Deleuze, Anthropology, Becomings, Ecology, Thermodynamics, Rites of Passage, Ghosts, Amos Tutuola – Deleuzian Anthropology, Literature, Integrity, Negentropy

Cleaning these all up when I get the chance


I was reading about a book called ‘The Palm-Wine Drinkard’ by a Nigerian writer called Amos Tutuola. He also did a book called ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’. Anyway both of the books feature these Nigerian ghosts and they were nothing like Western ghosts, they reminded me of these Filipino ghosts I’d seen on the Gruen Transfer a year or two ago. I also remembered some Japanese ghosts I’d been reading about a few years ago, and I was wondering if these ghosts had something in common. They seemed more like spirits and fairies and totems as I know them, and as far as I can tell they’re the norm outside of western culture. What are they? What is a ghost? In what circumstances do we encounter ghosts, and what does it mean when we do?

There was also this quote I found in a paper by David Whittaker:

“The numerous transformations that occur in Tutuola’s stories problematize notions of individual identity which privilege autonomy and fixity within an immutable universe. In their place Tutuola employs a conception of the Self that embraces fluidity, transformation and heterogeneity within the unstable ontological space of the ‘Bush of Ghosts’.
What does the liminal space of the bush of ghosts have to do with rites of passage?

What is a liminal space? A space of indeterminacy, a space of becoming and transformation, a space of hybridity? Both-encompassing (Before-After-encompassing), neither-encompassing or something else?

What are the risks inherent in the rite of passage? Most importantly, what does it mean to fail a rite of passage?

“All people who go to the sacred bush (igbodu) benefit from it [….] for there is a belief – and it’s an agreement between ourselves and Odu (the deity) within the sacred bush – that we are reborning ourselves. Even we priests, we are getting another rebirth. At every ritual, we are becoming new because we have something to reflect upon. We have something to contemplate during the journey, at the journey, after the journey. Our brains become sharper. We become new to the world. We think of everything. We do there, and we see there” (Drewal 1992: 37 – 38)
What is this? Is it a process of cleaning, ordering, leaving behind?

The ghost and the “bush of ghosts” are spaces of liminality and becoming. Becoming-land, becoming-rock, becoming-pebble, becoming-pitcher. The timeless space of becoming where buffalo and feral cats were “always” part of the dreaming – the plane of intensity. And this “ferality” is an unbecoming – unbelonging. We are not juxtaposed with these ghosts but disjuncted and opened up upon. And I think the nativeness’ relation to order is connected to this notion of ferality and becoming. The orderliness of ghosts – the stasis of eternal change, the intensive pole around which things reorder themselves.

What’s the relationship between totem animals and indigenous ecologies?
My intuition says the rites of passage, the liminal space and the sorcerer are intimately connected. They live on borders, they’re dynamic, they’re intense.

What is a dreaming and how does it figure into the relationship between man and animal, the production of manhood and the separation of man and animal contingent on the acceptance of a small part of the animal self?


A negentropic thing is something which remains orderly at the expense of the order of the things around it. In staying black and choosing to challenge race relations and in staying “Dr. Bartlett” and choosing to challenge gender relations, both are remaining intense – remaining negentropic, remaining orderly at the expense of the order of the world around them. In changing to white and changing to “Mrs. Bartlett”, they are becoming entropic, changing and settling within the negentropic systems of society at large.

Conversely, the integration of foreign animals into local totems is contingent on their orderliness in relation to the local ecology. Ferality is contingent on destructiveness and personal negentropy – remaining intense until the ecosystem has been destroyed or it has reordered itself around the intruder and reached another equilibrium. In regards to purity and danger, order and disorder, negentropic = orderly = pure things are those things which reorder the world around themselves and become the new pole of purity, reaching an equilibrium, which is a negentropy – an orderliness in itself.

This “totemisation” encounters a problem under these criteria. If those animals which become totems are those animals which are considered ‘pure’ or those animals which have integrated themselves into the equilibrium, how does the negentropy associated with totemisation relate to the entropy of assimilation into that equilibrium? The answer is simple – Animals which integrate themselves into the equilibrium have become a part of that negentropic system, and so they support the negentropy and are in themselves negentropic despite the entropy of their becoming so. Conversely, those animals who are negentropic and who successfully negotiate an equilibrium with the ecosystem around them without first destroying it may become totems, as they occupy an equilibrium. In Tutuola’s ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’, these ghosts are emblems of order and negentropy – they remain the same whilst changing the world around them. And the bush of ghosts is itself a timeless, negentropic space of order. Plane of consistency.

The process of rites of passage is a greater exposure to that negentropy and a greater integration into the surrounding ecosystem via the responsilibity ie. negentropy associated with adulthood. The entropy, this greater integration into the equilibrium of the local ecosystem is a becoming, an intensity which leaves both man and ecosystem changed. Adulthood is a state of responsibility, of order, of integration into the local ecosystem. This is why the totem, emblem of order, is incorporated into the becoming-adult rite of passage, alongside a trip into the bush of ghosts, plane of intensity, plane of order.

And this is the liminal space – a plane of negentropy in which the self is reshaped by the world around it into some form more appropriate to the local ecosystem. And this is why they feel as if their minds and their selves have been “cleaned” after their journey into the bush of ghosts – they have been reconfigured, updated in accordance with the conditions of the local ecosystem. Those neuroses which had arisen as a result of/were causing the refusal (not willfully, although perhaps) to change, to open themselves up onto intensity, are swept away in the opening up and in the decision to open up.

Greater size = greater complexity = greater order

Those animals which through entropy integrate themselves into and contribute to the equlibrium

Integrity is negentropy. In settling into the negentropic systems of society at large they are afforded a degree of acceptance.

The “specialisation of responsibility” is a negentropy.

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