chapter  11
11 Pages

Playing in a Deleuzian playground

BySTUART LESTER

The aim of this chapter is to bring a Deleuzian gaze to play, and by doing so unsettle dominant accounts of this form of behaviour. It will set to work some key concepts from Deleuzian philosophy to reveal play as an affirmation of creativity, opening ‘ourselves to the experimentation that the future offers rather than clinging to the illusory identity that the present places before us’ (May 2005: 68). Playing from this perspective reminds us that the future is not given, but always contains the potential for novelty and the unexpected. It asks ‘what if ’ the world is thought, felt and acted on differently and by doing so brings about different becomings, new trajectories, new responses, unheard-of futures (Massumi 1992). The discussion opens by bringing Deleuzian concepts into play, proceeds to situate them in an experimental space of Jack and the Beanstalk before moving into the Deleuzian playground itself. But it should be made clear at the outset that this is not a definitive reading, or an act of precision. Many have commented on the nonsense and impenetrability of Gilles Deleuze’s writings; his thoughts are among the most esoteric and even obscure of recent thinkers (May 2005), producing an eclectic fusion of ‘misbehaving concepts’ (McGowan 2007). For anyone who is accustomed to conventional ways of writing and language use, reading the work of Deleuze, and his collaborations with Felix Guattari, can be confusing, unsettling and infuriating. An extreme viewpoint from Wheen (2004) refers to Deleuze’s writings as gibberish which in itself presents a significant lure to someone who has spent much of their life studying and working with play. There are many existing objections to Deleuzian concepts, and this piece will no doubt give rise to further questions. So be it: the task at hand here is not about veracity but rather an attempt to elucidate how certain refrains make possible a different and difference reading of play. The appeal of Deleuzian philosophy lies with its capability to be ‘used in many different ways and in direct relation to practices and events in everyday life’ (Olsson 2009: 24-25).The question from a Deleuzian standpoint is not ‘what does it mean’ but ‘how does it work’? Deleuze was prolific in designing and involving his philosophy and used philosophers, scientists, artists, musicians and writers as resource kits for his own

musings (Buchanan 2000) to produce a political philosophy concerned with the complex and ever-changing practicalities of the everyday that reveal it to be anything but everyday. The collection of single and co-produced work invites the reader into a space that lies beneath habitual ways of seeing the world, and by doing so reveals a realm of ever-present virtualities, the not yet known, waiting to be released. Above all it is a philosophy of movement and experimentation. The main force of the argument presented here is that children’s play marks a time/space in which ever-present virtualities are actualised, producing moments in which children are becoming-different; that is, following their own desires rather than following adult determined pathways. But it is perhaps more than this; thinking differently about play inevitably disturbs the foundations upon which dominant understandings of the nature of children’s play, and by inference childhood and adulthood, are constructed and reveals a different way of attuning to and caring for multiple and lively ways of being together.