Kathleen Stewart describes Ordinary Affects as an experiment set in “a present that began some time ago.” In this essay, I consider voice similarly, as not bound by a temporal linearity, but as voice of duration, absent of origin and as an articulation of a present that began some time ago, always becoming. I conclude with an experimentation of voice in the form of what I name lines of articulation.
Kathleen Stewart describes Ordinary Affects as an experiment set in “a present that began some time ago.”1 I wish to consider voice in this way, as not bound by “the temporal linearity of language expression,”2 but as voice of duration, absent of origin, as articulation of a present that began some time ago and that continues in its becoming. I have written about this voice, what I have previously named a Voice without Organs (VwO), or Voice Without a Subject, becoming-voice.3 Becoming-voice is not attributable to the “I” of a humanist subject. It is not voice narrating an experience fixed in a moment in time. It is voice thought “as a process of couplings and connections”4 unbounded by the constraints of a body, a place, a space, a time, an utterance, voice in the form of lines of articulation.
Lines of articulation, as I conceive them, are what I envision as assemblages of enunciation—an invention of becoming-voice at the precise moment of its invention.5 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari asserted “there is no individual enunciation. There is not even a subject of enunciation.” They emphasized that “enunciation in itself implies collective assemblages,”6 what they refer to elsewhere as collective assemblages of enunciation.7 In addition to being absent individual enunciation, lines of articulation are, like Stewart's ordinary affects, “written as an assemblage of disparate scenes [in] a tangle of trajectories, connections, and disjunctures.”8 Lines of articulation are without origins or beginnings as they form “an idiosyncratic map of connections between a series of singularities.”9
Stewart describes the ordinary as a mode of attunement.10 As we have both written, although there is no beginning or origin, beginnings or attunements are presented, prompted, provoked, incited, incensed, by the complex and uncertain that “fascinate because they literally hit us or exert a pull on us.”11 I do not go into the field as it were, seeking out these provocations. They function like Roland Barthes's concept of the punctum, rising “from the scene, shoot[ing] out of it like an arrow, and pierc[ing… as] that accident which pricks[… ,] bruises[… , and] is poignant.12
Rather than narrate a story about my experience of that which bruises, or a place where an incident occurred, or a time of ignorance or bigotry, lines of articulation cannot be traced to a particular instant or place or subject, though they may be provoked by attunement, by accidents that bruise and wound. The connections and orderings resist a “rigid tracking… of inquiry that fixes and fixates on that which is presumably within a specific context”13 or at an isolable moment in time. As one encounters these lines of articulation, it is necessary to eschew traditional reading practices and modes of representation. There are no singular subjects or static places or traceable times. There is no planned moment in the field or analysis of interview transcripts or field notes feverishly written. Although I present text in the form of words, they are neither words to be read as an utterance spoken by an individual, nor accounts of psychological memories or fixed moments in time. They are a result of hauntings and troublings that exert a pull and that will not let go of a past, as if it is in the past. They are jolts that shock and surprise, “defined by their capacity to affect and to be affected.”14 The blow of a single utterance acts as a moment through which all presents pass, following the “different lines that connect or traverse… looking for ruptures and differences that get made.”15
* * *
She sits in a meeting with a group of educators thousands of miles from the place she calls home. A visitor to the campus is asking questions about the community and the neighboring school district in preparation for a talk he will give to teachers later that evening. A district administrator dispenses with the usual demographic data by referring to the district as “Springtucky” in a shorthand move to classify the students in the district as low income, ignorant, from families who place a low value on education, clannish, etc. She is stopped in her tracks as she is jolted to a time when she was asked if she had her shoes on, or told that she didn't sound like she was from West Virginia because her accent wasn't thick enough, or denied access because of where she went to school. Her accent has diminished with multiple moves over the years, as if by stripping the speech from her body she can author a new history.
* * *
Springtucky is a common reference by locals from nearby areas to refer to this community and its people. So common, in fact, that there are several references on the Internet, including an entry in the Urban Dictionary.16 She sits in a classroom, thousands of miles from the coal and the dirt, unaware of her connection to this region, and the tragically beautiful hills.17 She knows she has a keen mind, but is unaware that others see her as “at risk,” due to her geographic place of origin, income level, housing type, education level of her parents, family name, accent with which she speaks, and so on. Her parents work hard, and want her to attend college, but hers is not a future with limitless possibilities.
* * *
She probably has the keenest mind in her class. She reads voraciously, she remembers everything—still, to this day—and she is very insightful. She won't attend college, at least not a 4-year college. The only students from her high school who will have this opportunity are a few of the boys who are good enough to get athletic scholarships for basketball or football. These other students, her classmates, live in the surrounding towns, hollows, and coal camps. Theirs is not a future with limitless possibilities. She attends a “business college” in the capital city and stays there. Her children grow up and all attend university. Family holidays include much talk of politics and current events around the dinner table, but she is often silent. Not because she doesn't have anything to say, but because she is not seen as “informed.” She doesn't speak with the confidence they do since she never attended college. Her husband did, and he remarks that she is “smarter” than him, but his actions would indicate otherwise. She still has the keenest mind, but they will never know.
* * *
She sits behind her desk at work. She too lives in a capital city and stays there for many years. This capital city, however, is not the one of her birth. Her husband jokes that he “rescued her” from that godforsaken place. Her boss comes into her office and playfully checks to see if she has her shoes on her feet. She is teased by her friends when she says words that have a long “i” in them: words she used to love—pie, and eye, and my. She is coaxed to recite the “exotic” and strange names of her relatives as one would ask a child to recite place names for a geography exam. Those beautiful, strong women and their coal mining husbands: Gertrude, Bea Mae, Lola, Macie, Waveline, Clement, Ernest, Joretta, Elwood…
* * *
She participates in a multicultural education workshop designed to address strategies for “at risk” students. Much to her surprise, she is the topic of conversation. The presenter begins by talking about the large number of Appalachian students in the school district, and how their values are different. They value family (as if this is a bad thing?), and schooling is seen as unimportant for most. Do they know who she is? Would they be talking this way about her if her presence was made visible?
* * *
Rather than a past or an experience, lines of articulation narrate “something [that] takes off with the potential trajectories in which it finds itself in the middle.”18 Someone utters “Springtucky” out of context and an attunement cascades. Lines of articulation present the past in an entanglement of bodies, histories, classrooms, spaces, accents, futures, clothing, coal dust, wordings, and other bodies (both human and nonhuman) that exist on the same plane, neither necessarily preceding the other, and all producing material effects, rupturing notions of the subject and time. They do not mean to “come to a finish. [They] want to spread out into too many possible scenes with too many real links [among] them.”19 They begin, and begin again.
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Lisa A. Mazzei is Associate Professor in the Department of Education Studies and Affiliated Faculty in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon. Her current work considers voice in qualitative inquiry under the influence of posthumanist theory and the ontological turn in the social sciences. In collaboration with Alecia Jackson, she focuses on thinking with theory as a new analytic for qualitative inquiry. Correspondence to: Lisa A. Mazzei, Department of Education Studies, College of Education, 5277 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA. Email: (. )