accepted the invitation to run a workshop was a Portuguese musician working with Living Theater, in Paris. The group took over La Borde’s chapel, which had been empty for a long time. All of the material for the event was kept there; the chapel had become a production centre. And so the party started, as the evening approached. As the sun began to set, the theatre group come out of the chapel, walking slowly and silently towards the lake, joined by the audience. And, just as the sun went down, Philippe and Ulises were there, one behind the other with their bodies almost touching, and they started playing their violoncellos. A magical atmosphere was created through that opening ritual with the group walking towards the lake, silently and slowly, with the sun going down amid that music, as delicate as a butterfly because it came from the affects.

Following this example, from my own experience, we can understand the idea of the “existential focal point” or the “existential source” as proposed by Guattari. The impact of the violence had made me “inexistent” and… Guattari  - with all that genius for his being the lightning flash in the storm, but also to capture it and make it reappear in connections which produce territories, where one exists again – offered my desire a possibility for connection via the “Chinese revolution”, but it came to nothing… So he tried again with the Carnival and it worked. From there, you could say that it produced an “existential focal point”, an “existential source” for my subjectivity which had become non-existent. Of course, there were still thousands of symptoms, moments of deep anguish, serious depressive episodes of the exhausted ego. All the consequences of the trauma caused by the dictatorship in Brazil, as well as by the Holocaust before it (the violence of the dictatorship experience had reactualised the trauma of the Holocaust, which I inherited from my parents).

I wanted to give a personal example in order to show Guattari’s extraordinary micropolitical intelligence. A clinical intelligence, in the broad sense of a perspective of looking and acting, not as it is usually put into practice within psychiatry and in parts of psychotherapy. Those practices use to project their nosographic categories and psychological theories onto what is happening, which over-codify a myriad of singular situations and hush them up. Clinical practice should be an act of creative experimentation, and not a medical act from the perspective of the Western tradition. Guattari gave me the strength to create an existential source for my life, and the dispositive I created in that process, in turn, brought about the conditions for other existential focal points to the inhabitants of the clinic. This is what happened with Ulises, who, upon imagining the sound of his butterfly character, accompanied by Philippe, an existential focal point was created, where he played music again and he could move on from his psychotic outburst.

An “existential focal point”, an “existential source” is not something theoretical which can be separated from practice, nor is it a metaphor which replaces something else by analogy. No. It is when a real possibility for making a territory is brought about – and you can’t make a territory on your own, but with that which you are connected by desire – where life finds a possibility to exist again. That idea of creating an existential focal point is beautiful, and I think that this is exactly the aim of a clinical work, as practiced from this perspective. It consists of: listening to the storm behind the symptoms of each person,  looking for specific forces which have been crushed by what produced their storm, and, once these forces have been identified, imagining along with him or her where their desire can be connected so as to create an existential source from where a process of existentialisation could be triggered. In that sense, we have to create specific conditions in tune with the specifics of each case, to make this possible. That kind of work with psychotic patients is highly unusual in Brazil, which is a shame. The so-called “mental health” system in that country, much the same as the art system, are among the worst in the world, in the sense that, with rare and beautiful exceptions, there is no outside to the psychiatric system, nor to the art system. There are no alternative territories, and when they do appear, the struggle to make them sustainable is so difficult that they tend to disappear very quickly.

AFP/AP – And what about your previous enthusiasm for and involvement with Lula?

SR – I think that Lula has been really important for Brazil: his presence caused a displacement in the politics of subjectivation engendered by the huge class abyss that characterises this country, resulting from the colonial and slavery regimes, which has never truly moved on. Despite the fact there is still much more to be displaced, we’re already in an irreversible process; there’s no way back, in that regard. For me it is a highly important micropolitical conquest. It was the first time, since the Republic was founded, that the president was a labourer, and also a migrant from the north-east (a very poor region where most of the labourers in São Paulo come from), and that, most of all, he retained that social class’s gestures and way of speaking, with none of the power-draining interference of class trauma. That has shaken up the highly powerful colonial unconscious in Brazil. That’s why I feel admiration and gratitude for Lula. Just as he was starting in his role as president, I published an article on this and I still think the same [15].

If it is true that the Brazilian government’s current crisis is the result of, on the one hand, the international and local economic crisis, and on the other, the impossibility of Lula and Dilma’s governments to impose stricter limits on neoliberalism, the magnitude of the crisis and the way it comes about is itself the result of a new power strategy brought in by worldwide integrated capitalism, which is taking root on an international level. Industrial capitalism was based on a disciplinary society, as Foucault has deciphered so well. A society run by a social welfare state in the so-called first world, while in the so-called third world, when the forces of the left were threatening to have too much power, it was being run by dictatorships imposed by military coups, concretely supported by international capitalism’s centres of power. However, for the new type of capitalism, which started gaining momentum around 1976 onwards, those regimes turn out to be inadequate for its mode of operation, and so a neoliberalisation of the states is needed. In fact, the dictatorships in Latin America and the Soviet Union came to an end not just because of the pressure applied by social movements and by the resistance to totalitarianism, but, and perhaps more than anything else, by the pressure of financialised capital. The new regime needs flexibility of subjectivity and society, and it needs the state to accompany the interests of capital in its frenzied movements. This is completely different to the rigid and identity-defined mode, typical of the disciplinary society run by the welfare state, as well as in dictatorial regimes. In these regimes, rigidity and the idea of individual, cultural and national identity are exacerbated and, furthermore, they are usually joined by fervent nationalism. All of this is diametrically opposed to the flowing of the worldwide and integrated movement of financialised capital.

AFP/AP – And how is this new kind of power exerted?

SR The difference with this new kind of power is that it is carried out on the micropolitical plane, and so it is far more subtle and invisible and, consequently, more difficult to combat. Its main device is the media, whose strategy feeds off information which comes from investigations into unconstitutional acts, based on an operation carried out together by the judicial and police powers, which form part of the same power strategy. The media device consists of composing a fictitious discourse, using a selection of information, be it official or extra-official (during these investigations, information is often leaked directly to the media). This discourse is imposed on subjectivities as if it were reality itself, as Laymert suggests [16]. I would add that the imposing of that simulation of reality is based on the huge chasm between subjectivity and its experience of the world as a living body, a chasm that belongs to the colonial-capitalistic unconscious that structures it. With this media operation, said chasm widens and deepens, so much so that it becomes impossible to transpose it, which leads to its adopting of the media’s fictitious narrative as the sole reference for describing what’s going on. On top of that, opinion polls are based on consultation with the public, whose responses are already completely contaminated by the fiction constructed by the media. So, the numbers which come out of these statistics support the idea that anti-government sentiment, as based on the fictions concocted by the media, is shared by all. This reinforces the illusion that it is true.

As part of the same strategy, the reality invented by the media must be apocalyptic, the finger pointed at certain people in public life, who are then systematically demonised. The resulting insecurity in subjectivities becomes so intense that the dissociation with the affects of the forces that have generated their insecurity is reinforced, and they are then replaced by feelings of hatred and resentment: these are the very feelings that the power of the WIC feeds off. It is a control power strategy, completely different to the disciplinary power strategy, since it does not impose forms of behaviour nor set out what can and can’t be done (moral strategy) – instead, it acts directly upon the very production of subjectivity and desire. The first power strategy intervenes in the visible, and the second in the invisible. Instead of the skill of subjectivity and desire, in the new power strategy subjectivity acts positively in favour of the regime’s interests from its own desire. The stable and obedient subjectivity of disciplinary power is thus replaced by a fluid and flexible subjectivity. This is in fact one of the reasons why Deleuze proposes the concept “society of control” to qualify this new power regime.

If we take the example of what we are going through here in Brazil, that operation finds particularly fertile ground given that, in this country, the media form a monolithic block in official communications, i.e. in the printed press and television. More critical information, closer to reality, can only be found on the Internet, via initiatives which foster an autonomous press. However, this is only used by a tiny number of people in the country. It can be also found on Facebook, where similarly this information does not reach everybody, given that its broadcast is restricted to certain networks. The scapegoat within the media’s apocalyptic discourse is, in the case of Brazil, the president of the republic and the governing party. This operation takes society’s discontent as its starting point, coming from the two existing crises I mentioned before. The reality of this double crisis and the discontent it produces is instrumentalised by the CMI’s micropolitical power strategy, that is, by swapping it for a fictitious reality as constructed by the media, which gives rise to a serious crisis in the government’s credibility.

AFP/AP.- Does this new power strategy, which acts micropolitically, replace the macropolitical strategy, or at least complement it?

SR.- No, not at all. The establishment of the micropolitical power strategy, that intervenes in desire, does not replace the macropolitical strategy – instead, what changes is the way the state’s power is won and retained. The difference is that as well as guaranteeing, micropolitically, the state’s power, macropolitical operations are employed to feed the micropolitical ones, selecting information and breaking it into elements for the media’s composition of fictitious narratives. I can give you two obvious examples of macropolitical operations being employed micropolitically in Brazil.

The first one is the investigation into unconstitutional acts, with information edited carefully by the media in such a way that only those committed by the governing party appear; this started at the time of Lula’s government, but it got even worse during Dilma’s government (in the case of Dilma, some of those acts do not even go against the public good, but rather they are linked to issues of the management of the economy, at times of emergency and when the only way to resolve it is by transferring part of the budget from one sector to another, for a short period of time, and that kind of transfer is non-constitutional). The focal point of the investigation is mainly corruption, and most curious of all is that these investigations began via an initiative proposed by Lula’s government itself, with the aim of doing away with impunity, inherent to the colonial and pre-republican tradition which is still prevalent today, in the Brazilian state and among the country’s elites (it is worth pointing out that they tend to be made up of the same people). Many cases of corruption came to light as result of that operation, and even many members of the Workers’ Party are implicated, which reveals, among other things, that corruption forms part of the very logic of the state’s machinery, including many people on the left. However, the media “cherry-pick” their information, exclusively focussing on the corruption by members of the Workers’ Party, whilst all the corruption by members of other parties vanishes into thin air. Also, when they have no choice but to mention it, they do so in some little corner on an inside page of the newspaper, or in a few short seconds on the TV news bulletins, invariably preceded and followed by attacks on the government.

The second example of a macropolitical operation used micropolitically, which happens simultaneously with the first, is based on the fact that Brazil’s House of Commons and Senate are being taken over by the so-called “colonels”, as they are known in Brazil, i.e. the bigwigs of the pre-republican rural elite, and also by the more categorically ignorant and conservative forces of the middle classes and the urban elite. They represent sectors of Brazilian society that cannot bear the fact that, since Lula came to power, “poor” and “black” people now go to the places which had always been theirs, and which clearly delineated class borders and their privileges (airports, shopping centres, etc.). Even when they protest in the street, these people openly declare their hatred for poor people and the Workers’ Party, and they go as far as to demand the return of the dictatorship. In this scenario, deputies and senators tend to put power struggles and their private interests first, instead of taking responsibility for furthering the public good. They systematically boycott the president’s proposals that would allow for social advances, or, even more perversely, the laws which are needed to confront the international economic crisis and get development back on track, which entails any chance at advancing with the social plane. With that boycott by the opposition, the economic crisis deepens and a highly serious politico-institutional crisis breaks out, the cause of which is dressed up by the media, putting it down to the government’s incompetence.

Through the cherry-picking of information about these two operations, a fictitious discourse is constructed, which, as Laymert notes, is imposed like a parallel reality which ends up replacing reality itself. That simulation of reality is created by means of the image of Lula, Dilma and the Workers’ Party gradually being torn to shreds. The attack started during Lula’s second term, and it became truly savage when, at the beginning of Dilma’s first term, she tried to put stricter limits on the banks by lowering interest rates. The barrage against her image and that of the governing party, in the media, got really violent, and it has increased over time, more recently taking on Lula’s image again. And so they continue to be humiliated, humiliated and humiliated, over a long period of time, long enough so that people’s crisis-induced malaise turns into hatred and resentment for the government, leading them to vote overwhelmingly in favour of impeachment in a supposedly “legal and democratic” process.

AFP/AP.- So is this a new kind of coup d’état?

SR.-  That’s a very pertinent question; some of the remaining government-supporting left in Brazil are indeed considering it to be exactly that. However, calling it a “coup” can cause misunderstandings, given that this is a stealthy takeover of the state’s power with no use of firepower; rather, it acts micropolitically using the force of desire, by means of its media operations. For the WIC, interrupting a president’s term of office, as they are trying to do with Dilma, has to do with the fact that she still has three years left in office, and that’s why the micropolitical power strategy of WIC aims to get her removed from government. This is happening with Bachelet in Chile, and it already happened in much the same way in Paraguay, almost four years ago (and perhaps that was the testing ground for this new WIC strategy in Latin America), with the impeachment of Fernando Lugo in 2012, but it turned out to be easier there. Despite pathological levels of stupidity and the shameless lack of dignity which is cropping up all over Brazil at the moment, intensified by the workings of this new power strategy, it turns out that many of the poorest people have been members or supporters of the Workers’ Party since its foundation, strongly identifying with the party. That identification has to be destroyed so that the people, en masse, declare an emphatic “yes” to impeachment. This slows down the preparations for this new kind of “coup d’état”, which acts based on a micropolitical operation, allowing itself to be dressed up and presented as a democratic process. Here, a coup cannot come about in the same way, just like that, two minutes and bye-bye, as they did with Lugo in Paraguay. This three-way alliance, i.e. of the media with the judicial powers and the federal police, must be justified in the many cases of unconstitutional acts, with better-constructed legal arguments. It’s the same in Chile, where the destruction of Bachelet’s image, based on this same kind of investigation which has been going on for a year now, has still not been able to significantly reduce the president’s approval ratings, unlike what is happening in Brazil with Dilma.

AFP/AP.- And at what stage of this process is Brazil at the moment?

SR.- This perverse abuse of people’s malaise is only now beginning to demolish the credibility of the Worker’s Party and their identification with it, and beyond this, with the left in general. However, although this demolition regarding the Worker’s Party seems to me to be irreversible, it is not exactly set in stone, nor is it irreversible in terms of aspirations for social justice and, thus, for the belief in the left’s ideals, in the best sense of the word.

I’ll give you an example. When I speak to people, the same topic invariably comes up: “the Workers’ Party is a load of shit, just like all politicians”.  And those who say this are in fact people who used to support the Workers’ Party, or who thoroughly identified with them before their disappointment generated by the media’s macabre operation. Bearing that in mind, I usually say to them: “well, I respect your opinion, but I want to share with you my way of thinking about what’s going on. I always try and draw on my own experiences to evaluate whether what’s happening is good or bad for life, and that is my point of reference when it comes to shaping my own ideas and making my choices. With this reference, when I watch Globo (a private TV channel in Brazil, the most watched by far), I realise that what they say hardly ever corresponds to what my own experience shows me, as if it were a kind of fiction, far removed from reality”. And when the other person is from a poorer social class, which is the great majority of Brazilian society, I ask them: “if you draw on your own current life experience, or that of your family, your friends, the people who live in your neighbourhood, your colleagues… to evaluate what really happened since Lula’s first government, what would you say? And before you answer, let me just say that I could not taking interest in all this because I’m middle-class and I’m doing relatively well. Yet it does matter to me, and it affects me greatly, because as well as feeling enraged about the false information broadcast every day with zero scruples, I hate what lies behind it all: the determination to maintain the social class abyss which we’ve always had here, and the racism which comes hand-in-hand, as if we were still in the midst of slavery, and that, for me, is intolerable. So, and though I might be wrong, my impression is that the position of the most disadvantaged people has in fact improved greatly, and they make up the vast majority of the country. Tell me, am I wrong?” Then, quite frequently, their answer is: “yes, indeed, my life improved a lot”, and from that point on, the conversation turns a corner and an interesting exchange of ideas begins.

That’s what happens when you consume television as your only source of information and you find yourself at the mercy of its fiction (something which is really widespread in Brazil). And when television isn’t the only source of information that one consumes, then the only other sources are reading newspapers and opinion magazines (which, in Brazil, is restricted to the middle and upper classes); publications which, without exception, take an active part in constructing that same fiction. But nevertheless, it’s amazing that in this country, if you speak from outside that fictitious environment, using words closer to the experience that the body makes of the forces which shake up reality, the other person is roused from their media-induced hypnosis so that he or she can think again. Of course, this is only possible if they are not yet completely sterilised by the colonial-capitalistic unconscious in a level of deeply-rooted pathology for which there is no cure…(this, unfortunately, is the case of many people in the middle and upper classes in this country).

AFP/AP.- So the new kind of power happens by means of the impeachment of presidents?

SR.- Of course not. It is important to note that the orchestration of this new kind of power strategy doesn’t necessarily happen by means of the impeachment of presidents, nor shortening their term of office, as is the case in Venezuela today, with Maduro. In those cases of left-leaning governments in Latin America, reaching the end of their term of office, the strategy is different. In Peru, for example, their current president, Ollanta Humala, is left-wing, as the country is on the eve of elections, the financialised capitalistic media coup intervenes in that context, thereby almost guaranteeing victory for a right-wing candidate. This candidate is, in addition, the daughter of Fujimori, a fearful dictator who governed the country from 1990 to 2000, and who is in fact in prison now, sentenced to 25 years for corruption, kidnapping and murder. Yet that is simply erased from memory, regarding the fictitious reality constructed by the media, which becomes reality itself, in which Fujimori’s daughter is associated with salvation. Another similar example was the bringing down of Kirchnerism in Argentina. The most recent case is that of Bolivia, where the WIC’s micropolitical power strategy was concentrated on the referendum to decide whether Evo should be nominated for the presidency again, resulting in a majority “no”.

Those examples show that the clearly micropolitical nature of the new power strategy set in motion by WIC, which feeds off the production of subjectivity and desire, doesn’t replace the power struggles on the macropolitical level. What’s new, as I mentioned earlier, is that WIC uses them equally, to fuel and strengthen its micropolitical strategy, and vice versa – the new regime also uses its micropolitical strategy to strengthen its macropolitical interventions. With this dual operation, the basis for sustaining micropolitical power is essentially the people’s desire.

We are undeniably going through, on an international level, a complex and tricky-to-decipher situation, and my analysis is certainly insufficient and needs further fine-tuning. The texts being written about the situation, which are fortunately being shared online among more and more people, as well as a recent meeting I had with American Indian thinkers from various different Latin American countries, and other thinkers [17], as well as conversations with friends: all of this has shown me some avenues to explore, in that regard. Among those friends, in a conversation with Amílcar (who was the curator of the meeting I mentioned before), he questioned my idea,  arguing that the governments of Lula and Dilma have in no way obstructed the interests of financialised capital, which would invalidate my own hypothesis about the prime motive for the attacks on these figures and their party. His comments seemed, to me, highly pertinent - despite the fact they have managed to increase the wages of the poorest people and significantly improve their living conditions, it can’t be denied that these governments have been really permeable to neoliberalism. The banks, the construction companies, etc. have benefited greatly, more so than in previous governments; the numbers prove it. So, what’s going on? Why do they want to oust Dilma and the Workers’ Party from power?

AFP/AP.- And have you managed to find the answer to any of these questions?

SR.- I’ve been thinking about it all. I’ve come across some possible answers but, as I said before, they’re incomplete and insufficient. An initial response is that this new power strategy does not depend on how far left a government is, or the extent to which it damages financialised capitalism. WIC’s objectives go beyond to bring down Dilma and the Workers’ Party’s power; what it wants to bring down is the power of the left’s collective imaginary. In fact, this is what is already happening in Brazil with many middle-class people who were traditionally on the left. And, as I mentioned before, it is also happening among the most disadvantaged people, with the annihilation of that collective imaginary, cutting deeper than the mere breaking down of their identification with the Workers’ Party. Though most of those people do not use the term ‘left’ to refer to the government’s social action, what really matters is that their belief in the genuine possibility for achieving social and economic dignity has been shattered.

Of course, this annihilation doesn’t have absolute power; both macro- and micropolitical actions of resistance are still happening. One example of such macropolitical action is the social movements, like the landless people in the countryside, and the homeless in the cities, ever fighting on. And one example of micropolitical action is the rise in new kinds of activism, mainly among young people, especially girls and afro-descendent people, from both the peripheries and the middle classes, whose resistance can be seen in their drawing of lines of flight, away from the current state of things, as has been happening for a few decades now, all around the world. They don’t identify with the left’s ways of acting, which doesn’t mean that they are passive or depoliticised, but rather that they have a new way of deciphering reality, posing problems and acting critically; that is, they have a completely different understanding of resistance. They manage to access, in their own bodies, the effects of financialised capitalism’s micropolitical power strategy, and that is exactly where they face up to it all, resisting on that same plane. Among the examples of this new form of activism in Brazil are the huge street protests in June 2013, which started out of anger at the rise in public transport ticket prices. And, more recently, the secondary-school students’ movements to occupy public schools (which in this country are only attended by children and teenagers from the lowest-income families), protesting the São Paulo government’s plan to close down 94 of those schools. Their way of protesting is not so much about watchwords or slogans, but rather about performing their critical view, creating dispositives that can potentially activate thought.

But thinking about it more subtly, I would say that, ultimately, the broader aim of WIC’s micropolitical power strategy is to destroy the collective imaginary of any kind of resistance, and not only that which comes from the leftist tradition. It entails a complete dissolution of the belief and faith in being able to think from the affects, and act critically to try to recreate reality where and when this is most urgently needed. The power of that collective imaginary over the conduction of desire and its thinking-actions must be dissolved, as well as the potency for contamination, carried along by said actions. In short, the ethics of desire must be annihilated, along with its power to drive action from and for life’s demands. That is what really disrupts the global free-flowing of financialised-capital, and the limitless governability to protect its interests (a neoliberal state). The effect of that strategy is the paralysis of thought, creating the right conditions for it to be substituted by the media’s discourse. This is how the society of control is put in place. In this operation, the colonial-capitalistic unconscious obtains a power which is subtler and stronger than ever before.

AFP/AP.- And how is the left reacting to this new WIC operation?

SR.- The left’s imaginary doesn’t reach the micropolitical dimension where WIC intervenes, and therefore it can’t offer us the right tools to be able to resist in this terrain; this is probably why the young activists are moving away from that imaginary. This is also the reason why the left couldn’t recognise the political dimension of the Brazilian counterculture in the 1960s, which I mentioned at some point earlier on. A clear sign that this impossibility still holds today is that the violence endured by the counterculture, as administered by the military state in Brazil, is not recognised by the Amnesty Commission created in 2011, whose definition of those who have the right to seek damages from the state for violence during the dictatorship is limited to the militants of political parties or organisations, that is, those who acted macropolitically. The same thing happened with the National Truth Commission created in 2012, which despite having acknowledged the indigenous populations as victims of the dictatorship, which is undoubtedly a crucial step forwards, they did not include in their list people from the world of culture, or minorities, who have been violently persecuted by the military regime. We can even consider the new kind of activism an activation of the imaginary of resistance which characterised the counterculture. However, there is a significant change in the way that the new generation have actualised the counterculture’s ideals: instead of demonising institutions and carrying out their experiments in supposedly non-institutional spaces, as was the case in the counterculture, with people who imagined themselves to be in a parallel world, young people today know that there is no world outside of this one. Therefore, they act right in the heart of the institutions, trying to displace the perspective that guides their actions (as with, for example, the public schools I have just mentioned).

AFP/AP – In relation to this idea you mention regarding “there is no outside” - how do you see Brazil’s relationship with its Latin American context?

SR – Awful. Here, people do not see themselves as Latin American. They look down on Latin America, they make fun of the people from other countries in the continent, they call them “cockroaches”, they consider them trashy… From the point of view of the middle and upper classes in Brazil, Paraguay is the worst of all. It’s been that way since, together with Argentina and Uruguay, Brazil destroyed Paraguay in a pathetic war, in which it lost 40% of the contended territory and it became one of the most “backward” countries in the continent. Even today many people in Brazil see it as the junk of the junk of the junk of humanity. Have you been to Paraguay? Since I first went to Asunción I was completely spellbound because the Guarani tradition, with its activated knowing-body, is very much alive there, and most people even know how to speak Guarani, and, in a way, that tradition still has effects on subjectivity. And it is so delicate, so refined…

It’s true that there was a shift in the relationship with Latin America during the fights for independence and then with the rise of the left, when the Marxist Brazilian intellectuals started to connect with what was happening and what people were thinking in the other countries in the continent. But that did not continue with the subsequent generations; what has intensified are the commercial relationships which, nonetheless, do not change the feeling that Brazilian people have of not belonging to the continent… To give an example, I was once in a symposium at the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), part of a project which included several countries from Latin America [18], and at one point in the debate, a guest from Rio de Janeiro said, his voice trembling with rage: “We in Brazil have nothing to do with Latin America!”. His words, his face, his gestures were full of hatred and contempt. And he’s a well-informed, intelligent person, one of the most highly respected curators and art critics in Brazil. So that’s the way it is…

AFP/AP – What does it have to do with, then?

SR – With Europe, of course, and for the last few decades, with the United States. That is not at all the relationship I have with Latin America, which is, on the contrary, really visceral, from very early on. When I was 17 years old I went to study in Israel, and I lived for a while with a guy who was a poet and playwright. He wanted to marry me, and that’s the only time anybody has ever “asked for my hand in marriage”, as they say [laughter]. That was before the Six-Day War (after the war, I never returned to Israel because I do not identify at all with the direction taken by the country’s government). Beside the fact that I was in love, I liked being there, Jerusalem, the kibbutz, when it was still a fascinating experience, the adventure… the freedom of being far away from family, at 17. So I could have stayed there, but my body knew, even though I didn’t, that I had to discover Latin America, to experience it as a part of myself. So I went back to Brazil, but that wasn’t when I started to travel around the continent. When I returned from Paris, I started giving lectures here and there, mainly in Argentina and Mexico, but I still felt distant. It was 2007 in fact when I began to dip my head into the continent. It was after a trip to Paris, and I was invited by the INHA (the National Institute for the History of Art) to take up a two-month research grant. I’d planned to put together a selection of some of my essays for a book, but I couldn’t manage it because François Dosse’s “cross-biography” of Deleuze and Guattari had just come out (to go back to your initial question and mention something which I didn’t before, in that regard). I was livid about the chapter on Brazil because there are serious errors, especially the omission of movements and people related to that work which, from very early on, had a great impact on the country where it found a varied and fertile territory. My problem has nothing to do with Dosse as a person; he’s really nice and he had the guts to take on the challenge of piecing together a biography on Deleuze & Guattari, crossing their lives and their lines of work.

But, despite having done vast and rigorous research, it’s as if he hadn’t thought with the affects’ power of evaluation for deciphering the effects of that work in different contexts. This would be very important when choosing whom he should interview and where each one of those people is placed in regard to the destiny of that oeuvre in a given context. in order to select what really matters in the information he obtained. This is complicated for a biography on Deleuze & Guattari, for they are in fact intellectuals who not only escaped the French tradition which tends to dissociate the subjectivity, and its practice of thought, of the knowing-body, but also their work is a radical displacement of that perspective. Of course, access to the knowing-body and the possibility of expressing it is not a prerogative of the “South”, but it comes about, or it might not come about, in any place. You just have to look at Brazil: for most of the elite and the middle classes that knowledge is inactive, and that includes many intellectuals [laughter].

I am very vulnerable to the neutralisation of the vital power of creation in any environment; I cannot stand it when something powerful is blocked. That is exactly why I felt compelled to put together the Archive for a Work-Event [19] a few years ago, in the hope of activating the body memory of Lygia Clark’s artistic propositions. For me, it was unacceptable what the art system had started to do with her work from the moment it was revived, not for her (although that too saddens me), but because an active work was being “paralysed”, interrupting its power for contagion and germination.

AFP/AP – Is that why Dosse’s book infuriated you so much?

SR – Yes. Firstly because of a really silly personal issue, but yet very important to me, which is that he mentions I had an “affair” with Deleuze, although I’d asked him to leave all that out of the book. First of all because nobody’s interested and it adds nothing to the biography, but also because I never wanted to be identified as “that woman” who had  “history” with Deleuze. I’m not interested in existing through the achievements of the people I’ve known, like a parasite that lives off other bodies; I’d rather exist through what I do, through my work, essentially, through my own attitudes towards what happens, through my way of surrounding myself with friends, through my way of living…. But I admit that I am partly responsible for its being made public, because Manon de Boer, a Dutch artist who lives in Brussels, made a film (Resonating Surfaces, 2005) for which she interviewed me at length. It is a portrait of São Paulo based on the memory of the people who were exiled in Paris, and she had focussed particularly on my recollections. The problem is that when Manon interviewed me I’d just been diagnosed with cancer, and they’d pencilled me in for an operation a few days later (then, during the operation the doctor realised he’d made a mistake and I didn’t have cancer after all…). So I was in that mood, the ghost of cancer hanging over me, and I was scared, which made me pretty dramatic and sentimental…, and that tone comes across in the interview… And there I told some stories about Deleuze and Guattari to talk about how important they’d been in my life because I was certain that I was going to die. I really like Manon’s work, but that film makes me uncomfortable. I can’t stand its dramatic tone, and, above all, the fact that it makes public a story about Deleuze’s private life, for that was not my intention at all; I just wanted to show how a simple song can trigger displacements in a life. And I also wanted to point out that Deleuze was a schizoanalyst – as he himself had told me, with his usual sense of humour, just when he asked me to work on the distinct death cries of female characters in the face of violence, in two operas by Alban Berg, and how his proposition laid the ground for what, some years later, the listening of that song would provoke in me. So anyway, the film was a big hit in the art world, it went everywhere, and I felt really exposed, and furthermore in Paris it caused some misunderstandings with three people who I’d been close to, enough to further my boredom of the film. That’s why the fact that it was again published in the cross-biography was what first annoyed me about the book, and I asked Dosse to take it out of the second edition. To be honest, I no longer care that people know about it because it can’t be undone, but I do care about the fact that it appears in the biography on Deleuze & Guattari, because that book has archival value.

AFP/AP – And secondly?

SR – The second reason, and most importantly of all, is the way Dosse describes Deleuze and Guattari’s presence in Brazil, the effects of their presence in the country: the information that he selects for inclusion compared with that which he leaves out, as I told you before. And it’s not a daft issue of narcissism, for if it were about my ego I’d be delighted, because there’s something like a page and a half about my own presence in that context (too much for my liking…). The reason it bothers me is the fact that their work has had truly significant effects in Brazil, and they don’t appear in the book while others do, effects which shouldn’t be included because they are not at all important in the destiny of their thought in the country. What’s more, that error in evaluation damages the knowledge of its effects here as it has an archival value, confusing the readers. So I spoke to Dosse and I said to him: “There are lots of important things which are not in that chapter, so as well as asking you to take out my “affair” with Deleuze from the second edition, if you like and if you are willing, I can work on the chapter on Brazil, adding that information, trying to respect its exact length, so that you can rewrite it your way, with your own choices.” He accepted, so in the end, instead of sorting out my own book, I spent the two months I had free to go over that chapter. In the INHA I had a phone at my disposition to call anywhere in the world (back then WhatsApp didn’t exist yet, and Skype wasn’t as readily available as it is today), which made my task easier. I tried to find all the people who had taken an active part in the Deleuze-Guattari universe in Brazil, in various distinct fields; I called them and I asked them to tell me as many details as they could. I reworked the whole chapter, I reduced the part concerning me, I included some important things which had been left out, such as the figure of Claudio Ulpiano, who lived in Rio and who was fundamental to the effects of this oeuvre in Brazil. At one point in his life he had been homeless, and he later studied philosophy by himself. He was mesmerised by Deleuze & Guattari’s work and he had profound knowledge of it, and also of all the authors who laid the path for them; he had a strong ethic of existence, fine-tuned with the one that emanates from this theoretical universe. In the 1980s and 90s he formed countless study groups in Rio, which took place every day, without fail, in which he would share his knowledge and, above all, his ethics. Many young people who were involved in the visual arts, cinema, psychoanalysis, philosophy or popular music used to go to them. He would invite those closest to him to stay at his house, and the seminars would go on late into the night, and people would even end up sleeping there… Many people who today make interesting intellectual and artistic work came from there. Claudio was an astonishing figure, one of the people who Guattari most loved meeting up with when he came to Brazil, and Dosse completely sidelined him from the book. Yet he did include, for example, Jose Arthur Giannotti, professor of the University of São Paulo, the same kind of person with the same prestige as the one who said to Amílcar, as I mentioned before, that “no one is interested in hearing what you think”. They are some of the local philosophers who are most at odds with Deleuze & Guattari’s perspective, and they are the ones who most contribute to the fact that they didn’t exist at all in the academic world until recently … I think these two errors (having left out Claudio, and included philosophers like Giannotti) are partly Éric Alliez’s responsibility. Éric lived in Brazil for a while and he has done some important work: he published the translation of several books by Deleuze, Chaosmose by Guattari and A Thousand Plateaus by both of them, and also a compilation of essays by intellectuals, from different areas and countries, in dialogue with Deleuze’s thinking (Deleuze, una vida filosófica). However, he invited a philosopher like Giannotti for a season of lectures on Deleuze, which he organised in Rio in 1996 (starting point for the compilation I mentioned). This would be unimportant were it not for the fact that he prioritised Dosse in his interview. He probably did this because, according to what Guattari told me in a letter back then, Éric needed to find a territory in Brazil, because in France it would have been impossible for him to gain recognition in the institutional academic world at that time, and in the academic world of São Paulo he would have a chance. Well, this might have been really important for him, but it wasn’t important in terms of registering what Deleuze and Guattari’s presence meant, and still means, in Brazil. Due to the fact he did not know the local scene, Dosse gave these local philosophers completely undue space in the chapter on Brazil in his biography. The fact he did not mention Claudio Ulpiano must also be related to the information he received from Éric, who despised him, probably because he was a savage, not at all chic, and he didn’t form part of the official intellectual scene in institutional academia (which is highly conservative in Brazil). But Claudio is just one part of it. Dosse did not mention anything about what happened following the appearance of Anti-Oedipus in Brazil, translated immediately after the publication of the first edition in France, and which caused a lot of movement, intensified by the seven Guattari’s visits to the country. The first two fields where the effects would quickly proliferate were in activism (mainly in the so-called “minority” movements) and in the field of so-called “mental health” (in universities, in psychiatric institutions, in psychoanalyst consultancies, in the fights for decent public mental health services). One example is the fact that the first team coordinated by the Ministry of Health during Lula’s first term was made up of thirty people who came from that scene. Another example is what happened in the Casa de Saúde Anchieta in Santos, a psychiatric hospital where, under the leadership of Antonio Lancetti  (an Argentinean psychoanalyst exiled in Brazil following the coup d’état in Argentina), there was a great revolution which resulted in Santos being the first city in Brazil without asylums, which was sustained by the Workers’ Party’s managing of the town hall (Telma de Souza was the mayor). Among other methods, they created Rádio Tan Tan, an open radio station run by the psychotic patients who had been admitted to the hospital, and which had listeners all over the city. When Guattari visited the hospital, he said that it was the most radical experience he’d known in the field of mental health. There are thousands of other examples… After its presence in mental health, Deleuze & Guattari’s thinking has proliferated in the social sciences, mainly in politics and anthropology (it is, for example, clearly present in the thinking of Viveiros de Castro), in cinema, and a little later in the visual arts. I can state that if Guattari came to Brazil so many times in the last fourteen years of his life, from 1979 on, from when I returned from Paris, it was precisely due to the fine tuning with his ideas that he found here, which offered him fertile ground for his theoretical-clinical-political action to have active effects. Using other words, he himself mentions it several times in the book we wrote together. That same book is proof of the sheer multiplicity of connections he had in Brazil, as well as the fact that the book has now reached 13 editions, a sign of the strong interest in his thinking in the country. I don’t think Dosse has read that book as it came out in France in the same year as his cross-biography (although a version in Spanish had already been published the previous year); in any case, if he did read it he didn’t take into consideration any of the information therein, also disregarding the comments which Guattari himself makes regarding his relationship with Brazil.

When I gave him the text that I had written in the INHA, Dosse thanked me and in fact he took my “history” with Deleuze out from the second edition of his book, but he didn’t change anything else in the chapter on Brazil. Therefore it is still lacking in terms of the becomings of Deleuze & Guattari’s work in that country, which are still spreading. I was disappointed with this whole saga, during a period in which I was already exhausted with the regression going on in France which I witnessed in Paris at the time (late 2007), and on top of all that, it was a dreadful winter, I got ill and I felt that that I no longer wanted to accept so many work invitations to Europe or the United States, because, with a few exceptions, they were usually sterile. I felt that I urgently needed to spend more time in Latin America. Ur-gent-ly. From then on I started to travel around Latin America a lot more; I only go to Europe or the United States when I feel that the request had to do with a desire to move away from anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centricism. Also, I don’t want to travel so much anymore. I often go to Colombia, I still go to Mexico and Argentina, I’ve been to Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Cuba…, anyway… and in these place I come across really interesting practices and ideas, and many opportunities for dialogue. But it also astounds me in some countries that the colonial is still there in its raw state, and that there is so little republican tradition. That’s how it is in Ecuador, where you feel as if you are in a world of authoritarian rural colonels, but “left-wing” ones. Maybe I’m being naïve in considering it so far removed from Brazil, because, with or without impeachment, the republic in Brazil is undeniably suffering a terrible collapse, and I’m not even sure if it ever really existed…

AFP/AP – Specifically, what is your relationship with Mexico?

SR – I initially became linked with Mexico through art, and not through psychoanalysis; my connections beforehand were in the psy- world (as was the case with Argentina) and from 1998 onwards, in the art world. Recently I started frequenting the psy- world again; I’m a bit sick of the visual arts now. I also started to collaborate again with people from theatre, dance and performance, with whom I’d previously collaborated, and I have been invited to many theatre and dance festivals in Europe. The seminar in Munich which I mentioned before was in fact on theatre.

AFP/AP – Why have you lost interest in the visual arts?

SR – I don’t mean in the visual arts itself, but in what is happening in that field. The thing is, as I said, that it is always my desire which decides, not my conscience, nor my ego. When I went to Catherine David’s Documenta in 1998 – which was massively important!; I think that there is far more which should be written on it – I didn’t have an intense relationship with art. I knew very little about it. Of course, I have a visceral relationship with Lygia and, in addition, I wrote my thesis in Paris on her work, but I was ignorant in terms of the visual arts. Documenta X coincides with the moment in which the “pimping” of art was starting to take hold, via financialised capital, and the feeling then was that everything was lost. In that context, Catherine, supported in her collaboration with Hortensia Voelckers, managed to put together a Documenta in which it was evident that even those artists that we knew just because of their presence in the market were still taking risks with experimentation. Furthermore, she made a connection between those artists and those of the sixties and the first half of the seventies, and it revealed that there hasn’t been any interruption in art’s force, as opposed to what we could imagine at that moment. Such force was actualised in the works of the artists from the eighties and nineties, as if they were a new fold of the force of artistic creation actualised in the sixties and the first half of the seventies. For me, it was a remarkable experience. She’d managed to create an “existential focal point”, an “existential source” for many thinking people in the art world, which seemed impossible at that time. A territory where the capital’s relationship with creation, with the power of creation, and more specifically with artistic production, had all started to become problematised. Of course, that didn’t come about thanks to her, but her curatorial work helped highlight the resistance movement that was being stirred up around the world in this regard (though not in Brazil, unfortunately). 

That was when my body took me towards art. Because the affects generated in it by psychoanalysis at that time were a barrier for thought, and still it looks like it hasn’t changed much… The same thing happened within the movement for decent public health which had become exclusively macropolitical; zero immanence, zero knowing-body, zero clinical perspective, completely trapped in the colonial-capitalistic unconscious, “left-wing style”. So, despite their laudable intentions, this didn’t particularly rouse me either. However, in art, the affects consisted of other ways of seeing and feeling, and of many possible connections for desire to invent something for that via its thinking actions. I therefore migrated over to art and, since 1998, I took part, intensively, in what we can call “resistance”, in order to keep the force of creation active. But capital has won more and more ground. In 2004, there was a crisis in the resistance in the field of social movements, and also in art. So I started to get bored of this, so bored… In Brazil today, “everything’s been claimed” (as they say here) in the field of art. Even so, from 2002 to 2011 I put together the Archive for a Work-Event, and, at that same time, the exhibition of Lygia Clark’s work that I mentioned, which did have some effect, and I also kept publishing and giving lectures and workshops within the terrain of art. However, for a couple of years now, I haven’t found anything in art that interests me enough to make me want to connect, and, moreover, I can’t stand the mundanity which has taken it over (in Brazil, almost all of it). Then, I started to reconnect with theatre, performance and dance, activating the link I have had with those fields of artistic practice in the past. What reconnected me was my contact with the Mapa Teatro at the 7th Encuentro of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, in Bogotá, 2009. Mapa Teatro is a platform, created by the siblings Rolf and Heidi Abderhaden, which mobilises many forces for creation in Colombia’s cultural context. They’ve even created in the National University of Colombia an interdisciplinary Master’s in theatre, or rather what they call the “living arts” (not live art, but art that takes on the urgencies of life which become sensitive and pulsate in its practices). It is a postgraduate degree which summons a displacement in anthropo-phallo-ego-logo-centrism in the task of thinking, which is how I conceive university work, just as I have described our work here. It is a multi-faceted platform. Mapa’s work goes around several countries, and it would be interesting for you to meet them if they ever go to Spain. The point is that I reconnected with the field of theatre, performance and dance because they gave me oxygen. Oxygen which at that time did not exist in the field of art. So my body is leading me there.

AFP/AP – But is it not just that you are interested in artists who work with the body?

SR – Well yes, there is a bit of that, but I’m only interested when the body-that-knows pulsates in the works which involve the physical body, and there is nothing which guarantees that it will happen; however, it can happen, for example, in a text, in a visual work, in music…can’t it? If I’m particularly interested at that time in works which involve the body in the physical sense it’s because they are not so “subdued” by capital, and this search has a better chance of existing there. As I said, there is oxygen. I find more connections there, more alliances, possible territories for working and collaborating. My body took me there essentially because of that, so it can take me elsewhere if it ever feels like the whole thing isn’t there anymore.

I might even act in one of Mapa’s pieces. Rolf, one of its founders, is planning sometime to create a work with Paul B. Preciado and me on stage. We’ll see. We loved the idea but it might just stay in the imagination. In any case, it would be a lovely challenge to have, for I adore Paul’s work. I think Testo Junkie is one of the greatest books from within the current efforts to decipher what we are living through.

AFP/AP - And Suely…do you still sing?

SR – No, I don’t sing because I smoke so much I haven’t got the voice for it anymore. But singing, as you know, has been very important in many moments of my life due to the voice’s power to express affects. I was already singing and playing the guitar in Brazil, back in the time of Bossa Nova, but I didn’t do it professionally. The first time I sang professionally was when I lived in Israel: I translated bossa nova song lyrics into Hebrew, and I used to sing in literary cabarets, accompanied by my guitar. But I had a catastrophic experience with singing, thinking about it now, which probably disrupted that budding “career”. In the very first years of my exile in Paris, when I was still really fragile, just beginning to exist again, some musicians who played improvised music, friends of Philippe (the friend I mentioned before), invited me to perform a concert on French television. I liked their work and I could have done it, but they were a group of machos, so much chauvinism, so much testosterone… And at that time I was really vulnerable to the presence of machos, due to my terrifying experience with the primitive machos of the CCC. And I don’t exactly know what went on there, but the thing is I was completely inhibited. I couldn’t make a single sound. And it was horrible, because the sense of humiliation came straight back to me. I continued to sing but only with friends and, curiously, many years later (1978), it was actually singing which made me return to Brazil.

Let’s wrap it up here; that’s enough about my life. Anyhow, what I’ve been talking about here is not the memory of the subject “Suely”, a memory of facts and their established representations, but rather the memory of the body, the affects, that of the outside-of-the-subject. That’s my way of making sense of what can be extracted from traumas if we face up to them. What I call “trauma” is not necessarily encountering hostility, as with the cases I have spoken of here; it is every and any experience which takes the subject out of its comfort zone, throwing it into a storm and making it encounter the outside-of-the-subject and start thinking from there. That’s when thought gains a rare intimacy with life, and it begins to answer its demands, thus managing to defeat the power of the colonial-capitalistic unconscious. A landscape, a book, a film, a song, a house, a social movement, a state of things, another people’s way of life, the universes of a certain person… they can be the triggers. Essentially, isn’t that what the joy of being alive is all about?

AFP/AP – You’ve been really generous with Re-visiones, Suely, thank you so much.

SR – I’m the one who is grateful for your truly provocative questions, and for having accepted, with apparent calmness, the time it took me to go over it all, from the written version of the interview following its transcription, and then to work with George on the translation into English…The thing is, words have forces…We have to look after them…

* Many thanks to Carmen Chincoa, Carlos Curiá, Pablo Martínez and George Hutton, who were right in the middle of this fantastic storm.

[1] The storm (tormenta, in Spanish and Portuguese), as Suely mentions, plays on multiple meanings: typhoon, rough weather; that which torments: agitates, disorganises; torment: worry, malaise.
>[2] Micropolítica. Cartografias do desejo. Petrópolis: Vozes, 1st ed. 1986. In English: Molecular Revolution in Brazil. New York:  Semiotext/MIT, autumn 2007. ISBN: 9781584350514.
[3] Idea proposed by Laymert Garcia dos Santos, Brazilian philosopher, in his presentation  “Linguagens Totalitárias” (Totalitarian Languages) in the Programa de Ações Culturais Autônomas - P.A.C.A (Program of Autonomous Cultural Actions). São Paulo: Casa do Povo, 12/11/2015. Supported by: Goethe-Instititut São Paulo and South America, project Episódios del Sur (Episodes from the South). Available online at: https://vimeo.com/153449199.
[4] Eichmann en Jerusalén: Un estudio sobre la banalidad del mal (Barcelona: Lumen S.A, 2003); original title: A Report on the Banality of Evil (USA: Penguin Classics, 2006).
[5] Laymert Garcia dos Santos, op. cit.
[6] Las imágenes del arte, todavía (“The Images of Art, Still”). Organised by Aurora Fernández Polanco and Josu Larrañaga. Antonio Pradel also took part. Cuenca-UIMP was a magical experience for us. In 2000, in another seminar, Pradel accompanied, on guitar, Georges Did-Huberman.
[7] Rolnik is referring to the seminar 10.000 francos de recompensa. Museo de arte contemporáneo vivo o muerto (“10,000 francs compensation. The contemporary art museum, dead or alive”), which was organised by Manuel Borja-Villel and the International University of Andalucía (UNIA), at the UNIA in Baeza, Jaén, 2006.
[8] Marcelo Araújo is the government’s current Secretary of Culture of the state of São Paulo.
[9] Rolnik is referring to her lecture “The knowing-body compass in curatorial practices” in the symposium Show Me The World: Global Curating in the PERFORMING ARTS, linked to the SPIELART theatre festival. Haus der Kunst, Munich, 24th to 26th October 2015.
[10] “Toxicômanos de identidade” (“Identity Addicts”) was first published in 1996. In Spanish, under the title “Subjetividad y Globalización”. Topia Revista. Psicoanálisis, Sociedad y Cultura (Buenos Aires, year VII, no.19, April/June 1997) and, later, under the title “Toxicómanos de identidad: la subjetividad en tiempos de globalización”. Critérios. Revista Internacional de Teoría de la Literatura y las Artes, Estética y Culturología (La Habana, no. esp. 33: Globalización cultural: Occidente/Oriente, Norte/Sur).
[11] The seminar was http://www.imaginarrar.net/PA/seminario/cuerpoimagen.html, which led to the drawing by Loreto Alonso which Suely mentions in the interview, which can be seen in this article: http://www.re-visiones.net/spip.php?article20. That seminar was held at the same time as the XVIII Jornadas de Estudio de la Imagen (“Sessions on the Studying of Images, 18”), where Suely also presented the beginning of her research on the “colonial unconscious”; the video of her intervention can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/49441642
[12] The CCC was a far-right Brazilian anticommunist paramilitary organisation, which was particularly active during the military dictatorship and which had the support of the CIA and a direct relationship with the military government, initially due to the fact that it was founded by the jurist who drew up the Acto Institucional no.5, which caused an intensifying of the dictatorship at the end of 1968. Among the 5000 members which the CCC accrued, as well as the students and intellectuals favourable to the military regime, members of right-wing Catholic organisations, like Opus Dei, there were also members of the military and Heads of Police transferred to the CCC from the DOPS (Department of Political and Social Order) and the DOI-CODI (Department of Internal Operations – Centre of Internal Defence Operations), both of which were arms of the government during the military regime. The first had the objective of controlling and repressing those political and social movements against the government; the second was an arm of intelligence and repression under the army. These members of the military and the heads of police were moved from their authorities to set up the CCC, which proves that organisation’s direct link with the military state, as well as the fact that during the Military Regime, from 1969 to 1974, the CCC was funded by the Ministry of Justice. The CCC has persecuted, imprisoned and killed militants as well as intellectuals, artists and people from the counterculture, as was Rolnik’s case (her imprisonment was instigated by Raul Careca, nickname of Raul Nogueira de Lima, Head of Policy of the DOPS and later of the DOI-COD and one of the most feared leaders of the CCC). Unfortunately, even today, the CCC is not recognised as having been the dictatorship’s tool for persecuting, imprisoning and killing people from the world of culture.
[13] Amílcar Packer, Brazilian of Chilean origin, an artist and researcher, works with Rolnik -  along with the Bolivian/German Max Jorge Hinderer Cruz (curator, essayist and cultural critic) and Tatiana Roque (from Brazil, a mathematician, philosopher and science historian) – in the P.A.C.A., which they have working on since 2014, with the intention of creating a platform for collective thought production which addresses today’s pressing issues.
[14] La Borde is the name of a clinic for psychotic patients, created by Jean Oury in the 1950s, which Guattari later joined. The clinic is housed in a run-down castle in the countryside, in Blois, in the region of La Loire, 200km away from Paris. La Borde was the main reference of Institutional Psychotherapy which proliferated in countless institutions in France, in the movement which shook up psychiatry from the late 1970s onwards. Guattari was the director of the clinic, and he worked there until his death.
[15] “L’évenement Lula”. Parachute Art Contemporain_Contemporary Art, Montreal, no. 110: Économies bis, 04/05/06 2003; “L’effet Lula”, Chimères, Paris, nº 49: Désir des marges, Paris, 2003. In Spanish: “Lula”, Radarlibros, Página 12. Buenos Aires, 02/03/03 and also “O acontecimento Lula”/ “El acontecimiento Lula”, GLOB(AL.) - Global América Latina/Brasil, Rede Universidade Nômade, LABTeC/UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro: Instituto de Estudos do Trabalho e Sociedade y Editora DP&A, no. (0), Jan. 2003. Bilingual edition (Portuguese/Spanish).
[16] Laymert Garcia dos Santos, op. cit.
[17] Rolnik is referring to the meeting Bem viver ou viver bem (“A good living, or living well”), organised by the Goethe-Institut in La Paz and São Paulo and curated by Amilcar Packer, in the Casa do Povo in São Paulo, on the 27th January 2016 (one of the events of Episodios del Sur, a project run by Katharina von Ruckteschell-Katteen in the Goethe-Institut in São Paulo and South America). According to Rolnik, the meeting lasted a whole Saturday, from 9 in the morning until 10.30pm. With breaks for mealtimes, which they all shared at a large table, the participants spent the whole day lying in hammocks and on cushions, as each person presented their ideas about current pressing issues and their own notion of “a good living”, which the others then debated. Of course, the different definitions of a good living shared the central idea of being very much “removed from the ontology of work, of social welfare, of western democracies, of the ideals of bourgeois life, and of social class aspirations; to have more money, and more pleasure, be it material, professional or sexual”, as put forward by Amilcar in the event’s promotional material. The fetishised use of this notion has become problematised, being as it is in fashion in current intellectual debates in the west.
[18] The symposium Between Theory and Practice: Rethinking Latin American Art in the 21st Century was an initiative of the Getty Research Institute, in partnership with the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), in Long Beach, and the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), in Lima. The first edition was held in March 2011 at the Getty Center in Los Angeles and MOLAA in Long Beach; the second round of sessions was held at the MALI, in Lima, from 2nd-4th November, 2011.
[19] The archive which Rolnik refers to consists of 65 DVDs of interviews filmed in Brazil, France, England and the United States (2002-2011). In 2011, Rolnik put together a box set of 20 of the DVDs of interviews and a booklet, made in France (Carta Branca/Presses Du réel) and Brazil (Cinemateca Brasileira-Ministério de la Cultura and SESC-SP). The archive was the basis for an exhibition on the work of Lygia Clark, of which Rolnik was the curator along with Corinne Disarens (Musée de Beaux-Arts de Nantes, 2005, and Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, 2006). Exhibitions of parts of the archive, curated by Rolnik, have taken place in several different countries. Due to a lack of sponsorship, there is still no version of that archive in Spanish: the DVDs are not subtitled, and the booklet has not been translated.