‘Madness as Methodology. Bringing Concepts to Life in Contemporary Theorising and Inquiry’: Book Review

Jelena Kupsjak reviews Ken Gale’s Madness as Methodology. Bringing Concepts to Life in Contemporary Theorising and Inquiry (Abingdon: Routledge 2018)

For a book heavily inspired by Deleuze and Guattari’s partnership and collaborations that claims to be abandoning the linear chapter structure, this reviewer (whose job it is to judge the book in its entirety) succumbs to the linear reading and brakes the first instruction given by author. More precisely, the reviewer breaks the author’s wish for the reader, as the author’s position is quite clearly a sort of “methodogenesis” that, like many others before him (with whom he collaborates, like Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Barad, Haraway and Butler, just some of the authors cited in this book) sees inquiry as a process that cannot be contained and made as a rule for others to follow. “Methodogenesis works against those methods that use practices of organization, reason and judgment to capture and work to define knowledge” (Gale 2018: 17).

I lied to you. I started to read the book linearly but, in the middle, the book still did not “work” (Gale 2018: 8) for me. And so I went to the last chapter or, as the author calls them, plateau (there are eleven plateaus in all) and read: “If this book has been read according to the discursively constructed conventions of book reading, then this plateaus will be seen to contain a few surprises, some ideas that this book production has germinated and it will appear to bring the book to a close, drawing certain conclusions and making some suggestions for possible future practices. If, however, the reader hopped, skipped and jumped from plateau to plateau in their reading of this book and perhaps in using index to help them choreograph the dance of their lines of flight, then it is likely that reading of this plateau will have been absorbed into the processual animation of concept creation that has been one of the energizing features of writing and, I hope, reading this book: this plateau offers another possible line of flight” (Gale 2018: 163).

I returned to the beginning of first chapter where I was first instructed into the author’s wishes and consciously disobeyed. You see, I had a great deal of unease starting to read this book. It made me constantly think back to my own difficulties with what writing is and what writing does. Those first chapters reminded me of my own struggles with writing which I engaged with by reading some of the same authors as him, and was even inspired by some of the same quotations as him, like the one from Lauren Berlant:

“A relation of cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing. It might in­­­­­volve food, or a kind of love; it might be a fantasy of the good life, or a political project. It might rest on something simpler, too, like a new habitat that promises to induce in you an improved way of being. These kinds of optimistic relation are not inherently cruel. They become cruel only when the object that draws your attachment actively impedes the aim that brought you to it initially.” (Berlant quoted in Gale 2018:2)

It is not surprising that the author and I share this preoccupation with writing. Like the collaborators we read, we become with them – however differently – but it is what we do with it, how we think with it, that makes those thoughts not just words on paper, but a mode of inquiry. For me, the author’s desire was at times an obstacle to the becoming-Ken-book (Gale 2018: 16) flourishing.

“Just as this introduction is being written when well over half of the rest of the book has already been written, I would hope that it might also be read in this way” (Gale 2018: 3). Seeing as the author imagined a reader using the index to harness the creative force of the book, I took to the index and searched for madness – one of the concepts that interested me in this book in the first place. To my surprise, madness is noted on just three different pages. The author discusses “madness as methodology that is part of becoming of this book is about fragility and transversality, it is about moments and movements between practices of conceptualization and what these might fold into other practices of world making and what unfoldings these foldings in might animate and bring to life” (Gale 2018: 10). Madness takes us to performance, where performance goes beyond the representational and is immanent, it does.

And I could play this “madness as methodology as performance” (Gale 2018: 135) for pages as there are many concepts that dance in this book but I am constrained by the Polyphony’s guidelines and will just conclude that the senses that I got from it are unequal parts of annoyance, madness, play, dullness and fun – but only because I engaged with the organizational and judgmental, as well as with madness and performance – “madness as methodology as event” (Gale 2018: 147). The author extensively deals with affect, immanence, entanglement, conceptualizations, ethnography and autoethnography, becoming, assemblages, movement, education, and more while becoming with Deleuze and Guattari, Spinoza, Barad, Massumi and others.

“In thinking of processualism, ontogenesis and of always finding entry points and lines of flight in and out of the rhetoric and affective practice of this writing, holding the writing of this book down for a while and then letting it fly for a while has been an exciting balancing act of movement and sensation, of now you see me, now you don’t.” (Gale 2018: 149) I am convinced that I would be more receptive to the book had it been less balanced, though at the end of the journey I do feel a kind of satisfaction, the sort you get after solving a puzzle but of your own making.

There is a beautiful quotation of Deleuze in the introduction where he talks about two ways of reading a book, one in which we see a book as something to uncover and contain in constant repetition, and other in which there is just the question “Does it work, and how does it work? How does it work for you? If it doesn’t work, if nothing comes through, you try another book. This second way of reading’s intensive: something comes through or it doesn’t. There is nothing to explain, nothing to understand, nothing to interpret” (Deleuze quoted in Gale 2018: 8).

Jelena Kupsjak holds a master’s degree in sociology and ethnology and is a PhD student in Anthropology at the University of Zadar (Croatia) where she works as a Teaching Assistant at The Department of Ethnology and Anthropology. She is doing research on politics of mental health and precarity.

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