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Deterritorialization is a concept created by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in Anti-Oedipus (1972), which, in accordance to Deleuze's desire and philosophy, quickly became used by others, for example in anthropology, and transformed in this reappropriation. Deleuze and Guattari encouraged the various use of their concepts - meanings other than those for which they had been created - since they did not believe in the concept of an "original sense" (which may relate to phenomenology). Deleuze said, for example, that the people who had best understood the Anti-Oedipus were persons that were neither (university) philosophers nor psychoanalysts. He particularly liked a letter sent to him by an origami-maker, who had seen new inspiration in the book Le Pli (The Fold).


The term "deterritorialization" first occurs in French psychoanalytic theory to refer, broadly, to the fluid and dissipated nature of human subjectivity in contemporary capitalist cultures (Deleuze & Guatarri 1972). Its most common use, however, has been in relation to the process of cultural globalization. Though there are different inflections involved, the general implication that globalization needs to be understood in cultural-spatial terms as much as in institutional or political-economic ones is common to all accounts. In this broad sense, deterritorialization has affinities with the idea of the “disembedding” of social relations in, for example, Anthony Giddens's (1990) analysis of the globalizing properties of modernity.

Moreover, no matter through which side of indorsation or opposition with the research agendas “homogenization of globalization”, there would always have a common research study named “deterritorialization” or “across-boundaries”. However, “deterritorialization” is a word with more fierce and intense than “across-boundaries” which accordance to neoliberalism discourse that supposed longingly to eliminate the boundaries. Neoliberalism considered that nation-state was the largest obstacle to impede the composition of global single market.


Deleuze and Guattari use deterritorialization to designate the freeing of labor-power from specific means of production. For example, English peasants were banished by the Enclosure Acts (1709–1869) from common land when it was enclosed for private landlords.

More generally, deterritorialization can describe any process that decontextualizes a set of relations, rendering them virtual and preparing them for more distant actualizations. In Anti-Oedipus, the obvious parallel example of economic deterritorialization is psychic deterritorialization. Deleuze and Guattari praise Freud for liberating psychic energy with the idea of libido. They criticize him for reterritorializing libido onto the terrain of a specific Oedipal drama.

A Thousand Plateaus (1980) distinguishes between relative and an absolute deterritorialization. Relative deterritorialization is always accompanied by reterritorialization, while positive absolute deterritorialization is more alike to the construction of a "plane of immanence", akin to Spinoza's ontological constitution of the world.[1] There is also a negative sort of absolute deterritorialization, for example in the subjectivation process (the face).

Use in anthropology[edit]

When referring to culture, anthropologists use the term deterritorialized to refer to a weakening of ties between culture and place. This means the removal of cultural subjects and objects from a certain location in space and time. It implies that certain cultural aspects tend to transcend specific territorial boundaries in a world that consists of things fundamentally in motion.

Although this term refers to culture changing, it does not mean that culture is looked at as an evolving process with no anchors. Also, often when one culture is changing, it is because another is being reinserted into a different culture. For example, when a new area of the world gains access to the internet, the community also gains access to every other community that has access to the internet. At that moment the deterritorializing process begins as the local culture is enveloped by the global community. Here, deterritorialization and reterritorialization are seamlessly conjoined; reterritorialization occurring immediately after, as the local community becomes a part of the global culture. This relates to the idea of a globalization of culture. In this process, culture is simultaneously deterritorialized and reterritorialized in different parts of the world as it moves. As cultures are uprooted from certain territories, they gain a special meaning in the new territory which they are taken into.

With capitalism[edit]

In the context of globalization, some argue deterritorialization is a cultural feature developed by the “mediatization, migration, and commodification which characterize globalized modernity”. This implies that by people working towards closer involvement with the whole of the world, and works towards lessening the gap with one another, one may be widening the gap with what is physically close to them. According to the works of Arjun Appadurai, this cultural distancing from the locality, is intensified when people are able to expand and alter their imagination through the mediatization of alien cultural conditions, making this culture of remote origin one of a familiar material. This makes it difficult for a local entity to sustain and retain its own local cultural identity, which also affects the national identity of the region.[1][2]

From Appadurai's 1990 essay "Disjuncture and Difference": "Deterritorialization, in general, is one of the central forces of the modern world because it brings laboring populations in to the lower-class sectors and spaces of relatively wealthy societies, while sometimes creating exaggerated and intensified senses of criticism or attachment to politics in the home state. Deterritorialization, whether of Hindus, Sikhs, Palestinians, or Ukrainians, is now at the core of a variety of global fundamentalisms, including Islamic and Hindu fundamentalism. In the Hindu case, for example, it is clear that the overseas movement of Indians has been exploited by a variety of interests both within and outside India to create a complicated network of finances and religious identifications, by which the problem of cultural reproduction for Hindus abroad has become tied to the politics of Hindu fundamentalism at home.

At the same time, deterritorialization creates new markets for film companies, art impressions, and travel agencies, which thrive on the end of the deterritorialized population for contact with its homeland. Naturally, these invented homelands, which constitute the mediascapes of deterritorialized groups, can often become sufficiently fantastic and one-sided that they provide the material for new ideoscapes in which ethnic conflicts can begin to erupt." (Appadurai 1990:11-12)

Deterritorialization and reterritorialization[edit]

Deterritorialization and reterritorialization exist simultaneously. In Deleuze and Guattari’s follow-up to Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus, they distinguish between relative deterritorialization, which is always accompanied by reterritorialization, and absolute deterritorialization, which gives rise to a plane of immanence. In both forms of deterritorialization, however, the idea of physical territory remains just that, an idea and reference point.

Reterritorialization is when people within a place start to produce an aspect of popular culture themselves, doing so in the context of their local culture and making it their own. A typical example could be Chien-Ming Wang who plays baseball for Major League Baseball but was born in Taiwan. Through the background of Taiwan’s twentieth century baseball history, the ruling class has always considered baseball as the tool of political manipulation. For example, in Japanization during the reign of Japan, Chinization after Kuomintang retreat to Taiwan, and Taiwanization, Taiwan’s society has had an inseparable relationship with baseball.[citation needed] That’s why Chien-Ming Wang became the only consensus of Taiwan, and also deemed a national hero. This kind of phenomenon which the basketball game held in US, but full of Taiwan’s national flag, indeed, it is really an era of globalization. The flow of human being becomes pretty convenience and rapid, no more that the time and space were the barrier, that's how deterritorialization happened. On the other hands, the scene which people hold Taiwan’s national flag high in US expressed that wherever they were, they still belong to their hometown – Taiwan. It is how deterritorialization transfer to reterritorialization.

Besides, since the introduction of the mass media, reterritorialization has become more prevalent. The mass media have expedited the process of deterritorialization and reterritorialization and allowed it to occur at a global level. Communications technology has connected the entire world and, in a sense, created a global culture that encompasses everyone who has access to these communications technologies. Anyone who has the internet is part of this culturally diffused community. Once a local culture is part of the global community the process of deterritorialization and reterritorialization continues as the global culture takes from and feeds to all the communities that take part in it. A pop culture example that comments on global reterritorialization is the song "Californication" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The song is about how California's culture influences the world; a trend that is picked up in California will likely be picked up everywhere in the global community. One of the final verses of the song mentions the destruction that takes place during deterritorialization, but how that opens up the opportunity for reterritorialization: “Destruction leads to a very rough road but it also breeds creation, and earthquakes are to a girl's guitar, they're just another good vibration, and tidal waves couldn't save the world from Californication.” These lyrics capture the essence of reterritorialization at a global level. California is, in a sense, a cultural node in the global community; a place where international trends begin. Deterritorialization and reterritorialization are a continuous part of the evolution of the global culture, and the mass media is its catalyst.

Mediatization works as a preferential source of deterritorialization, while it becomes a catalyser of other sources of deterritorialization (migrations, tourism, vast shopping centres, and economical transformations). As Tomlinson points out,[3] mediatization is absolutely omnipresent in everyday contemporary cultural experiences, it therefore appears as clearly decisive in deterritorialized cultural experience. The aforementioned experience implies opening up to the world and amplifying cultural horizons through the globalized mass media. This means that globalization transforms the relation between the places where we live and our cultural activities, experiences and identities. Paradoxically, deterritorialization also includes reterritorialized manifestations, which García Canclini defines as “certain relative, partial territorial relocalizations of old and new symbolic productions”.[4] According to the concept of glocalization proposed by Robertson, deterritorialization and reterritorialization constitute both sides of the same coin of cultural globalization.[5] Deterritorialization speaks of the loss of the “natural” relation between culture and the social and geographic territories, and describes a deep transformation of the link between our everyday cultural experiences and our configuration as preferably local beings. As Giddens argues, “the very tissue of spatial experience alters, conjoining proximity and distance in ways that have few close parallels in prior ages”. Nevertheless, it is very important not to interpret the deterritorialization of localized cultural experiences as an impoverishment of cultural interaction, but as a transformation produced by the impact the growing cultural transnational connections have on the local realm, which means that deterritorialization generates a relativization and a transformation of local cultural experiences, whether it is from the local event itself or by the projection of symbolical shapes from the local event.[6]


Although the process of across-boundaries flow was imbalanced, however, it cannot denied that it has profound influence on politics, economics and also culture no matter from whichever dimensions. Although there were imbalanced power presence in different nation, it is undeniable that, people will gradually realize that in addition to their own lives around are mutually implicated in the distant shore, but also to reconcile the impact between their lives around and the distant side. That is, the flow process of beyond the boundaries not only the representatives of strengthening interdependence, but also representatives that they both have the cognitive of globalization. It formed an easily comprehensive characteristics about “superterritorial” and “transworld”. In other words, the original divide in the territorial boundaries between them have lost some authority, what is the main phenomenon of deterritorialization.[7] Therefore, no matter from what angle to explore globalization, deterritorialization has been a general consensus.[8]

The word “deterritorialization” may have different meanings. Tomlinson had pointed out that many scholars use deterritorialization this vocabulary to explain the process of globalization, however, there were still some scholars prefer the use of related words, such as “delocalization” or “displacement”.[9] It emphasized different point in the use of different terms, but basically we can understand the meaning of these words that is to understand the transformation between local and cultures of the global modernity. In the text of Tomlinson, however, we can found that he use "deterritorialization" to explain the phenomenon instead of using "delocalization". But we can unearth that “deterritorialization” was more focus on liberating the people from the “local”, is a process which no longer just only affected by neighborhood and familiar local, but also deeply influenced by the distant place.

As sociologist Anthony Giddens indicated, the most immediate experience of global modernity, in fact, is we stay in our own familiar environment but feel the feeling of living in different places because of globalization. Say in other words, the local has hardly affected by the distance place, however, under the impact of globalization, distant events made its influence reach into your daily life in the environment, which is the concept of "displacement". Due to the space experiences which were combined with neighboring and distant in people’s daily life, it can be said that globalization has fundamentally changed our concept of the space.

Disjunctive as alienation[edit]

However, communication technology may act not only to fill the field of local cultural significance and identity which corroded by deterritorialization, but also to establish global cultural politics. Politics of deterritorialization and the displacement of sociological will lead the struggle between state and nation. One important new feature of global cultural politics, tied to the disjunctive relationships among the various landscapes which proposed by Appadurai, is that state and nation are at each other’s throats, and the hyphen that links them is now less an icon of conjuncture than an index of disjuncture. This disjunctive relationship between nation and state has two levels: at the level of any given nation-state, it means that there is a battle of the imagination, with state and nation seeking to cannibalize one another. Here is the seedbed of brutal separatismsmajoritarianisms that seem to have appeared from nowhere and microidentities that have become political projects within the nation-state. At another level, this disjunctive relationship is deeply entangled with various global disjunctures: ideas of nationhood appear to be steadily increasing in scale and regularly crossing existing state boundaries, sometimes, as with the Kurds, because previous identities stretched across vast national spaces or, as with the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the dormant threads of a transnational diaspora have been activated to ignite the micropolitics of a nation-state.[10]

See also[edit]



  1. Antonio Negri, The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics, Translated by Michael Hardt. University of Minnesota Press, 1991.


  1. ^ Hernandez, G. M. (2002). The deterritorialization of cultural heritage, p. 2
  2. ^ Appadurai, Arjun. (1990). Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.
  3. ^ Tomlinson, J. (1999): Globalization and Culture, Chicago. University of Chicago Press.
  4. ^ García Canclini, N. (1990): Culturas híbridas: estrategias para entrar y salir de la modernidad, Mexico. Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes/Grijalbo.
  5. ^ Robertson, R. (1992): Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture, London. Sage. – (2000): “Globalización: tiempo-espacio y homogeneidad-heterogeneidad”, Zona Abierta, 92/93, pp. 213-241.
  6. ^ Giddens, A. (1990) The Consequences of Modernity, Cambridge. Polity Press.
  7. ^ Scholte, Jan Aart. 2005. Globalization: A Critical Introduction. Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 14-15
  8. ^ Larner, Wendy and William Walters. 2004. “Globalization as Governmentality,” Alternatives. Vol.29, pp. 495-517.
  9. ^ John Tomlinson. 1999. Globalization and Culture. pp. 119-121
  10. ^ Frank J. Lechner and John Boli, eds. 2011. The Globalization Reader, 4th ed., Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 101