Lisa Robertson and Matthew Stadler
How will I recognize you? The revolution is happening now, everywhere,
in the bodies and faces that pass by in a blur. Our revolutionary
potential is considerable. It has not been erased, so much as we have
forgotten how to recognize it. Much works against us. A grotesquely
swelling neo-liberal political economy blocks our potential to originate
or live bountiful and joyous collective change, at any scale. What does
revolution look like? This book is an attempt to teach ourselves how to
see and how to be seen.
The book was conceived, written, and produced in a deeply social
process, driven by friendship, conversation, mood, fatigue, hunger,
laughter, and the pleasure of travel. Our work composing the texts
was more like performance than like the writing processes we were
accustomed to. We completed it in less than two months, beginning in
August, 2011, in France. We spent a week in a house with hundreds of
books on a long table, making our selections. We composed our annotations
in September and October via Internet document-sharing,
sometimes writing simultaneously from La Malgache, France and
Portland, Oregon, watching distant words pop up on our computer
screens as we both wrote across time zones. In Berkeley, David Brazil was compiling an annotated bibliography of revolution. In late October
we met again in Bordeaux to produce the book with Thomas Boutoux
and a dozen collaborators at Publication Studio Bordeaux.
Our choice of texts answered our desire to be faithful to our existing
histories as readers, rather than any need to become historians of
a category. So this book doesn't represent revolution as a general concept,
but it follows the specific revolutions we have experienced in our
conversations with one another, in our friendships and communities,
and with the writers we love. Every one of these texts is in this book
because we have been moved by it, emotionally, intellectually, and
bodily. And it was our need to bring revolution home into our bodies,
to experience the radical potentials of our limit, our human embodiment,
that energised our work. The risk of embodiment is what these
texts have in common too. We think that there is no public space that
is not an embodied public space. We think that there is not a politics
that does not begin in our desiring cells. We think that this corporal
surplus, the movement beyond our biographies and our perceived or
administrated limits, is the force that makes and changes worlds. One
of us uses the word soul to name this surplus, and one of us doesn't.
But what we have learned from our intense performance together
is that a common vocabulary is not necessary, and probably not desirable.
For us, revolution will be the difference that each of us brings
into living, the difference that resists the imperatives of markets and
market ideologies, and that resists even the smoothing activities that
can be part of community formation. It's only by staying with the often
difficult texture of difference that we can begin, that there can be a
stance that opens into a movement beyond. We are committed to giving
each other the space for such an opening, and we call this gift politics. We organized our selections by stages in life—beginning, childhood,
education, adulthood, death—because revolution is a lived process.
This is an experiment in collectively reading through the body. All
the parts and stages of life, which we recognize don't happen consecutively,
or even one at a time, are incipiently revolutionary. The change
that we need to discover is already happening at every point in each of
our lives. We are already in revolution, now, in the present, and every
part of change, even infancy or death, is about to show us something
completely new about collectivity and co-existence. So we bring our
listening to the organism.
How will we see the revolution beginning every day? Who are our
comrades? Are you that man who was kind to me in the library? Are
you the meth addict who wants to mow my lawn? Are you the fiveyear-
old licking my groceries? Are you jerking off in the stall next to
mine? Are you sitting near me in the park, staring at my child with
a foolish smile? Are you a goat farmer? Are you a dog?
This book is pragmatic. How will I recognize you?