By James Barter

A Medieval Knight.

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Cultural studies is committed to the reality of relations that have determining effects, but it refuses to assume that such relations and effects have to be, necessarily, what they are. They did not have to be that way, but, given that they are that way, they are real and they have real effects. Cultural studies operates in the space between, on the one hand, absolute contain22 Chapter One ment, closure, complete and final understanding, total domination, and, on the other hand, absolute freedom and possibility, openness, and indeterminateness.

Pragmatism), Deleuze and Guattari do not assume that the same machines operate everywhere, on every level, in the same ways. 19 Every plateau, or level, of an actual reality is stratified into two assemblages, or populations: expression and content. The former is an assemblage of “functional or transformational” populations—that is, of individualities characterizable as forms of activity and agency. The latter describes a “precise state of intermingling of bodies . . including all the attractions and repulsions, sympathies and antipathies, alternations, amalgamations, penetrations and expansions that affect bodies of all kinds in the relations to one another” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 90), populations given as self-evident.

One cannot simply assume that because a certain kind of political struggle made sense in the 1980s, it will make sense in the 2010s. One cannot assume that because a certain kind of political struggle made sense in England, it will make sense in America. Cultural studies must always seek to balance political desire, theoretical resources, and empirical work. Cultural studies sees power as complexly and contradictorily organized, along multiple axes and dimensions that cannot be reduced to one another.

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A Medieval Knight by James Barter

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