this question was not asked, I suggested,was that o course this is where kinky sexbelongs—isn’t it? Here among the dirt andthe danger and the hyped-up salaciousness.How could all that spanking and pinchingand leather and latex be anything but dirty? Ido not suggest that BDSM is not or cannot bedirty; it can, and that’s wonderul. I will argue,however, that there are problems with takingsuch a proposition or granted. In order totackle these problems, we must rst roll up oursleeves and question what we mean by “dirty.” The panel o which the rst iterationo this paper was a part was titled “DirtyAnthropologies: Messy, Sticky and Miasmal.” Thisis a name worth savouring. Messy is smudged,unpolished, dishevelled, and a perhaps a littlecare-worn. It’s a work in progress. It is clutteredconusion, the blurring o boundaries, the tears,bleeds and leaks that play merry havoc withany eort at neat categories. Sticky is tangibleand inescapably material, inescapable becauseit clings, trails ater you in streamers. It spreads,grabs hold o new bodies and tangles them upin the web. It is the stains and traces that staywith you and advertise or others to see, atleast i they know what to look or. Miasma isthe smear, the congealing, the aura that hatesto be ignored (Taussig 2004). It crawls up yournose like swamp vapour, or smoke, like cloudso ash and fies. It is the index, extending theevent in space and time (Massumi 2005). This isrich dirt, un to play in, and a ecund material-semiotic eld or dirty anthropology. But whatdoes this dirt entail, where does it arise, andwhat gives it the power to compel and control?
Pollution and Power: Playing withPerversion
In discussing dirt and anthropology, I would beremiss i I did not acknowledge the debt owedto Mary Douglas or her classic exploration o the “is” and “does” o dirt in Purity and Danger(1966). Dirt, Douglas argues, “is essentiallydisorder. There is no absolute dirt” (1966: 2).Dirt is “the by-product o a systematic orderingand classication o matter, in so ar as orderinginvolves rejecting inappropriate elements”(Douglas 1966:35). It is contextual (your bare The rhizome is a multiplicity, an eclectic andeccentric assemblage o heterogeneous elements(Deleuze and Guattari 1987). It grows, not likea tree, always-outwards according to stricthierarchal principles, but together and apartin every direction, jumping registers in everydimension. “The rhizome itsel assumes verydiverse orms, rom ramied surace extensionin all directions to concretion into bulbs andtubers. When rats swarm over each other. Therhizome includes the best and the worst: potatoand couchgrass” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987:6).As a mode o relating not to but in the world,the rhizome is connection incarnate, anythingto everything. It is about links and leaks andlines o fight, plateaus o intensity, and wetrack it by mapping its breaks and fows ratherthan by tracing its external-internal divisions.Growing in rhizomes is a minor science, a nomadhabit, like Levi-Strauss’ bricolage (1968) and deCerteau’s poaching (Jenkins 1992), a tacticalpractice o using what’s at hand. It is cobblingtogether an experiential world using whateverodds and ends you can lay claim to just longenough to recycle them and set them movingin new ways, new contexts. My hope in growinga paper around ound objects—stories, tools,toys, art, which are not seeds but cuttings romother rhizomatic growths, snatched up andreplanted—is that they will intensiy aects andsensations without oreclosing possibility onwhat those intensications will produce. Thisis dirty work! Growing potatoes and crabgrass,you cannot help getting mud under your nailswhile the rhizome “evolves by subterraneanstems and fows, along river valleys or traintracks; it spreads like a patch o oil” (Deleuzeand Guattari 1987:7). The bricoleur and poachertoo are sweaty, smeared with blood and enginegrease and coughing up lungsul o sawdust.When I presented a version o this paper at thePlaying the Field conerence at York Universityin November 2009, I postulated that ewattendees had likely thought to ask why is apaper about BDSM play practices was on the“Dirty Anthropologies” panel?
The acronym BDSM is a composite o bondage anddiscipline (B&D), domination/submission (D/s, D&S) andsadomasochism (SM, S/M, S&M).
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‘Playing the Field’ Conference Proceedings | Social Anthropology | York University 2009