Detourning liquidity

(excerpt from a forthcoming publication on island studies)

The game-theoretic approach discussed in the previous sections as a strategy of diffracting power from the peripheries and margins of social order is not independent of the overarching system that conditions its practice within a conquered space. In game theory, however, the system that makes these determinations possible, such as a colonial network that expands over the globe, is also indiscernible without accounting for multiple perspectives. These involve not only the central positions of power, including “counterfactual imaginations” (Apperley, 2018, p. 13), a paratext that contrasts to the official position of colonial authority. This power is without official origin and is only a negative plasticity (a history or genealogy) borne of the pure will as world-making (Kant, 1993: 240) without external reference to anything other than itself. But willing-a-world, in this sense, produces its monsters. As Haraway would put it, these monsters are reflexive to the extent that they are created out of the willing subject’s “illusion of essential, fixed position” (Haraway, 1992, p. 300), such as the putative sovereign power of occupation.

This explains the existence of a colony like an island viewed as a monster-producing ecological landscape. An island becomes an engine that re-enforces the colonial authority by producing monsters on behalf of the power serialisation of the pure will of the West and later the American empire. Recall Jameson’s view that a hegemonic power necessitates a decadent impulse, justifying the creation of horror, the othering of its unsettled identity by establishing binary opposites, such as the island-mainland divide reproducing the colonial imaginary.

Two leading concepts in Island Studies today, the archipelagic and the aquapelagic (Baldacchino, 2012; Hayward, 2012), have shattered this binarism modelled on the Western paradigm of dividing geographical spaces into agonistic pairs. These modern approaches emphasise: 1) the island as a vibrant space perceived through counter-mapping, borrowing the semantic practice of archipelagraphy (DeLoughrey, 2007), in contrast to historiography (that cements the island-mainland binarism from an external, so-called objective standpoint of historical science); and 2) the relationality interface between land and water, the archipelago and aquatic ecologies. These concepts define the relationality of islands (Pugh, 2018) mediated by the spatial fluidity of the ocean surrounding them. In this sense of fluidity, islands are generically symbiotic, preventing binarism from naturalising onto- epistemic divisions. In his rejoinder to Hayward’s aquapelagic concept (which I will elaborate on shortly), Baldacchino writes that, in this context, the ocean replaces the Earth as a place of habitation in terms of the “liquid consummation” (Baldacchino, 2012, p. 25) of hegemonies as they operate inside land topographies, transforming them into hydrotropic paratexts without a sovereign foundation (thereby disabling their fixed spatial rationality). This is the vitalism of liquid geology at work inside the archipelagic territory. As Baldacchino sums up, “the sea… gives life, takes it away, and connects us all. Creation is an archipelago” (2012, p. 25).

For his part, Hayward’s aquapelagic concept ensures this vitalism does not lead into the unconscious archetype, a political unconscious to the extent that its fluidity is refractive to retracing genealogies, movements and tensions, even perspectival treatments of space (as counter-factual challenges to hegemonic narratives of spatiality). The aquapelagic ascertains the creation of the archipelago by inhabiting it, by actants “[pitching] their tents from island to island and over the sea” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1994, p. 105). The aquapelagic gives us the unbounded, unfinished dramaturgy of the archipelago whereby the serialisations of movement are contested, reformulated and redrawn. In the Deleuzian sense, this means the kind of “legwork” as in itself “a literary practice that creates and re- creates a people’s ‘soul’” (Rivas, 2019, p. 110).



Apperley, T. (2018). Counterfactual communities: Strategy games, paratexts and the player’s experience of history. Open Library of Humanities 4(1), 1-15.

Baldacchino, G. (2012). Getting wet: A response to Hayward’s concept of aquapelagos. Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 6(1), 22-28

Deleuze, G. and Guattari. F. (1994) What is philosophy?, H Tomlinson and G Burchell (trans.). Columbia University Press

Haraway, D (1992) The promises of monsters: A regenerative politics for inappropriate/d others. In Grossberg, L., Nelson, C., & Treichler, P. (Eds.), Cultural studies (pp. 295-336). Routledge.

Hayward, P. (2012). Aquapelagos and aquapelagic assemblages: Towards an integrated study of island societies and marine environments. Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 6(1), 1-11.

Kant, I. (1998). Opus Postumum, Forster E and M Rosen (trans.) Cambridge University Press.

Rivas, V.A. (2019). Mapping a people to come: Lessons from stressed islands and island assemblages in archipelagic Southeast Asia and other transversals. Shima 13(1), 100-115.


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