Trials of the Leviathan: ret(errito)rial(ization)s or det(errito)rial(ization)s?

No, I don't even know your name, it doesn't matter.
You're my experimental game, just human nature.
-Katy Perry

Movement and territory

Movement is always a series of trials. The properties of actors are constantly being measured and exchanged during displacement. “Bruises bigger than dinner-plates” (The Smiths). Grinded concrete (Borden, 2001; Bäckström, 2005) – inverted statue (Serres; Jonasson, 2011). The movement-trial is necessarily always about deterritorialization and reterritorialization. Letting go and glueing; scattering and gathering; Slytherin and Gryffindor (Rowling).

Deterritorialization is literally something firm and dry in the process of being destabilized. Words leaving the mouth. A moth spreading out its wings and taking off. Movement is the message being translated, even the message of translation itself. Voiced by guides. A less known meaning of translation is betrayal. Betrayal in motion. Lost in translation. In medias res.

Concerning spatiality, temporality, and conditions for participating actors, trials in sport are rather elaborated and refined. The trials in sport aim to purify human action both with the help from and in relation to nonhuman actors. The outcome must result in the reconstruction and reproduction of universal humanness. In the same way Latour understands the universality of science, universal should here be understood as universal within its own network. Since both these networks, science and sport, are rather lengthy, universality in them are perceived as fully transcendent. A world record is a world record, and a scientific finding published in Science is a gift to the whole globe.

Without its deterritorializations, sport would be literally lame. (The extreme ability of athletes’ bodies in fact bears a heavy load of guilt regarding the stigma of disabled bodies). The appealing turbulence of sporting collectives – Serres’s ‘glorious uncertainty’ and Loland’s ‘sweet tension’ – is due to deterritorialization.

But sport without proper reterritorializations would only result in people throwing themselves out from, or cars crashing with, cliffs. Medieval folk-football was in this aspect poorly reterritorialized. Sports that are described as risk, lifestyle, adventure, and extreme are characterized by a high degree of deterritorialization. What kind of territory, then, is it that is confirmed and accumulated by reterritorialization in sport?

Sport reterritorializes on the modernist settlement, the abode of the tribe known as the moderns. Their most characteristic feature is that they make an absolute distinction between nature and society, in their story of themselves. At the same time, they let actors from both these ‘satellites’ (Latour), intermingle and proliferate, wildly and freely. A State, a Hobbesian Leviathan (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987), such as the modernist settlement is based on dichotomous arrangements like these. Nature and society is an overarching metaphysical couple in modernity, but time is also divided into a before and after (enlightenment). Revolution. Following Deleuze and Guattari (1987), such dichotomies and binaries are abundant in the ‘State’, i.e. networks like the modernist settlement. In sport, this partitioning is effectuated in the reinforcing of age, weight, and sex.

Hobbes’ social contract and naked apes

So why has it in the modernist settlement been so crucial to construct pure forms of human, humanity, culture and society? This is a highly political question, and the administration and implementation of it have had wide implications on all collectives since the enlightenment. With concepts such as ‘contract’, ‘citizen’, ‘representation’, ‘sovereign’, ‘power’, and ‘society’, British philosopher Thomas Hobbes systematized a nomenclature, whose seal modern social science still bear. The erecting of a purely human collective, the Leviathan, was Hobbes’s solution to the religious conflicts that haunted Europe at the time, and had done so for quite long.

All local, contingent, and singular interpretations of the Bible were deemed dangerous by Hobbes. Inventive readings of the book could be harmful if they led to an exegesis that admitted the existence of immaterial, spiritual, yet potent entities outside the perimeter of State surveillance. Spectres and ghosts were all to be exorcised in one single stroke, that of inaugurating the Sovereign. If all human actors agreed on who was to represent them, the State would not only get a representative of the people, but also a highly legitimate spokesman for the divine realm. Chosen by both deity and laity, the Sovereign controlled both the earth and the heavens, but in a perfectly just way. For, who was this regent? Not just some despot, or tawdry usurper, but the very people itself, incarnated in one person.

This political strike of genius would ward off all that wasn’t human in collectives. This is how the discourse of that encampment of naked apes, today living under the name of society, came to be. The encapsuling of a society meant that nude monkeys henceforth established their own parks and Zoos (Sloterdijk, ten Bos, Agamben) in a way that protected them, not only from spirits, but from falling back into the violent ‘natural state’ (like that of folk-football). One could easily see why this neat little arrangement was worth to cherish, and to keep safe and sound.

Retrials and detrials

So, every reterritorialization acts to reinforce all these divisions. We can therefore in sport perhaps speak of retrials which repeat, accumulate, gel, and glue the Leviathan; macropolitically, in reestablishing power-relations between social categories, and, micropolitically, by purifying a universal humanity from nonhumanity.

Conversely, we could talk about, detrials, in which the outcome is more uncertain. Save for mass-production of losers and composition of a universal humanity, sweet tension of uncertainty of outcome is precisely sport's most decisive output.

Detrial and retrial are perfectly balanced in sport. The uncertainty of outcome in sport (detrial) feeds the need of seeing the humanity as a multitude of volatile and singular free-willed subjects, while the reproduction of social categories, their internal power-relations, and the controlled participation of objects in sport (retrial), vanguard the abode of naked apes (gymnos meaning naked in greek). This illustrates the shift, Latour claims that moderns do, conveniently and naturally, between society as soft (detrial), and hard (retrial).

That is why sport, despite its experimental endeavors to find out what bodies (anybody) could do, never jeopardizes the universal identity of humanity that it promotes.

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