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Deterritorialization is a concept created by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in Anti-Oedipus (1972), which, in accordance to Deleuze's desire and philosophy, quickly became used by others, for example in anthropology, and transformed in this reappropriation. Deleuze and Guattari encouraged this use of their concepts in other senses than that they were "originally created for", since they did not believe in this conception of an "original sense", which could be related to phenomenology. Deleuze said, for example, that the people who had best understood the Anti-Oedipus were persons that were neither (university) philosophers nor psychoanalysts. He particularly liked a letter sent to him by an origami-maker, who had seen new inspiration in the book Le Pli (The Fold).
Deterritorialization may mean to take the control and order away from a land or place (territory) that is already established. It is to undo what has been done. For example, when the Spanish conquered the Aztecs, the Spanish eliminated many symbols of Aztec beliefs and rituals. Reterritorialization usually follows, as in the example when the Spanish replaced the traditional structures with their own beliefs and rituals. Another example of deterritorialization and subsequent reterritorialization can be seen in Hitler’s propaganda campaign that lead to World War II. He had books banned and burned which contradicted his values and then replaced them with his own.
Deleuze and Guattari use deterritorialization to designate the freeing of labor-power from specific means of production. For example, English peasants were banished by the Enclosure Acts (1709–1869) from common land when it was enclosed for private landlords.
More generally, deterritorialization can describe any process that decontextualizes a set of relations, rendering them virtual and preparing them for more distant actualizations. In Anti-Oedipus, the obvious parallel example of economic deterritorialization is psychic deterritorialization. Deleuze and Guattari praise Freud for liberating psychic energy with the idea of libido. They criticize him for reterritorializing libido onto the terrain of a specific Oedipal drama.
A Thousand Plateaus (1980) distinguishes between relative and an absolute deterritorialization. Relative deterritorialization is always accompanied by reterritorialization, while positive absolute deterritorialization is more alike to the construction of a "plane of immanence", akin to Spinoza's ontological constitution of the world . There is also a negative sort of absolute deterritorialization, for example in the subjectivation process (the face).
When referring to culture, anthropologists use the term deterritorialized to refer to a weakening of ties between culture and place. This means the removal of cultural subjects and objects from a certain location in space and time. It implies that certain cultural aspects tend to transcend specific territorial boundaries in a world that consists of things fundamentally in motion.
Although this refers to culture changing, it does not mean that culture is looked at as an evolving process with no anchors. Also, often when one culture is changing, it is because another is being reinserted into a different culture. For example, when a new area of the world gains access to the internet, the community also gains access to every other community that has access to the internet. At that moment the deterritorializing process begins as the local culture is enveloped by the global community. Here, deterritorialization and reterritorialization are seamlessly conjoined; reterritorialization occurring immediately after, as the local community becomes a part of the global culture. This relates to the idea of a globalization of culture. In this process, culture is simultaneously deterritorialized and reterritorialized in different parts of the world as it moves. As cultures are uprooted from certain territories, they gain a special meaning in the new territory which they are taken into.
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