1.0 The Concrète Context
To help clarify these compositional motivations, it is worth noting the negative relation of Batroun Concrète to three other compositions from that period which conceptually engaged Islamic sonic cultures. That triptych of electroacoustic pieces became collectively known as On the Admissibility of Sound as Music and Art.
Makharej (2010) for voice and up to eight-channel electronics critically addressed the transcendental subject, contesting the authority of the “divine” alphabet by investigating the somatic articulation of the letters of the Arabic alphabet. The bird ghost at the zaouia had developed by 2011 as a 7.1 channel fixed piece based on field recordings made across the MENASA in Islamic religious ritual contexts. It deals with questions of place, memory, and the specific aesthetic regimens associated with the “ethically-honed sensorium” – the Qur’anic disciplines such as tajwid and tilawa, associated with the ethics of listening reception, and the theological arguments over the admissibility of sound as halal or haram, described by Kristina Nelson as the “sama’ polemic” (Hirschkind 2001; Nelson 2001). The final eight-channel work in that series was The Remainder, completed in 2013 after Batroun Concrète, the conceptual origins of which converge two (perhaps unlikely) roots. Towards the beginning of Pierre Schaeffer’s In Search of a Concrete Music (2012/1952), he laments the lack of success in imposing metrical techniques onto concrete materials. Sounds culled from the world did not fit into the traditions of scale and rhythmic bars, leading to his rejection of the grid to which time and pitch are habitually quantized. The second root was a theological debate concerning “the hidden” in early Islamic mathematics and occult mysticism. The Remainder deals with number theory and algorithmic processes.
While Batroun Concrète was generated in Lebanon during the early optimism of the Syrian uprising, in contrast to the triptych, any overt grounding in Islamic culture is absent here. The site of this project could theoretically have been located anywhere or, more accurately, could be nowhere in particular. This negativity is quite deliberate and reflects the “listening without a listener” de-subjectified approach that the piece both contributed to and hoped to instantiate (Bhunnoo 2018: 15).
1.1 The Residency at Batroun
Batroun Projects was an art space active during the restoration of a derelict multistory house situated by the sea in the north of Lebanon. Its high, vaulted ceilings, cracked doorways, concrete appendages and deceptive spaces had been neglected for years. The purposes motivating its construction invite speculation, and there are many stories that abound, often untroubled by veracity. Built in the mid-1980s during the war, it was not yet complete when hit by an artillery shell and then abandoned. Its proximity to a Syrian checkpoint is conjectured upon. No other structures in the area were targeted.
Perhaps the bare architecture contained certain clues. The reinforced concrete planes, multiple rooms, and flat roofs were unremarkable, giving the air of a thwarted seaside villa. However, close attention revealed visual contradictions between its outward aspects and its internal spaces. Hidden within were a series of interstices, false floors, and storage recesses. In the basement lay a resonant and largely inaccessible void untethered to sight. Listening revealed the sonic traces of water indexed by their gurgling flows from this tanked well. A tunnel ran from the basement to the sea, invisible from the road. What was this building, a place of concealment, of acousmatic hauntings?
Batroun Concrète 0.0 was commissioned for the opening of the project space in 2011. Using only materials and acoustics found at the site, affectively and enactively tuning in, I intuited what my interactions could do, bringing various properties into aural focus. These improvised performances-to-microphone were then collaged in the studio, using only large-scale edits and superpositions of different auditory scenes to produce the initial two-channel electroacoustic composition. Being faced with the freedom of the site raised a number of questions. What is the nature of this improvisatory encounter between composer-performer and this unknown place? How were these interactional encounters structured? What is it to then edit and redeploy such field recordings stripped of their provenance?
The initial work subsequently developed through an invitation to the Quantum Fluctuations in a Synechdochic Universe art festival held at the same site in 2012. Batroun Concrète 2.1 - 2.9 has five different electroacoustic parts assembled from recordings from the initial encounter. These interleave in series with four site-specific performances directed through a score for any number of performer-agents. The performance score and electroacoustic parts can be found in the appendix of this paper.
The score concretized my responses to the questions that arose from the initial version. Unfortunately, there is no completed performance documentation. Scheduled for December 2012, the Syrian war yet to come was already re-percussing in Lebanon. The performers were unable to travel, and the event was cancelled. While they failed to materialize a final form, the conceptual design and theoretical underpinnings of Batroun Concrète 2.1 - 2.9 are essential to thinking the complicities of composition with its material conditions, and these are the focus of this paper.
1.2 The Manifest Sonic Image
By the time of the residency, I was already troubled by sonic discourses that are largely grounded on an implicit acceptance of phenomenological self-presence. While enactive and ecological psychological paradigms have entered into academic musicology, discussions of improvisation still often valorize personal vocabulary, technical mastery, notions of freedom, collectivism, and even mysticism. Acoustic ecological and soundscape paradigms tend to privilege the situatedness of a listening subject with an undercurrent of anti-technological preservationism that often constructs romanticized notions of place, anthropomorphically retuning the world in its own image. Acousmatic traditions usually idealize compositional intention, resecting sounds from their contexts and claiming to speak for sounds-themselves.
To be sure, these are generalizations that gloss over a great deal of nuance, but for the purposes of this discussion I group such sonic discourses together as inheritors of what the philosopher Wilfred Sellars (1962) has called the “manifest image” of humankind, in contrast with the “scientific image.” This distinction has entered discussions of sound, notably by Ray Brassier (2013) and Robin Mackay (2016), and I refer the reader to their works for further details. For now, it is sufficient to note that we are confronted with
two competing ‘images’ of man in the world: on the one hand, the manifest image of man as he has conceived of himself up until now with the aid of philosophical reflection; on the other, the relatively recent but continually expanding scientific image of man as a ‘complex physical system’ (Sellars 1962: 25) – one which is conspicuously unlike the manifest image, but which can be distilled from various scientific discourses, including physics, neurophysiology, evolutionary biology, and, more recently, cognitive science. (Brassier 2007: 3)
At Batroun, what is the nature of the improvisatory encounter between composer-performer and the unknown house? The manifest image in sonic discourse usually assumes a transcendental “voluntarist” position, that of an artist exerting “an act of will exercised by a self” (Brassier 2013: 1). This composer-performer subject is said to be the originating logos for the work, a self that masters materials, acting and exercising sovereign intentions. But I don’t think that adequately captures what is really going on. In contrast, what we might call a “scientific image” of the sonic would engage the material conditions that generate improvisation, listening and its organization by composition. More specifically, I suggest an image that is grounded in the biopsychosocial paradigm.
1.3 A Biopsychosocial Approach
Hearing crucially places and orients us in a world. Event detection, self-alignment, motion and hearing share somatic lineages with other vertebrates, co-evolving with pre-human ancestral soundscapes (Fay and Popper 2000; de Cheveigné 2006; Meschiari 2009; Shellard et al. 2010). The ear deals with the invisible and the remote, as the complement of vision. Over evolutionary time the auditory decoupled from motor systems through the interposition of flexible cognitions that refined responses to sound through thinking and emotion (Habibi and Damasio 2014). As specifically social and linguistic primates, our embodied minds evolved to cope not only with hostile forces in nature, but also with co- operative, competitive and deceitful others (Alexander 1989; Fonagy, Gergely, Jurist and Target 2002). The ear, the mind and the socio-political interpenetrate. (Bhunnoo 2018: 43)
Music, as possibly the most complex of human activities, has a biological and evolutionary basis as well as being conditioned by a panoply of social, political, cultural, historical, psychological and social processes (Weinberger 2004; Koelsch 2013). The biopsychosocial paradigm understands multi-factorial aetiology as combined networks of interactions that contribute to an end-state (such as listening or making music). It offers an integrative and extensible scientific paradigm through systems interactions between three mutually determining organizational levels: the biological, the psychological, and the social (Engel 1977; Borrell-Carrió, Suchman and Epstein 2004). Scientific methods relevant to the different domains establish mechanisms of interaction and directions of causation. The psychological and social domains are not de facto assumed to be epiphenomena reducible to biological correlates, although phenomena are best understood at the lowest level of natural systems (e.g. the nervous system or cultural). In this view, sound works, listeners, composers, and audiences all arise as emergent functions and effects of complex biopsychosocial processes.
Listening emerges from a network of modular systems with differing evolutionary trajectories that entangled during the history of a number of species. These systems are integrated with those of other senses in order to produce a good-enough coherent image of a world and (for humans and perhaps for some other creatures) of a self in that world. Listening and its organization by improvisational or compositional practices are material systems which are decomposable. As an example, let’s consider the notion of freedom in improvisations such as those afforded by the Batroun art space.
At the level of neurophysiological systems, listening automatically sets up involuntary impulses towards actions well before any “subject” is aware of making conscious decisions. It is a question of how those impulses are gated by (primarily) frontal cortical executive networks. Some impulses pass through and manifest as actions, while others are suppressed. This has been referred to as “free won’t” (Libet, Gleason, Wright and Pearl 1983; Freeman, Libet and Sutherland 1999). There is clear neurobiological evidence that conscious decisions may be better understood as on-the-fly post-hoc rationalizations, with determining neural correlates already underway significantly before any decision is evident to a “subject.” Put another way, triggered by environmental contingencies (imagine a sudden loud sound behind your head), the impetus towards action arises from subpersonal processes (at the level of mid-brain) that are automatic, primarily reflexive, enactive, and affectively conditioned. Coupled with a signaling world, they operate largely “bottom-up” but can be modulated by “top-down” executive networks. Improvisation then is not so much an act of voluntarist free will by a subject transcendent to the world. Rather it is closer to Norbert Weiner's “cybernetic image” of a steersman, governor, pilot, or rudder (κυβερνήτης/kubernḗtēs), channeling power at the helm of a ship (Weiner 1950).
This clearly presents a challenge to the voluntarist notion of the artist subject. Rather, we are dealing with something a great deal more entangled, more systemic and ecological, more to do with what French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1987) have called the “machinic phylum,” where humans that think and feel from bodies are engaged with a material, affectively stimulating, and constantly signaling world. This points to a composer-performer subject that is (at the least) decentered. Thinking improvisation in general, such a position of distributed agency is well described in relation to the guitarist and improvisor Keith Rowe.
There is air between the objects, tensile space fraught with meaning between the performer and the items on the table. Conscious of all this, he tries to imagine introducing a sound which will only change the ambience slightly, though perhaps crucially. He has no idea what he will do, even as his hands descend towards the table, through the laminar of sights, smells, sounds, thoughts. (Olewnick 2018: 7)
While the improvisor holds certain things in mind (denoting here a kind of floating intentionality open to possibilities for action), this mind is not transcendentally determinate, but emergent and enactive. The hand moving towards the table couples the agentive performer with equipment, an assemblage is activated, a system of interacting, iterating and heterogenous processes. From the agent’s perspective, this sounding proceeds from what I call a “not-knowing” stance (Bhunnoo 2018: 30). It remains largely unsaturated with any specific desires or intentions and is iteratively permeable to what will happen in the sounding and the broad contexts in which it is embedded. Indeed, from such a de-subjectified systems approach, the improvisor is simply one of many control nodes within a network of ramified mediations and determinations. Such a network model is also evident in Rowe’s description of the extended Room in which improvisation is happening. It diffuses the scope and conceptual apparatus potentially relevant for sonic actions.
I can visualise The Room quite well. I know that the walls, though they are dark, a 'Rothkoesque' brown colour, are in fact transparent and that you can go through … so currently the whole conflict in the Middle East would be part of The Room. When you are in The Room playing, performing, making a noise, what ever it is you are doing … what's in that 'room' with you is the whole issue of Iraq, the whole issue of poverty in the world, unfair water distribution across the world. Part of The Room also is the activity of someone sitting in front of a canvas making their work. It's that part of history … The composer sitting at the table, someone writing a poem. (Keith Rowe in Olewnick 2018: 7)
In biopsychosocial terms, “The Room” engaged at Batroun Concrète is a ramified network of connected and variegated materials that include the sensing, cognate, and affective body-mind of the composer-performer (as a complex biopsychosocial system) situated in a series of rooms at Batroun (with their bric-a-brac and acoustic properties), the conceptual boundaries of which are associatively and mnemonically transparent to the wide array of nested contexts and constructs that make up notions such as musicking, sonic discourse, residency, seaside, concrete, dereliction, decay, art, the decline of maqam music in Lebanon, the colonial history of the Middle-East, Islamism, the escalating war in Syria, superpowers, oil … ad infinitum. Much like Kim-Cohen's (2009) call for a non-cochlear sound art, this systems approach does useful work in expanding the conceptual scope of compositional action, but it also presents a potentially overwhelming and over-stimulating world to the finitude of the human composer. This brings us to another of the questions that arose during the residency. Given the potentially immense scope, how might these interactions with the space (“The Room”) be structured?
A compositional perspective requires a way to instrumentalize and harness these interconnections. The score came about as a tool to think through these issues and to communicate to other performer-agents in order to retain openness and conceptual permeability while also constraining performances with some clarity of purpose. While the triptych On the Admissibility of Sound as Music and Art was targeted at the more psychological and social domains of composition (specifically the rich Zellige of Islamic cultures), the derelict house at Batroun was relatively bereft of such specific cultural references, its skeletal architecture suggesting something more structural, highlighting the machine more than any ghosts that might be said to reside in it. My focus shifted towards the biological domain of organization, and I considered the underlaying biological scripts, the enactive grammars that organized my physical interactions with Batroun. I shall come back to this idea in a while in section 2.3.
A third question arising from Batroun was what to do with the recordings of the sonic traces that enaction with the environment (conceived as the kind of ramified associations that are evident in “The Room”) had left behind. If these traces are subsequently manipulated and re-presented over loudspeakers, divorced from their provenance, is there a relation with what Andy Hamilton (2007) calls the “acousmatic thesis”? Does this become a “listening without seeing” subject to the considerations widely theorized by the inheritors of the Schaefferian traditions, where we might bracket out their associations and allegedly hear them “in-themselves”? Where sound objects are necessarily organized by their characteristic features according to some signific order?
1.4 The Post-acousmatic Situation and the Not-knowing Stance
Batroun Concrète is a post-acousmatic work. There are several reasons for this claim, which the encounter at Batroun urged me to articulate. The first is a recuperation of the term “acousmatic,” not as a division between seeing and hearing, but as an exploratory epistemic tool. The second relates to acousmatic sound as semiotic sign confined by linguistic considerations and the allegedly special endowment of the human symbolic order. The third reason is a more general critique of the narrowness of the acousmatic genre. My position is that rejecting the confines of the acousmatic thesis moves us towards what a biopsychosocial materialism in composition might be.
The recorded sounds used in Batroun Concrète have not undergone the sophisticated computational analyses, transformations, and spatialization of source files of the kind used extensively in the triptych and which now characterize much acousmatic music. There is a return to the apparent simplicity of montage and editing techniques used in early musique concrète. At face value, the work has a phonographic materialistic approach consistent with the documentation style of much improvised and site-specific performances that do not claim to be “post” anything. What we are left to hear in the interleaved electroacoustic parts are unseen sources. Is this not then acousmatic?
While the term “acousmatic” can be taken to mean merely “listening without seeing,” this masks some major difficulties that, while they may initially seem theoretical, have implications for practice. Due to the pragmatic constraints of space, I will give only an overview of these issues here, as I have discussed them in detail elsewhere (see Bhunnoo 2018), as have other writers, such as Jonathan Sterne (2003).
The Schaefferian acousmatic situation emphasizes phenomenological reception and the privileging of listening without seeing (Schaeffer 1980: 9; Chion 1994). This was certainly emancipatory, allowing all recorded sound into the ambit of composition, and is an approach that continues to have traction (Adkins 2007; Malec 2011). I have no objection to this per se. The problem is with the way in which the Schaefferian project has come to discipline practice. This was evident early on in his exchanges with the composer Xenakis.
[W]ithout a phenomenology, and without the distinction that Xenakis has never been able to establish between sign and signal, there is no means whatsoever of warding off dreamers who wish to invent combinations of parameters without concern for characteristic features. (Schaeffer 1970: 75)
Schaeffer reproaches an unconstrained dreaming on two grounds. It reaches beyond the (supposed) phenomenological limits of listening, and it does not respect semiological codes. While critiques of Schaefferianism are amply rehearsed in the literature, I need to revisit some key points here, as I want to emphasis a continuity of compositional thinking between the improvisations and treatment of recordings in Batroun Concrète 2.1 - 2.9: the not-knowing stance.
For Schaeffer “reduced listening” and the “sound object” are mutually dependent. Fatally indebted to Husserlian phenomenology, they define one another as perceptual activity and object of perception, claiming sound ontologically as an intentional object, an “objective datum” of the sound-in-itself in its subject-givenness (Held 2003; Connor 2015). Brian Kane has convincingly charged Schaeffer with being unable to properly attend to the relationship between techne and physis, technique and nature, by which the sound object is produced through technologies and techniques of listening (Kane 2014). Historicizing the much-discussed origins in antiquity, he reveals it as a myth used by Schaeffer to transform the loudspeaker array into a Pythagorean veil, thus obscuring the role of techne in the process. By detaching listening from seeing, the material trace inscribed into vinyl (Schaeffer 2012 ) from the condition of its making, Schaeffer reifies and aestheticizes the sound object as a synthetic act of consciousness by a transcendentally ideal listener.
Kane recuperates the term “acousmatic” via Jean-Luc Nancy, wresting it from the phenomenological baggage (Nancy 2007; Kane 2014). Whereas Schaefferian entendre-as-intention structurally requires an ego, a subject:
Nancy selects écouter as the axis for his interrogation of listening because of his sensitivity to the etymology and implications of the verb entendre. (Kane 2014: 128)
Kane demonstrates that many sounds (like the Moodus Cave noises in Connecticut that open his book Sound Unseen)
are neither heard primarily as aesthetic objects, nor capable of being made intelligible in aesthetic terms. (Kane 2014: 6)
The dynamic of acousmatic sound, he argues, is not a division between the senses nor even about seeing and hearing. It is fundamentally epistemological in nature, primarily about knowledge, certainty, and uncertainty.
While I accept that there is an established convention of taking the term “acousmatic” as a separation between vision and audition, extending from Kane’s critique, I refer to the post-acousmatic, which is not a phenomenological reduction, but rather an epistemic tool, suggesting a “not-knowing” stance that, as was apparent in my account of improvisation, geometrically links objects and subjects. This shifts compositional focus away from aesthetic manipulations of sound stems excised from their contexts and towards an exploratory emphasis, which (much like Rowe’s “The Room”) is highly associative and conceptually inflected. It investigates what sounding can do, how it can be deployed in its full associative richness.
Of course, one might counter this by observing that, within some later acousmatic traditions, this sound separated from its source as intentional object was subsequently sidestepped while preserving attention to the pertinent, salient marks of spectromorphologies, space-forms, and semiotic behavioral networks, articulated compositionally through auditive experience (Chion 1983; Chion 1994; Delalande 1995; Smalley 1996; Delalande 1998; Smalley 2007). The acousmatic tradition diversified, constructing interrelated signs and actants, often drawing upon poststructuralist semiotics (Emmerson 1986).
While we might then successfully exit the “phenomenological cul-de-sac” (Kim-Cohen 2009: xix) and usefully erode the music/sound-art boundary by expanding the admissibility of a variety of practices and orientations by disqualifying Schaefferian sounds-in-themselves, the risk is that sounds become signs in networks of experiential meaning, entering into the sphere of and becoming trapped by language.
To treat sounds as only indexing semiotic networks which are essentially linguistic falls foul of another set of problems,
the idealism and humanism that have characterized philosophy and cultural theory since the ‘linguistic turn’. (Cox 2011: 146)
Advocating a philosophy of sonic materialism, Christoph Cox observes that sound theory has adhered to broadly linguistic tropes.
Culture is construed as a field or system of signs that operate in complex relations of referral to other signs, subjects, and objects. [...] it treats human symbolic interaction as a unique and privileged endowment from which the rest of nature is excluded. It thus accords with the deep-seated metaphysics and theology it aims to challenge, joining Platonism, Christianity, and Kantianism in maintaining that, by virtue of some special endowment (soul, spirit, mind, reason, language, etc.), human beings inhabit a privileged ontological position elevated above the natural world. (Cox 2011: 146-147)
In the aftermath of developments now labelled variously as speculative realism, object-oriented philosophy, or accelerationism, such tropes, however valuable and recursively self-aware they may be on their own terms, only ever make sound in their own image, granting no access to an outside of the discursive realm. A problem with “The Room,” and specifically the rooms of Batroun, is that it was easy to be captured by this discursive realm of linguisticity. The piece, being site-specific after all, could easily sonically index locality through accented voices, Arabic and regional experimental musics, references to the war-to-come, or local soundscapes. Whatever arose from Batroun, it needed to do
something more than the provocation of moments of alienation or evanescent sentiments of liberation. (Mackay, Pendrell and Trafford 2014: 6)
The clue was in the skeletal emptiness and visual deception of the site itself. I decided to investigate the site without recourse to the discursive sociocultural associations that I had used in the triptych. I was not going to construct a deceitful narrative of place through indices of locale that I might imagine but were not there. Sonically, the house at Batroun, in its derelict state, was strikingly devoid of any such sounds. Rather, it was the analogy of the body of the house and my own body that became the focus.
Adopting a not-knowing stance through improvisations was a way to find what my body-mind coupled with Batroun could do. The subsequent treatment of the recorded files and their assembly into the five electroacoustic parts adopted a similarly not-knowing post-acousmatic stance. I have already mentioned that the score pairs live performances with electroacoustic parts. What the score suggests is that the members of each pairing share a possible enactive grammar, affording an exploration of body-related cognitive schemas (this will be discussed in more detail shortly) of deeply embedded psychoneural templates. For example, the source-path-goal schema constructs a trajectory, a movement from source location to a final destination. The electroacoustic part, derived from my encounters, provides only one speculative solution. The corresponding performance encourages the performer-agent to explore possible ways of structuring sounding using the same schema in the space.
Before discussing the assemblage of Batroun Concrète 2.1 - 2.9, there is a final point regarding “the established canonical discourse” and the notion of the post-acousmatic that is relevant to understanding my approach (Adkins, Scott and Tremblay 2016: 106). This is a question of stance in regards to genre conventions. The term “acousmatic” has come to be a cultural code for
a paradigmatic practice that has extended beyond mere listening to include social organisation, ways of thinking and the meta-levels of organisation that go into the construction, organisation and maintenance of a genre and its attendant institutions and communities of practice. (Adkins et al. 2016: 107)
I confess to having little interest in much of this paradigmatic practice and view its “over-formulaic approach to gesture, pacing and mood” deadening (Prix Ars Electronica, 1997, after Adkins et al. 2016: 108). However, I must also acknowledge my indebtedness to the traditions and debates initiated by Schaeffer.
The post-acousmatic emerges from some significant sense of relationship to the acousmatic. We consider it useful here to think of multiple trajectories of musical practice arising from the acousmatic rather than linear generic development or postmodern collage. This inevitably involves recognition of the limitations and relative narrowness of acousmatic music in the face of varied and complex contemporary musical practice [...] a clutch of interrelated augmentations of acousmatic practice, some of which may express contradiction and critique of acousmatic practice, can be discussed. There is no real need to unify them beyond their genetic relation to the acousmatic, or to establish a common aesthetic artificially, a community or indeed a post-acousmatic genre. Therefore, the post-acousmatic defines a group of practices in relation to the acousmatic rather than a specific paradigmatic practice in itself, and the apposition of the ‘Post-’ prefix, by opposition to a completely new word, is an open and clear acknowledgment of the common parenthood and strong positive influence of (at least) the first three decades or so of the acousmatic genre within these burgeoning new musical proposals. (Adkins et al. 2016: 111)
Batroun Concrète and its negative relation to the series On the Admissibility of Sound as Music and Art were important contrasting modes of sonic thinking through which I was able to reground my way of thinking sound.
If we consider again the conceptual associations of “The Room,” the not-knowing stance where composition might be experimentally concerned with generating new epistemic things and the highly variegated stuff that contributes to complex biopsychosocial systems dynamics, composition becomes a kind of heterogeneous engineering. Composition, with its sociobiological roots in group affect regulation and sociality, becomes a question of engineering assemblages.
Similar to actor-network theory and some strands of object-oriented philosophy, assemblage theory understands social entities as agentive actants, technosocial processes (themselves comprised of a variety of subsystems and mediations) that can exert a cohesive effect as a unity. Georgina Born’s study of the jazz assemblage (Born 2005) and her book on IRCAM and computer music is one example. The social is actualized by assemblage, by networks of mediating elements. The term “assemblage” derives from cybernetic and systems thinking and is used extensively by Deleuzians (Weinbaum 2015). While it carries resonance with words such as “collage” or “collection,” meaning to group items or elements together, assemblage implies more than fortuitous bricolage. It has been developed by the materialist historian Manuel DeLanda to think about social complexity, particularly in regards to asserting the autonomy of social entities (DeLanda 2006). In assemblage, entities come into contingent relations rather than forming parts out of necessity. It is a
sort of anti-structural concept that permits the researcher to speak of emergence, heterogeneity, the decentred and the ephemeral in nonetheless ordered social life. (Marcus and Saka 2006: 101)