All theory takes place within an ecology of debates, theoretical frameworks, and concepts to which it responds and engages; as well as the historical situation, social system, institutions, etc., in which it is articulated. Yet while theory is always embedded in a set of relations in which it emerges, theoretical machines are peculiar sorts of machines in that they also exceed all relations within which they arise. This is the power of writing as a material machine, as a type of object. While functioning as a mnemonic machine, writing is nonetheless a strange sort of memory machine. It is a machine that forgets its origins of inscription– or, more prudently, that always harbors the power of forgetting origins –erasing contexts and circumstances of inscription. Unlike voice which issues from mouth and is therefore embedded in a interlocutory circumstance– though increasingly this is changing with recording technologies –writing always harbors the power of forgetting the site of its inscription. Writing, of course, is the material substrate of theory.
The written therefore is that which wanders in and out of social ecologies and that always threatens to break from the site where it was produced. Writing therefore is an instance of what I have elsewhere (Onto-Cartography) called a “rogue object”. Like rogue planets that aren’t fixed within any particular solar system but which wander throughout galaxies, writings wander throughout various social assemblages without ever being fixed in one assemblage. We can read the Epic of Gilgamesh today and that reading can produce effects in us, though they will certainly be different than the effects this text produced in its site of inscription. There is thus something incalculable in all writing that can never be tamed or controlled, for writing perpetually falls into different ecologies, resonating with those ecologies in ways that we never expected. The Illiad becomes a commentary on the American South in the hands of the Coen brothers. Spinoza’s Ethics and Tractatus become tools of Marxist and Feminist criticism. Like the planet Melancholia in Lars von Trier’s film by the same name, writing, as a rogue object, harbors the power of being a destroyer of worlds. Like the Dead Sea Scrolls, a writing can lay dormant, in a vegetative state, only to suddenly appear in the world once again, producing incalculable aleatory affects that could not have been anticipated. Writing is like the cane toad introduced into a foreign ecosystem, transforming that ecology in all sorts of unexpected ways.