the ‘terrible alphabet’ of tattooing and scarification

This post contained an draft version of a dissertation section. A more recent version is now available on the works page.

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5 thoughts on “the ‘terrible alphabet’ of tattooing and scarification

    1. I spent an afternoon reading this stuff (I left out the sources I didn’t find helpful):

      “the mutilated individual is removed from the common mass of humanity by a rite of separation (this is the idea behind cutting, piercing, etc.) which automatically incorporates him into a defined group; since the operation leaves ineradicable traces, the incorporation is permanent.” (Arnold Van Gennep, Rites of Passage, 72).
      **Classic anthro text.

      D&G’s Anti-Oedipus: “tattooing, excising, incising, carving, scarifying, mutilating, encircling, and initiating”
      **Political text.

      Tattoo history : a source book : an anthology of historical records of tattooing throughout the world / edited and introduced by Steve Gilbert with the collaboration of Cheralea Gilbert, (2000)
      ****Non-academic, not good citation, but tons of great “source” material to dig through.

      Beauty and Scarification Amongst the Tiv, by Paul Bohannan. Man, Vol. 56 (Sep., 1956), pp. 117-121
      **Classic article.

      INSCRIBING THE BODY by Enid Schildkrout, Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2004. 33:319
      **Recent review of anthro theory.

      Turner, SAMOA: A HUNDRED YEARS AGO AND LONG BEFORE. 1884
      on tattooing http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14224/14224-h/14224-h.htm
      ***Worth a read…

      The following selection is taken from Voyages and Travels in Various Parts of the World by Georg Heinrich von Langsdorff. London, 1817.
      2 europeans living w/ native: frenchman jean baptiste cabri & englishman edward robarts
      The most remarkable and interesting manner which the South-sea islanders have of ornamenting their naked bodies consists in punctuation, or, as they call it, tattooing. This kind of decoration, so common among many nations of the earth, merits greater attention from travelers than it has hitherto received. It is undoubtedly very striking, that nations perfectly remote from each other, who have no means of intercourse whatever, and according to what appears to us never could have had any, should yet be all agreed in this practice.
      Among all the known nations of the earth, none has carried the art of tattooing to so high a degree of perfection as the inhabitants of Washington’s Islands [the Marquesas]. The regular designs with which the bodies of the men of Nukubiva are punctured from head to toot supplies in some sort the absence of clothing; for, under so warm a heaven, clothing would be insupportable to them. Many people here seek as much to obtain distinction by the symmetry and regularity with which they are tattooed, as among us by the elegant manner in which they are dressed; and although no real elevation is designated by the greater superiority of these decorations, yet as only persons of rank can afford to be at the expense attendant upon any refinement in the ornament, it does become in tact a badge of distinction.
      The operation of tattooing is performed by certain persons, who gain their livelihood from it entirely, and I presume that those who perform it with the greatest dexterity, and evince the greatest degree of taste in the disposition of the ornaments, are as much sought after as among us a particularly good tailor. This much, however, must be said, that the choice made is not a matter of equal indifference with them as it is with us; for if the punctured garment be spoiled in the making, the mischief is irreparable, and it must be worn with all its faults the whole life through.
      While we were at the Island, a son of the chief Katanuah was to be tattooed. For this purpose, as belonging to the principal person in the island, he was put into a separate house for several weeks which was tabooed; that is to say, it was forbidden to everybody except those who were exempted from the taboo by his father, to approach the house; here he was to remain during the whole time that the operation continued. All women, even the mother, are prohibited from seeing the youth while the taboo remains in force. Both the operator and the operatee are fed with the very best food during the continuance of the operation: to the former these are days of great festivity. In the first year only the ground-work of the principal figures upon the breast, arms, back and thighs is laid; and in doing this, the first punctures must be entirely healed, and the crust must have come off before new ones are made. Every single mark takes three or four days to heal; and the first sitting, as it may be called, commonly takes three or four weeks. When once the decorations are begun, some addition is constantly made to them at intervals of from three to six months, and this is not infrequently continued for thirty or forty years before the whole tattooing is complete.
      The tattooing of persons in a middling station is performed in houses erected for the purpose by the tattooers, and tabooed by authority. A tattooer, who visited us several times on hoard the ship, had three of these houses, which could each receive eight or ten persons at a time: they paid for their decorations according to the greater or less quantity of them, and to the trouble the figures required. The poor islanders, who have not a superabundance of hogs to dispose of in luxuries, but live chiefly themselves upon breadfruit, are operated upon by novices in the art, who take them at a very low price as subjects for practice, but their works are easily distinguishable, even by a stranger, from those of an experienced artist. The lowest class of all the fishermen principally, but few of whom we saw, are often not able to afford even the pay by a novice, and are therefore not tattooed at all.
      The women of Nukuhiva are very little tattooed, differing in this respect from the females of South-Sea islands. The hands are punctured from the ends of the fingers to the wrist, which gives them the appearance of wearing gloves, and our glovers might well borrow from them the patterns, and introduce a new fashion among the ladies, of gloves worked a la Washington. The feet, which among many are tattooed, look like highly ornamented half-boots; long stripes are besides sometimes to be seen down in the arms of the women, and circles round them, which have much the same effect as the bracelets worn by many European ladies. Some have also their ears and lips tattooed. The women are not, like the men, shut up in a tabooed house while they are going through this operation: it is performed without any ceremony in their new houses or in those of their relations; in short, wherever they please.
      Sometimes rich islanders will, either form generosity, ostentation, or love to his wife, make a feast in honor of her, when she has a bracelet tattooed round her arm, or perhaps her ear ornamented. A hog is then killed, and the friends of both sexes are invited to partake of it, the occasion of the feast being made known to them. It is expected that the same courtesy should be returned in the case of the wife of any of the guests being punctured. This is one of the few occasions when women are allowed to eat hog’s flesh. If, in a very dry year, bread-fruit, hogs, roots, and other provisions become scarce, any one who has good stock of them, which commonly happens to the chief, in order to distribute his stores, keeps open table for a certain time to an appointed number of poor artists, who are bound to give in return some strokes of the tattoo to all who choose to come for it. By virtue of a taboo to all these brethren are engaged to support each other, if in future some happen to be in need, while the others are in affluence. This is one of the most rational orders of Freemasonry upon the globe.
      Our interpreter Cabri, who was slightly and irregularly tattooed all over his body, upon one of these occasions got a black, or rather blue eye; a Roberts, who had only a puncture on his breast, in the form of a long square, six inches on way and four the other, assured us that he would never have submitted to the operation, if he had not been constrained by the scarcity in the preceding year to become one of the guests fed by the chief Katanuah. The same person may be member of several of these societies; but, according to what we could learn, a portion must always be given to the priest or magician, as he is called, even if he be not a member. In a time of scarcity also, many of the people who have been tattooed in this way untied in an absolute troop of banditti, and share equally among each other all that they can plunder or kill.
      The figures with which the body is tattooed are chosen with great care, and appropriate ornaments are selected for the different parts. They consist partly of animals, partly of other that have some reference to the manners and customs of the islands; and every figure has here, as in the Friendly Islands [Tonga], its particular name. Upon an accurate examination, lines, diamonds, and other designs, are often distinguishable between rows of punctures which resemble very much the ornaments called A la Grecque. The most perfect symmetry is observed over the whole body; the head of a man is tattooed in every part; the breast is commonly ornamented with a figure resembling a shield; on the arms and thighs are stripes, sometimes broader, sometimes narrower, in such directions that these people might very well be presumed to have studied anatomy, and to be acquainted with the course and dimensions of the muscles. Upon the back is a large cross, which begins at the neck, and ends with the last vertebra. In the front of the thigh are often figures, which seem intended to represent the human face. On each side of the calf of the leg is an oval figure, which produces good effect. The whole, in short, displays much taste and discrimination. Some of the parts of the body, the eyelids, for example, are the only parts not tattooed…
      Melville’s (somewhat) fictionalized account of tattooing:
      IN one of my strolls with Kory-Kory, in passing along the border of a thick growth of bushes, my attention was arrested by a singular noise. On entering the thicket I witnessed for the first time the operation of tattooing as performed by these islanders.
      I beheld a man extended flat upon his back on the ground, and, despite the forced composure of his countenance, it was evident that he was suffering agony. His tormentor bent over him, working away for all the world like a stone-cutter with mallet and chisel. In one hand he held a short slender stick, pointed with a shark’s tooth, on the upright end of which he tapped with a small hammer-like piece of wood, thus puncturing the skin, and charging it with the colouring matter in which the instrument was dipped. A cocoanut shell containing this fluid was placed upon the ground. It is prepared by mixing with a vegetable juice the ashes of the ‘armor’, or candle-nut, always preserved for the purpose. Beside the savage, and spread out upon a piece of soiled tappa, were a great number of curious black-looking little implements of bone and wood, used in the various divisions of his art. A few terminated in a single fine point, and, like very delicate pencils, were employed in giving the finishing touches, or in operating upon the more sensitive portions of the body, as was the case in the present instance. Others presented several points distributed in a line, somewhat resembling the teeth of a saw. These were employed in the coarser parts of the work, and particularly in pricking in straight marks. Some presented their points disposed in small figures, and being placed upon the body, were, by a single blow of the hammer, made to leave their indelible impression. I observed a few the handles of which were mysteriously curved, as if intended to be introduced into the orifice of the ear, with a view perhaps of beating the tattoo upon the tympanum. Altogether the sight of these strange instruments recalled to mind that display of cruel-looking mother-of-pearl-handled things which one sees in their velvet-lined cases at the elbow of a dentist.
      The artist was not at this time engaged on an original sketch, his subject being a venerable savage, whose tattooing had become somewhat faded with age and needed a few repairs, and accordingly he was merely employed in touching up the works of some of the old masters of the Typee school, as delineated upon the human canvas before him. The parts operated upon were the eyelids, where a longitudinal streak, like the one which adorned Kory-Kory, crossed the countenance of the victim.
      In spite of all the efforts of the poor old man, sundry twitchings and screwings of the muscles of the face denoted the exquisite sensibility of these shutters to the windows of his soul, which he was now having repainted. But the artist, with a heart as callous as that of an army surgeon, continued his performance, enlivening his labours with a wild chant, tapping away the while as merrily as a woodpecker.
      So deeply engaged was he in his work, that he had not observed our approach, until, after having, enjoyed an unmolested view of the operation, I chose to attract his attention. As soon as he perceived me, supposing that I sought him in his professional capacity, he seized hold of me in a paroxysm of delight, and was an eagerness to begin the work. When, however, I gave him to understand that he had altogether mistaken my views, nothing could exceed his grief and disappointment. But recovering from this, he seemed determined not to credit my assertion, and grasping his implements, he flourished them about in fearful vicinity to my face, going through an imaginary performance of his art, and every moment bursting into some admiring exclamation at the beauty of his designs.
      Horrified at the bare thought of being rendered hideous for life if the wretch were to execute his purpose upon me, I struggled to get away from him, while Kory-Kory, turning traitor, stood by, and besought me to comply with the outrageous request. On my reiterated refusals the excited artist got half beside himself, and was overwhelmed with sorrow at losing so noble an opportunity of distinguishing himself in his profession.
      The idea of engrafting his tattooing upon my white skin filled him with all a painter’s enthusiasm; again and again he gazed into my countenance, and every fresh glimpse seemed to add to the vehemence of his ambition. Not knowing to what extremities he might proceed, and shuddering at the ruin he might inflict upon my figure-head, I now endeavoured to draw off his attention from it, and holding out my arm in a fit of desperation, signed to him to commence operations. But he rejected the compromise indignantly, and still continued his attack on my face, as though nothing short of that would satisfy him. When his forefinger swept across my features, in laying out the borders of those parallel bands which were to encircle my countenance, the flesh fairly crawled upon my bones. At last, half wild with terror and indignation, I succeeded in breaking away from the three savages, and fled towards old Marheyo’s house, pursued by the indomitable artist, who ran after me, implements in hand. Kory-Kory, however, at last interfered and drew him off from the chase.
      This incident opened my eyes to a new danger; and I now felt convinced that in some luckless hour I should be disfigured in such a manner as never more to have the FACE to return to my countrymen, even should an opportunity offer.

      1. Thanks. I could definately get use of this list at some point. Now I am especially curious to know more about the marking and coding of bodies, that D&G talk about, and, as I understand it, Clastres also references as a way of remembering “… you will not have the desire for power” etc. without creating an external Law. So I guess I have to read anti-oedipus eventually …

        Another entry point I am curious about is more contemporary thought on tattooing. Of course, most mainstream / self-fashioning tattooing lacks much of the collectivity of tribal tattooing (but then again, the mere fact of “tribals” is a collective sign, which then leads us into Maffesolian ‘neo-tribal’ sociology but I don’t see how that line of thought can become fruitful). A more obvious example are Yakuza, prison tattooing etc. I guess I’m trying to find entry points to contemporary experiments of collective tattooing, that goes beyond mere affiliation (“I’m a goth punker” or “I’m a Yakuza gangster”) and marks passages, intensifies the memory of events, inscribes promises or obligations, strengthen ties and so …

      2. Fortunately, the vast majority of writing on tattoo covers it in the way you indicated. I’ve emailed you a copy of anthropology review article, which should be a good guide for future research on the contemporary uses of tattooing.

        Interestingly, I would say that tattooing has shed nearly all of its original purpose. Though, I think it’s impossible to imagine when they will no longer be used in surveillance. Here in the States, as I presume in the rest of the world, when law enforcement ‘books’ people, they not only make fingerprints, but they note tattoos & scars. In fact, tattoos and scars are the easiest way to get positive ID. Additionally, we have this odd system of “sex offender registries” that I’m sure other place have, and in the state I currently live in, the state sends you a postcard when a sex offender moves into your neighborhood. The postcard has a picture of the person, a list of their crimes, and a description. The only really memorable thing from most of those cards are the picture and the “scar/tattoo” section of the physical description.

        D&G on tattooing is a bit complicated, as there are a number of pieces that must fit together to get the whole picture, but I think Holland gives a pretty good snapshot of their argument in his AO book. The first section I’ve pasted gives you a general description, while the second explains the “terrible alphabet.” Additionally, if you want a more complete (though maybe esoteric) picture, be sure to look at the AO Anthropology Typology on my “downloads” page.

        Pastey pastey:

        Savagery (1): the relations of anti-production
        In savage society, the forces of anti-production operate by means of kinship relations. However, what we call “kinship relations’’ are, under savagery, co-extensive with the organization of the social field as a whole (166/196); the nuclear family, and the reproductive functions occurring within it, are not segregated from social relations at large, as they have been under capitalism. Marriage functions not merely as a pairing of two individuals, based on personal predilection and undertaken primarily for the purpose of bearing and raising children, but as a fully social event implicated in and governed by the entire social order, undertaken so as to consolidate and/or ameliorate the positions of entire families and lineages within the savage community. Two important implications follow from the non-segregation of savage reproduction from social-production at large.
        For one thing, what we know as the “incest-taboo” functions in a very different – not to say opposed – fashion in savage society. Whereas we think of the incest “taboo” as an injunction against sexual relations among family members, it functions in savage society, on the contrary, as an incitement in favor of making connections in the social field. Indeed, to speak of the

        Page 70
        incest “taboo” as a prohibition, a proscription bearing on reproduction, is already in a sense to impose a modern Oedipal perspective on savage social organization. For the social imperative under savagery is on the contrary pre-eminently positive: a prescription to form or strengthen family alliances, to share or distribute wealth, to knit social ties, by insisting that the young find their spouses exogamously, outside of their own family group or clan. By contrast, incest appears to us as a taboo – a “dirty little secret” (269/320) – because reproduction in the nuclear family has been segregated from other social relations in such a way that family members become the most conspicuous objects of desire. The Oedipus becomes a complex for us in a way it could not have been for societies with extended rather than nuclear institutions of reproduction, where so much positive incentive and social importance attach to marrying outside the family group.
        This is not to say that there is no taboo against incest in savage society, but rather that the negative proscription is merely the corollary of a detailed and all-important prescription to share, distribute, knit social ties. In fact – and this is the second implication of the coincidence of relations of reproduction and relations of social-production/anti-production in savage society – the exact same kind of imperative governs production and reproduction alike. Everyone must share or distribute the fruits of their labor; or conversely, no one may appropriate for themselves what they have produced – hunted, gathered, reaped – but must rather relinquish it to the network of debt-obligations that constitutes the very structure of the relations of savage anti-production.23 What we call the incest-taboo thus represents a sub-category of a larger class of taboo which constitutes the law of savage anti-production and organizes both social-production and reproduction: hunters are forbidden to consume their own kill just as parents are forbidden to procreate with their own children. That the taboo bearing on reproduction seems so much more important to us than the taboo bearing on production is due to a kind of optical illusion: from our perspective, the taboo on production is moot because with specialization and the extensive division of labor characteristic of capitalism people, inevitably produce for the market, and cannot directly consume what they produce. Under savagery, relations of anti-production must enforce what the market system under capitalism seems able to ensure effortlessly and as a matter of course: that there will be no direct appropriation of the fruits of labor.
        The general law of savage social organization, then, is that all means of life – wombs and material goods alike – must circulate. The system of savage debt-obligations and expenditures is established precisely in order to prevent desire from gaining immediate access to its object, which is life and the means of life. It is because immediate access is to be prevented by a mode of repression which turns desire away from its immediate aims that Deleuze and Guattari characterize savage social organization as ‘‘perverse.” The relation of desire to its primordial objects, the sources of life itself – to the earth
        Page 71
        (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) as well as the mother (breast, placenta, womb, etc.) – must be mediated by the laws of social organization.24 The productive synthesis of connection which would make immediate (and multiple) connections with mother and earth gets interrupted by the disjunctive synthesis of recording, which establishes the network of relations of anti-production comprising the savage social order.25 This is, of course, an exclusive use of the disjunctive synthesis, for savage social organization actively encourages some relations and discourages others.
        The general syntax, so to speak, of savage social organization comprises marriage alliances and lineage filiations, the synchrony and diachrony of kinship, if you will. Unlike the nuclear family in modern society, where filiation relations involve usually only two (or at most three) lineage generations and alliance relations go no further than one layer of “in-laws,” savage lineages are calculated many generations deep, and savage alliance relations extend throughout the social field. Indeed, under the pressure of complex alliance patterns, kinship relations combine with myth to extend savage lineages all the way back to the earth itself, while the matrix of alliances become co-extensive with social organization as a whole. Since debt and expenditure obligations under savagery remain finite, mobile, and reciprocal, they form neither a closed system of exchange nor a fixed hierarchy permanently elevating one clan or group above the others. Determinate patterns of circulation produce only differences in rank, which arise from the ebb and flow of debt obligations, and are hence always subject to change.
        Savagery (2): territorial inscription
        Savage social organization is actualized by a system of inscription that Deleuze and Guattari call a system of “cruelty” (184/218). The temptation of direct appropriation of the matter- and energy-flows of life is so great and so immediate, and the requirement of obedience to the social group so strong, that the laws of savage anti-production – exogamy; no immediate consumption – are branded directly into the flesh of the body. Invoking the Nietzsche of The Genealogy of Morals, Deleuze and Guattari suggest that an enormous amount of pain and cruelty are required to forge a collective memory powerful enough to overcome the appeal of unmediated life (144–5/169–70). The main threat to savage society arises not from incest, they insist, but from flows of matter or energy that might escape capture by the forces of anti-production that constitute savage social organization; rituals of cruelty and systems of inscription are instituted precisely to code all matter- and energy-flows so that they circulate throughout society and cannot escape its grasp. Savage coding is thus linked both to the system of debt-obligations and expenditures it enforces and makes possible and to a specific form of ‘‘writing” that creates and imposes a collective memory on the savage tribe.26

        Page 72
        Savage writing as a mode of inscription is distinctive in that it is characteristically performed on the body (or the body of the earth). Equally important, such writing is independent of spoken language: the voice and graphics form two formally independent sub-systems of inscription; neither serves as signifier for the other. Finally, voice and graphics are nevertheless brought together to inscribe savage law in more or less public rituals where an authoritative gaze (of a shaman, a specific social group, or the community as a whole) confirms acceptance into the community based on the pain suffered in the process of inscription. The gaze functions crucially to overcome the formal independence and to sanction the “arbitrary” conjunction of the other two components of the ritual, which Deleuze and Guattari therefore characterize as a system of connotation (203/241).
        Deleuze and Guattari describe one such ritual, in which the clan of a young woman and that of her husband mark her body with an excision that will confirm the legitimacy of their alliance and act as a sign of its fertility:

        The calabash of…excision is placed on the body of the young woman. Furnished by the husband’s lineage, the calabash serves as a conductor for the voice of alliance; but the graphism must be traced by a member of the young woman’s clan. The articulation of the two elements takes place on the body itself, and constitutes the sign [of fertility].
        (188–9/223)

        Deleuze and Guattari go on to insist that such a sign “is not a resemblance or imitation, nor an effect of a signifier, but rather a position and a production of desire” (189/223): the sign operates less to convey a message – the woman does not learn the meaning of the ideograms during the initiation rite – than to assign reproductive organs a place and a (hopefully fruitful) function within the group. Everyone henceforth knows to whom this womb belongs – or rather, exactly what position it occupies in the network of alliances and filiations of the society, and to whom its fruits will be due, along which pathways of debt and expenditure they will have to circulate.
        Several features of savage society are worth underscoring for the sake of comparison with despotism and capitalism. For one thing, savage debt is open-ended, composed of what Deleuze and Guattari call ‘‘mobile and finite blocks of debt” (190/225). While it is true that savage myth supplements the reckoning of lineages so as to ground them in the earth itself, the system of alliances that constitute the network of debt-obligations is subject to constant renegotiation, and thus never forms a closed system. “A kinship system is not a [fixed] structure but a practice, a praxis, a method, and even a strategy,” Deleuze and Guattari conclude; “[it] only appears closed [to exchangist anthropologists] to the extent that it is severed from the political and economic references that keep it open” (147–8/173).
        Page 73
        For another thing, the voice and graphics form two independent systems, which rituals bring together in an a-signifying way under the gaze of the group (or of such sub-groups as are permitted to witness this or that ritual). Crucially, savage writing does not represent speech. Moreover, rituals of cruelty assign social place and function to specific organs by marking bodies or body-parts; whole persons are not at issue. A fertility ritual assigns the womb, and the womb alone, to its place in the relations of anti-production; which foods the young woman may eat, what stories she may tell or to whom she may talk are determined by various other rituals bearing on different organs of the body. Savage organs belong to the group rather than to private egos or selves (which only emerge later). In this context, incest as we know it (or rather as we conceive of it, according to the modern “incest-taboo”) is in an important sense simply not possible: the organs of reproduction (and production, too) are first and foremost assigned a place and function in the social order; they belong not to an individual but to the group.27 One result, it is true, of such assignment – but not the one directly aimed at – is that sexual relations among immediate family members are discouraged. But the “taboo” forbidding sexual relations between whole persons within the immediate family is merely an after-effect – or better, an after-image – of the primary assignment of place and function to specific, collectively invested organs within the community.
        Deleuze and Guattari therefore conclude that the Oedipus plays no role in organizing savage society: Oedipal incest is only a negative after-image of the law which does in fact organize savage society (while also determining the development of extended lineages): the law of exogamy and the system of marriage-alliances it fosters. Here again, the tripartite semiotic of the poststructuralist critique of representation is critical: it enables Deleuze and Guattari to distinguish between the alliance–debt system as the repressing representation of desire, on one hand, and the taboo against incest which is the displaced represented of desire, produced by the repressing representation itself, on the other. Equally important, it enables them to distinguish both elements of representation from the immediate object of desire, the representative of desire, which as I have said is life itself and the means of life. Desire does indeed get repressed under savagery, very severely repressed; however, it is not incest but the desire for life that gets repressed, by being inscribed in a determinate social system of representation:

        As for Oedipus in general [under savagery], it is not the repressed – that is, the representative of desire, which is on this side of and completely ignorant of daddy–mommy. Nor is it the repressing representation, which is beyond, and which renders [whole] persons discernible only by subjecting them to the…rules of alliance. Incest is only the retroactive effect of the repressing representation on the repressed representative: the representation disfigures or displaces
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        this representative….[I]t projects onto the representative [the] categories that it has itself established and rendered discernible; it applies to the representative [specific] terms that did not exist before the alliances organized…a system in extension…the representation reduces the representative to what is blocked in this system. Hence Oedipus is indeed the limit, but the displaced limit that now passes into the interior of the socius. Oedipus is the baited image with which desire allows itself to be caught (That’s what you wanted! The decoded flows were incest!). Then a long story begins, the story of Oedipalization.
        (165–6/195; translation modified)

        But the decoded flows were not incest: they were life itself. The primary function of savage representation is to code the un-coded flows of life, to institute through rituals of cruelty a system of alliances and filiations in order to prevent the direct and hence anti-social appropriation of life. Far from playing a determining role in this system of repression, the Oedipus appears only as an after-image, an internalized limit. As such, it begins what we can see retrospectively as a long yet halting migration to replace life and become the very representative of desire, which it finally does only under capitalism. But first we must examine the entirely different relations of anti-production and system of inscription characteristic of despotism, to understand what they in turn contribute to the long story of Oedipalization.

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