This paper will examine the June-December 2004 popular uprising in Manipur, through the lens of reports in the Manipuri, Indian and global media, with a view to showing how the characteristics of an affinity-network arise in a marginal setting. It will show that social relations based on the affinity-network form provide an alternative to statist and hierarchical imaginaries which create antagonistic, fixed identities, turning difference into a positive force of empowerment instead of a matter of incompatible claims. It will also seek to understand how, in contrast to other local political forces, the mobilisation was able to turn difference into a source of strength.
This article draws on earlier work outlining the distinction between affinity-networks, reactive networks and various kinds of hierarchies, based on the distinction between active and reactive desire. In Deleuzian theory, active (or ‘schizoid’) desire, which is primary in processes of becoming, is counterposed to reactive (or ‘paranoiac‘) desire, which is a later emergence and which underpins states and other alienating and repressive assemblages. Whereas reactive desire seeks to repress or encode difference, active desire makes difference a source of affirmation. The possibility of social transformation depends on the viability of social forms based on active desire as alternatives to reactive and arborescent assemblages. I have elsewhere argued that this potential is shown by the affinity-network form, based in Day’s terms on affinity rather than hegemony. Affinity-networks offer a potential global alternative to capitalism and the state, a new ‘organising logic‘ pitted against the world-system. This echoes with Agamben‘s view that the coming struggle is between state and non-state, with the latter based on non-representational forms of being irreducible to any state. The effect of affinity-network success is the construction of a smooth space or ‘absolute deterritorialisation‘.