Accepted paper:

"This Squiggly Wiggly, not quite democratic thing": Chasing Deleuze and Political (Dis)organisation on London's Canals

Authors:

Ben Bowles (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

London's liveaboard boat-dwellers live lives that tend towards the rhizomatic. The geography of the canals supports this way of being, and it is reflected in Boaters' political organisation, which is directly democratic and has a tendency to resist holding a single consistent shape.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is an attempt to answer two questions. Firstly, why did Deleuze see canals as prime exemplars of his rhizome model, fundamentally opposed to the tree/state form? Following from this, is this attention to canals a simple metaphor concerning their shape, or is it useful to think about the lives of those dwelling on canals using ideas from "A Thousand Plateaus"? The second question asks why London's liveaboard boat-dwellers (Boaters) resist formal political organisation and representational democratic forms? Is the political (dis)organisation of the Boaters due to, as it may appear from the outside, a lack of consistency of aims and objectives within the community, or is the shape of the Boaters' political formation a deliberate, resistant, and rhizomatic, anti-organisation? Using the example of the advocacy group "London Boaters", it is argued that boat-dwellers in London will not allow their diverse perspectives and intentions to be reduced and simplified to a single hegemonic political position. This is as the canals are smooth, non-hierarchical spaces, where the autonomy of Boaters, able as they are to move away from domination or attempts to make them simplified and legible from a state perspective, is held as paramount. Therefore Boater political organisation, when it comes, springs forth in rhizomatic form, with advocacy groups coming into being, acting against particular (state) threats, and disappearing through internal tensions before they can become co-opted into a state form.

panel P021
Dwelling on water: mobilities, immobilities and metaphors