The Deconstruction of Dolls: how Carnal Assemblages
can disrupt the law from within in Ghost in the Shell: Innocence

Emilie Dionne
York University, Toronto

[1] The imagery of the doll as an idealized version of femininity has informed numerous science fiction tales. The concepts of "woman", "female" and "feminine" are often confined to the preconceived stereotypes that nourish the fantasies of individuals in patriarchal societies. In many cases, female characters are reduced to the role of mirrors that produce an image (ab)used by the male subjects who hope to achieve, modify, or augment their own subjectivity. Being forced into the role of a "supportive other" [i] implies that one is produced by the law. Yet, the work of Deleuze in Difference and Repetition and of Deleuze & Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus contributes to the modification of the visual and conceptual apparatuses we use daily to understand such realities, and the production of subjectivity. What I propose in this paper is to look at the figure of the dolls in Ghost in the Shell: Innocence (from now on, Innocence), in which female bodies intersect in unpredictable and uncanny ways. Inspired by Deleuze & Guattari's reading of Kafka, those ways, I argue, become meaningful when considering the dolls as a collective assemblage of enunciation. While there is no natural essence of "woman" or of the "feminine" women, like dolls. are produced by the law that enunciates how they are and act. The dolls can neither be individualized nor understood outside of the fantasy that has imagined them, but they can offer a site of transgression and of resistance to the law; they become the event of disruption. More importantly, as (and only as) a collective assemblage of enunciation, the dolls can evade the structures of the given law and produce a diffracted version of it. Thus, the image reflected back is always a little displaced, shifted, altered; and it is within this space that the possibility appears for a deterritorialization and reterritorialization of the law, the bodies it produces, and the subjectivity ascribed to such bodies.

[2] In Innocence, cyborgs have been modified into gynoids, which are created to satisfy men's sexual desires. These illegal sex-toys bizarrely revolt against the figures they are supposed to please. As they metamorphose into deadly hypnotic dancing machines, they also become inexplicably self-destructive in their desire to annihilate their master. Yet is it possible to speak of "destruction"? As a fantasy, the dolls are merely inhabited to be consumed and destroyed; they embody the impossibility of being freed while remaining what they are. The dolls are immersed and confined in a realm that defines what it means to be a "feminized toy". In the film, all attempts to resist this oppression fail; they cannot access the outside of the fantasy that created them without being destroyed (or, as I will argue, metamorphosed). Yet to assume the dolls' failure shows the incapacity of the law to explain what they are insofar as it structures our ways of knowing. I will show that this perspective (as well as the gender politics of the dolls) changes when using the concept of "collective assemblage of enunciation" to make sense of their political power of disruption.

[3] In this paper, I depart from the film Innocence yet I do not pretend to offer an insight into the film maker/creator's intentions. Sci-Fi tales offer hyperbolic and diffracted versions of political, social and cultural debates. In this reading, I argue that the dolls act as an illustration to re-think formations of subjectivity and political agency, which gives a clear(er) perspective of Deleuze & Guattari's challenges to the static law by exploring dynamic processes of de/re/territorialization.

Disrupting the law

[4] Before exploring more thoroughly why the dolls are a collective assemblage of enunciation and how they have a potential for resistance and evasion, I wish to clarify my usage of the concept of the law. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze proposes a shift in how we conceive of the world and of the subject. The law, he claims, focuses on generality instead of on universality. According to him, the generality of the particular corresponds to the elevation of one particular, equated with other "similar" particularities. A particular is placed at the level of resemblance. "Subjects", through this lens, are seen as—and more importantly are made—substitutable for one another. The generality of the particular active in the law imposes a vision of resemblance between sets of particularities and veils what differentiates them. Only if one changes the conceptual apparatuses that constitute one's vision and politics can these differences appear as singularities. The distinction between particularities and singularities is of utmost importance here. "Particularities" imply a form of substitution; words, objects, subjects are equated by what they have in common. On the other hand, "singularities" mean that those same words, objects and subjects cannot be easily interchanged or considered equivalent without the risk of losing something in the process. Violence is thus embedded in the process of the law that focuses solely on the similarities between subjects and uses such similarities as the basis for subjectivity. This process produces the subjects to which the law speaks.

[5] Deleuze recognizes that the law mistakes a difference in kind for a difference in degree: it is not a matter of "more or less", but rather of the multiplicity that always creates differences, each becoming a singularity, a mixture, a novel assemblage. To fully comprehend the concept of "assemblage" used by Deleuze and Guattari, let me first explain the distinction Deleuze makes in his work on bergsonism of the concept of multiplicity as a way of stepping out of the confining opposition of multiple/One. The multiplicity constantly invents new singularities, new differences. This can take place through a process called duration, that is, a process that traces the movement from the virtual to the actual and sets conditions of actualization that allow the event, the unpredictable, to happen, which is something the law fails to account for. Deleuze describes how duration (or multiplicity) is constantly, dynamically dividing itself. In this process, differences of kind are introduced, not to be mistaken with differences of degree. Duration changes (its) nature in the process of division and at each stage it creates indivisibles (Deleuze, 2007, 36). In other words, to divide is to perceive something else. In parallel, when considering the concept of assemblage, one can see that a new singularity is always other, a difference, but in kind and not in degree; it cannot be judged as equivalent or exchangeable; more so, it cannot be reduced to one of its element [ii]. This perception only emerges from the perspective of differentiation through exercises of repetitions, not from the law.

[6] In opposition to the law, the concept of repetition as put forth by Deleuze is introduced in respect to what cannot be exchanged or replaced. Repetition addresses the unique, the singular. Repetition is not resemblance. It can appear as extreme equivalence, but never is. Repetition always embodies a transgression of the law, since the law is entrenched in processes of nominalism and generality (Deleuze, 1994, 2-4). Yet the law will not cease to exist through exercises of repetition. As transgression, repetition imitates the law, hence disrupting it from the inside and revealing its contradictions. In the end, the law is not "abolished", but transformed. What this view strives for is to show the possibilities of transgression and of resistance to the law, and how to alter its content. It speaks to the being as becoming, a constant process of de/re/territorialization.

[7] For Deleuze and Guattari, the law creates fixed subjects, but those "subjects" do not exist per se. More precisely, the law is actually faced with collective assemblages of enunciation, which are characterized by practices of desire and repetition. The law forces individuals into fixed, "stable" categories of selfhood; but stability cannot contain their constant movement. Through exercises of repetitions, they can introduce differences in the pattern produced and so desired by the law, thereby embodying an event that will transform the law (Deleuze & Guattari, 1986, 36). The law cannot explain these new assemblages, because it is only concerned with representations, fixations and metaphors which refer to a fixed origin/al. The "collective assemblage of enunciation" is more akin to the dynamism between bodies, body parts, and the non-human. In this process, Deleuze & Guattari shift a focus from metaphor to metamorphosis [iii], that is, a shift from a representational conception of Truth to rhizomatic and dynamic conceptions of truths [iv]. Hence, instead of representation allowed by metaphor, they offer metamorphosis. Their revision of Kafka's writing speaks to this:

Kafka deliberately kills all metaphor, all symbolism, all signification, no less than all designation. Metamorphosis is the contrary of metaphor. There is no longer any proper sense or figurative sense, but only a distribution of states that is part of the range of the word. The thing and other things are no longer anything but intensities overrun by deterritorialized sound or words that are following their line of escape (22).

Re/territorialization and a desire for solidity inform how we act in the world, and more so, how philosophy is practised. Opposed to a focus on being, Deleuze and Guattari embrace the concept of becoming, or more specifically of the being as becoming. Yet becoming implies a continual movement from territorialization to deterritorialization and reterritorialization. Metamorphoses, contra metaphors, are not about substituting words for things, but about transfers and rhizomatic connections; language, as metaphorical and representational, aims at freezing/fixing realities, and it does so through semiotic dualisms and mutually exclusive categories. Yet this "fixing" can never be definitive.

[8] Let us now turn to Innocence. The doll, as automaton, can only perform the codes and functions programmed in her (being desirable, dancing) but I argue that the repetition produces a diffracted pattern: it becomes a deadly blow. It is a repetition that introduces a difference; it contaminates. As such, it needs the system and acts from the inside.

Ghost in the Shell: Innocence

Fig. 1: cover of the DVD set
[9] Made in 2004, Innocence is the sequel of the 1995 Japanese animation Ghost in the Shell (Fig.1). The film takes place in a futurist Japan where human beings are routinely modified by android components. Because they possess a ghost, a human consciousness, these modified humans are referred to as cyborgs and are granted a higher status than androids. However, the ubiquitous enmeshing of the human and the technological has given rise to the illegal activity of "ghost-hacking" and "ghost-dubbing". Batou, the main protagonist of the film, and his partner Togusa are detectives investigating the strange cases of gynoids, an illegal brand of androids designed as female sex-toys (Fig.2) that have inexplicably murdered their "masters", despite being programmed to protect human lives at all costs.

Fig. 2: Gynoid
[10] Throughout their investigation, the two protagonists are repetitively the targets of "ghost-hacking" attacks. Such hackers manipulate the cybernetic components of a person's body or brain thus blurring the boundaries between cyborgs, androids, and humans. The detectives eventually access the secret location of the traffickers. But the discovery Batou makes is unexpected. Far from being manufactured as erotic killer toys, the gynoids have been enhanced by a process of "ghost-dubbing" which involves the imprisonment of young girls into womb-like machines in order to create a more realistic and highly desirable gynoid doll. This form of futurist child-prostitution is fatal for the young kidnapped girls, which, copying their "ghost", drains them of vital energy and transforms them into untimely objects of consumption.

Fig. 3: Gynoid army, deactivated
[11] Batou and Togusa further discover that the "defective" dolls had intentionally been altered by two kidnapped girls to cause malfunctioning. "If the dolls were defective", explains the last remaining girl, "someone would come to save us", a declaration that, far from satisfying Batou, infuriates him. From all sides, he claims, the dolls have been abused and subjected to the never-ending desires of others. One can only make sense of Batou's claim by embracing his conception of the body. The "empty shells" called dolls (Fig.3) are not mere prosthetic devices or machines that enhance or limit one's abilities; they act, intervene, affect.

Fig. 4: Flying Gynoid, attacking Batou
[12] The discovery of the girls brings closure to the case, but Batou still has unanswered questions. There is something that both illegal traffickers and the girls forgot when infecting the dolls, that is, the dolls themselves. As the film climaxes, these dolls inexplicably come to life, violently marching to exterminate those who try to deactivate them. In a last attempt toward unreachable freedom, nobody can explain what they are, why they seemingly move of their own free-will, and why they cannot be stopped. Deprived of a voice, they were created to mimic as perfectly as possible a human condition they would never attain. And as the computerized system that feeds them is infiltrated and brought down by Batou and his accomplices, the dolls are robbed, once again, of their lives and brought back to a state of inertia.

Being Doll, Being Human

Fig. 5: Gynoid committing suicide
[13] In this section, I wish to offer a visual description of the dolls as collective assemblage of enunciation. In the opening scene, the spectator witnesses the discovery of murdered bodies through the cybernetic eyes of Batou. Among puddles of blood and the remains of human parts and flesh, an inert doll appears in a halo of shimmering light (Fig.4): her body is akin to white porcelain, draped in a colourful dress that reveals her soft skin, and her face is painted as a geisha. She is a tableau vivant, a surreal piece of art. When Batou sees her, she awakes from her inertia, embodied by a yet inexplicable energy. Batou observes her body rise as if pulled by invisible strings. It now seems perfume fills the air and music sweats from her flesh. She moves as she has been programmed to: she dances and swirls, she hypnotizes and seduces. But her dance is not innocent; it is meant to paralyse her prey. However, Batou is not fooled by her tricks. She cannot win against him and she retreats to the corner of the room where she begins to tear apart her synthetic skin and titanized bones. Ready to commit suicide she repeatedly whispers (Fig.5): "help me" when she is stopped by Batou who shoots her.

Fig. 6: Deactivated Gynoid
[14] Later, Batou and Togusa visit forensic cyborg doctor Haraway[v] whose task is to explain the malfunctions of the dolls. She reproaches Batou for firing his gun since, she reminds him, the doll was about to kill herself, a claim that offends Togusa: how could an android, devoid of a (human) ghost, kill itself? To this, Haraway replies that the distinction between dolls and humans may not be as clear as assumed. Dolls, she explains, are very much like children, not inert matter. Children, she says, are not exactly humans even though they resemble us. When children play with dolls, they do not merely imitate human adults nor do they pretend that the doll is a human baby: "The dolls that little girls mother are not surrogates for real babies", explains Haraway to Batou and Togusa, "Little girls aren't so much imitating child rearing, as they are experiencing something deeply akin to child rearing" (Innocence). In other words, the distinction/categorization between play and reality is blurred; the doll is a baby, the baby of the child as raw matter, inasmuch as the child itself is in the process of becoming human. Dolls, as children, are made into imitations of humans, to which we teach how to be and to act, how to become humans. Yet the doll will never attain a complete development since it has no ghost, the "thing" that could grant it a different status. It imitates humans yet is deprived of a voice. Like children, someone else speaks through their mouth, and if the dolls do pronounce words, they are already deprived of their possibility to speak. Togusa, a father himself, is horrified by the doctor's description and categorically refuses to picture children as dolls. But Haraway's claim goes beyond this: the categorical distinction between dolls and humans is illusory, yet we act as if it was reality (Fig 6.).

Becoming Dolls: Who Speaks through those Lips?

[15] In this section, my aim is to reconsider the politics surrounding the production of bodies and use the Sci-Fi tale to clarify how this process takes place. In Innocence, the dolls first appear as objects deprived of a (divine) breath. Yet the parallel I present will shed a different light on these creatures. On one hand, the production of gynoids as sexual objects reinforces what is expected of women, in terms of aesthetics, gestures, social and sexual roles. Gynoids as dolls are similar to the popular doll Barbie: trapped under heavy makeup, her face is immortalized in a smile that veils a now emptied shell and the scars that have produced her posture and facial expression. According to Braidotti, Barbie (as well as other female creatures such as Hadaly or Pandora) epitomizes perfection and beauty; she is a highly eroticized doll although she is deprived of (control over her) sexual organs (220) [vi]. As tableaux vivants (explicit in the illustrations provided, the gynoids are modelled after Japanese geishas), the imagery of the dolls recall Sacher-Masoch's Venus in which women are idealized as cold statues and immortal goddesses. The corporeal/actual female bodies can only trigger attraction and desires when transformed into frozen, lifeless creatures (1991, 53). Real women's bodies are imperfect, prone to leakage, uncertainty, and irregularity, but their objectification arouses desires that are fantasized into ideals by male subjects and/or female others [vii].

[16] In the making of female bodies and/or of dolls, the body is constantly (re)presented as a limitation on the "infinite" potentialities of the mind and devalued as such. Here, materiality acts as a confinement and is never conceptualized in terms of actualization and virtualization. Such a conception allows one to see that "body" and "mind" are constantly intertwined in processes of sharing and are mutually influencing, contaminating, and changing one's subjectivity. They operate on different layers of consciousness. Seeing and conceptualizing bodies and materiality in terms of possibilities that are limited by real conditions tends to perpetuate a framework of experience embedded in the law, in static representation. Yet one cannot understand subject formation by only staring at the law, which is fixed. What Deleuze and Guattari do through their usage of "virtual/actual", "collective assemblage of enunciation" as well as "difference/repetition" is to shift our focus away from sameness and being and shed light on the dynamism of things and their relations and the constant becoming that characterizes human existence.

[17] Looking at the world in terms of what is real and what was possible addresses the past in terms of failures and successes, not as productive errors and processes of desire that constantly move and shift. According to Elizabeth Grosz, the concepts of "actual" and "virtual" speak to mutual existence (past/present/future). Both are real, the virtual being latent in the actual (2004, 183). When thinking in terms of the conditions of realization instead of actualization, one sees the real as the given and not the made; on the other hand, actualization implies processes of creativity, of contingency, of active interaction (189). It is a process through which the event, the unexpected and unpredictable, happens, hence provoking deterritorialization as a challenge to the law, and reterritorialization, the incorporation of the event in the (new) law. Similarly, for Deleuze and Guattari, the mind has never been a site of infinite possibilities limited by material conditions; rather, the concept "mind" refers to specific forms of embodiment and a different assemblage of body parts, affects, prosthetics (1980, 200).

[18] Along with the misunderstanding of the mind (conceived as disembodied, unaffected by body, body parts, environment) comes the belief that language and speech are the preconditions of one's subjectivity instead of modes of articulation, among others. According to Donna Haraway, "modes of articulation" refer to the signifying capacities of various discursive modes, including language, motion, dances, and bodies/embodiment.(2004, 105). To illustrate, in Innocence, one can witness that when the doll speaks, when she tries to signify, she lets herself be possessed by another, and is subjected to ventriloquism. Speech is still the precondition of subjectivity in Innocence and, following psychoanalysis, it is also our ability to speak that informs how we enter intelligibly into relationality with others [viii]. Yet speech, for Deleuze & Guattari, is more than a precondition; it produces subjectivity insofar as language as a set of grammatical rules and words functions in terms of orders and obligations to which one responds and obeys (1980, 95-97). Subjects need to speak to be understood, to acquire an identity which is produced at the same time as it is recognized. Yet, if this regime of signs posits itself as the only narrative, it fails to see how other modes of articulation are also at play in the formation of subjectivity. In a similar fashion, as suggested by Batou, the doll may not want to speak, as if already aware that "speech" as a form of articulation embedded in repetition and representation implies letting an other recognize oneself as something of specific intelligibility. Even if "I" speak the words, they already escape me; the listener—the law, or the regime of signs—has injected meaning into the words before "I" pronounce them. Therefore, as they are enunciated, they are already out of reach for the doll's subjectivity. Their desire might operate differently, and elsewhere.

[19] Because the doll has no voice of her own, she is depicted as an empty shell that merely awaits the inscribing practices that will inhabit and mould her. Yet a Deleuzo-Guattarian reading will offer a competing interpretation.

Dolls as Bodies with Organs

[20] Bodies, like dolls, are embedded in a world of meaning that pre-exists them; as such, they are the site of various inscribing practices. Like the doll designed for specific purposes, Braidotti argues that: "[t]he process of becoming-subject requires sets of cultural mediation; the subject has to deal with material and semiotic conditions, that is to say institutional sets of rules and regulations as well as the forms of cultural representation that sustain them" (21). If the body is conceived as a machine, notably through the fragmentation of bodies as a set of organs, how is one to counter the discipline that marks the body as an object to be improved upon or refined to perform specific functions? Yet the discipline need not be directly enforced on the materiality of bodies; discursive practices can suffice. As Margrit Shildrick argues, the act of representing bodies conceptualizes and materializes them. Different discourses on the bodies of men and women produce different forms of embodiment and understanding of oneself. The "pure body" is an abstraction that (mis)informs conceptions of the body and mediates our knowledge of bodies and their materiality (Shildrick, 14).

[21] Desires to know the body, explains Shildrick, allow new forms of violence to take place. Practices of knowledge are situated in the world and have direct, concrete, material consequences. Hence, by developing a discourse of normalization and perfection of bodies through processes of classification, modes of exclusion are created because bodies are made intelligible by marking them with degrees of pathology and disability in relation to the norm. Simultaneously, this production of knowledge makes bodies more manageable. When bodies are made intelligible by discourses that are performed by a culture of technicians and factoricians, bodies become docile, evaluated solely in terms of their utility and thus subjected to manipulation, (com)modification, and discipline (Shildrick, 48).

[22] The dolls in Innocence have been (com)modified to become sexual toys; as such, their bodies are limited in certain ways and enhanced in others. Bodies are seen through the lens of their functionality, broken down into sets of apparatuses, organs, and objects, and reassembled to fit the categories that define them. Organs are organized, connections of functionality are made between them that limits the flux of desire (Deleuze & Guattari, 1980, 198). This process is two-fold: a focus on organs and fragmented bodies increases and accelerates the instrumentalization of bodies since they can be reduced to the organs made most visible. The body as a set of organs, following Foucault, can be more easily controlled (160). As machines that have a specific sexual utility the dolls in Innocence are being taught how to be the objects of desire. The entire existence and identity of the doll resides in the male-based sexual fantasy that has designed it [ix]. Similarly, the body as a set of organs is more than a docile object; it is also a disposable one. As Jane Bennett argues, in highly materialistic societies objects rapidly escape the range of durability to enter cycles of production and junkization; organs become disposable just as do bodies themselves when they become sex-toys to fit the images that inform "male-based" fantasies in psychoanalytical and consumerist-capitalist terms (2004, 351).

[23] And yet, the politics of informatics that informs scientific, philosophical and fictional narratives, tends to increase a conception of subjectivity that is both deterritorialized and dematerialized (Hayles, 192-3). Such hegemonic gender-biased ideology veils the very material process of creation of disembodied and virtual sites; it denies bodies and embodiment as well as intercorporeality, that is, the various ways in which our bodies are made vulnerable and affect other bodies (e.g., workers and makers of new technologies and prosthetic devices). This is a recurrent problem that informs too much how bodies and their intersection with technologies are conceptualized. There is a price that comes with "high tech". "The prosthetic's promises of perfectibility" suggests (and highlights) new forms of vulnerability [x] (Braidotti,19). As seen in Innocence, enhanced technological abilities may make one stronger and live longer, but they simultaneously make one more vulnerable to new forms of violent attacks and more dependent upon these now-essential prostheses for survival (Brown, 225). For Hayles, thinking that youth and beauty is almost at reach through organ replacement, plastic surgery and technological advancements, has much to do with a problematic conception of the (fixed) body. It ignores the processes of embodiment that leak and contaminate so-called mutually exclusive entities (Hayles, 1999), as well as intercorporeality (Shildrick, 2009).

[24] By shifting a focus from the body as fixed to the dynamism of embodiment, one can now take into consideration the contextual aspects that foster various cultural/social constructions of the body. The experience of embodiment is always intertwined with how discourses produce bodies. Embodiment constitutes a mixture of performativity and improvisation that depends upon the forms of articulation that imitate (or respond) to different environments. What the concept of embodiment shows is that bodies are dynamic entities, and that the discursive practices that operate by classifying bodies are more than mere words applied on a "blank slate". These practices produce real, concrete, material ways of being, living, acting. They are materialized in the very body but often in unpredictable and sometimes dangerous ways.

[25] As stated earlier, due to a desire to know, the categorization of bodies in relation to the norm produces pathologies and disabilities; this production is active insofar as knowledge is embedded in the world and has a direct impact on how one experiences their body. Braidotti has explored the western cultural fascination for freaks and monsters embedded in discourses of normality versus the pathological. Such fascination, she claims, actually reinforces a discourse couched in terms of purity. In other words, "freaks" are necessary to the hegemonic metaphor to trace binary, uncontaminated categories of the "pure and healthy" versus the "hybrid/impure and ill" (Braidotti, 176, 180). Furthermore, conceptualization of the other as monster, as freak, as cyborg, represents a devaluing of difference that accompanies the praise of sameness embodied in the norm. Monstrous bodies can be marketed, consumed and/or destroyed. The material and discursive consumption of these bodies (e.g.: in circuses, documentaries, movies, advertising, video games, trials, reality shows, and so on) implies inscribing and incorporating practices (discourses about the bodies and modification of the experience of embodiment, respectively). This is due to the inextricability of "embodied memory", which corresponds to a set of processes, of aptitudes, of scars, that mark the body. Embodied memory remains at an unconscious level, yet it fuels how one acts and learns (Hayles, 198).

[26] Hence, the body is an apparatus of bodily production, which can read and access various forms of articulations, all of which allow different productions of knowledge (or affect it). Yet, those who do not have access to speech (or specific forms of speech) are devalued and made invisible or silenced. To illustrate, in Innocence, the dolls as mere objects apparently have no say on what they are; as programmed entities they automatically act in the world that pre-exists and fabricates them. As sexual objects subjected to the fantasies of their masters, the dolls are not only reproducing narratives inscribed in their brains; the bodies also adapt in context. Yet this type of "agency" is limited. Any evasion or slippage is punished. In certain circumstances, the defective dolls will be reincorporated into the system. Otherwise, they will be deactivated and destroyed. As inappropriate/d others, they are transformed into monstrous creatures outside the norm.

Fig. 7-8. Hans Bellmer’s dolls and art. The right illustration is the cover of his book The Doll. London: Atlas Press, 2006, trans. M.Green. See also Peter Webb & Robert Short, Death, Desire and the Doll: The Life and Art of Hans Bellmer.

[27] Following Braidotti, freaks, monsters and cyborgs fall in between categories; they resist or are pushed aside. In the latter case they are marginalized and excluded. In the former case, however, their position can serve as a site of resistance and of transgression by embracing the forced metaphor and metamorphosing it into a social critique and political contestation of their very categorization.

(Im)pure Bodies: Dolls as Grotesque Masquerade

Figure 9: Batou discovers Bellmer's book in the library of one of the victims.
[28] The German artist Hans Bellmer (Fig.7-8) played an important role in creating the aesthetics of the dolls for Innocence as displayed in the illustrations, yet this reading can be furthered by considering the politics informing the artwork (Fig.9). As the artist acknowledged, his dolls are produced by masculine fantasies of the female body yet they are turned inside out, offering a diffracted pattern of how those fantasies operate (Brown, 235). The female body is here metamorphosed into a distorted body with organs that are both abject and non-functional. As abject female bodies, Bellmer invented dolls that embody eroticized and perverted ideals of beauty and of innocence usually surrounding the fantasy doll:

Bellmer's practice of reconfiguring the doll in grotesque ways, including doubling and multiplying sections of the doll to create what he acknowledged were "monstrous" additions—"a second pair of legs and arms, another torso with four breasts," and so forth—pushed the limits of what might be construed as human through a grammar of infinite combination and recombination (Brown, 236).

The grotesque dolls, Bellmer explained, are twisted, convulsing and repulsing bodies. By a reverted mirror trick, he made visible the objectification of the female body. He managed to push the limit of the metaphor through which a body is made into a set of (coherent) organs to show how manufactured bodies, far from corresponding to ideals of beauty, of femininity or of innocence, can be monstrous and abject. He speaks more to the porosity of individualized bodies (Fig.10-11).

Figs. 10 and 11. Opening scenes images in Ghost in the Shell: Innocence.

[29] In a similar fashion, for Haraway, monstrous points of view such as the cyborg's can produce diffracted views of the world and of the self (2004, 102). Diffraction, she explains, corresponds to the production of patterns of difference.As opposed to reflection, it exposes the "realness" of interference. Diffraction is embedded in practices of vision which mean that eyes are always embodied features; they are subjected to various environments, technologies, apparatuses that have an impact on how and what one sees. Whereas the notion of "vision" has nourished a disembodied and detached conception of the subject (and object), "eyes" are embodied apparatuses [xi] and, conceiving their situatedness, they reveal that practices of vision are active and affective. As such, they (can) introduce imperceptible differences, diffraction, and cause changes in direction and in definition. To expand this discussion to bodies themselves, female bodies (as dolls) have been constructed as objects of vision and/or of experimentation; consequently, when disrupting the confining metaphors, the female grotesque can embody a site of transgression (Braidotti, 181).

[30] When taking into account incorporating practices (associated with bodily memory) in conjunction with inscribing practices (discourses on the body), one can now conceive differently the intertwinement of mind and body due to the different forms of learning available, and which constantly inform each other. Hence, exercises of diffraction through repetition are also at stake when one considers forms of embodiment. Following Hayles, incorporating practices produce something that cannot be merely (or easily) translated in language, as a form of articulation. Rather, the knowledge acquired remains in the body, as embodied learning. Furthermore, incorporating practices are embedded in contexts, which implies that the body possesses improvisational features. Bodily memory indicates that one repeats gestures, yet these repetitions are constantly opened to modification, slippage and differentiation since one is placed in a dynamic environment. A degree of adaptation is required (Hayles, 200). In other words, when, in Innocence (and the same can be said of philosophical practices), the possibilities of transferring a mind into another body are explored, the mind itself would have to learn new ways; it would not survive the transfer intact. These transfers translate into new forms of subjectivity since the body "inhabited" possesses memories and specific abilities situated below consciousness and common practices of enunciation.

[31] To illustrate, let me now take a look at Batou's experience of embodiment. In Innocence, the main protagonist is subjected to a ghost-hacking attack through which he shoots his own arm. He later receives a new arm, and he has to develop a relationship to it. The arm is not someone else's arm, which would have a distinct bodily memory (e.g.; muscles development, skin, hair, scars, bruises). Yet the artificial arm has been created by other bodies and produced in a specific way, with specific technologies [xii]. Batou needs time and practice to negotiate his arm. It is more about sharing and adapting than about mastering. Following Shildrick, the understanding and usage of prosthetic devices need not be solely informed by a conception of the body as self-controlled and autonomous. By following a Deleuzo-Guattarian exploration of desire, the objects that we use daily become more than mere artefacts: they affect and provoke us in various, unpredictable ways.

[32] Similarly, as described by Braidotti, organ transplants (and the usage of prosthetics) are complex processes not as automatically achieved as idealized in Sci-Fi. There are numerous cases of rejection, even of contamination. In this sense, organs and prosthetic devices can be conceived as animated things, as actants [xiii], that make us act, that interfere and affect us in troubling ways. In other words, they are not mere disposable, junk objects. Such a conception of things contests the common distinction between animated and inert matter by illustrating how they mutually affect each other. The notion of prosthetic as actant contests the mind/body (whole/broken, organic/inorganic, animated/inert) dichotomy. The mind is always involved, affected, modified, by its inexorable interaction with a porous body that constantly changes. A body becomes the interaction of organs and prosthetics, whose functions and roles are mutable, and whose importance constantly shifts, always informed by a becoming-something-else, driven by a moving desire.

[33] On this matter, one has to remain on guard when dealing with the virtual; embodiment and situated knowledge, argues Haraway, are about accountability, contingency and risks (1991, 192). It is about being in the world and in our theories. The virtual itself cannot be conceived as access to infinite ways of being, becoming, and/or embodiment. As Deleuze & Guattari express with concepts such as the "body-without-organs" (BwO), the pursuit of lines of flight is not, in itself, an emancipatory project. Affected by a moving desire, the BwO offers the site of reconfiguration of the connexions enforced by a productive law as regime of signs, but such a reconfiguration is contingent upon social, political, linguistic contexts. Furthermore, pursuing lines of flight implies a process of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, the latter informing the desire of the law to fixate. If deterritorialization is celebrated by Deleuze and Guattari, the sole process would lead one to the excesses of the schizoid, and therefore would become unproductive, even fatal (1980, 199). Similarly, as stated by Braidotti, becoming a cyborg might not be such a painless and exhilarating process, nor a desirable one. In fact, following up on the example of science fiction, hyper-reality itself, far from troubling the categories between bodies, gender and races, tends to strengthen them: "the technique aimed at perfecting the bodily self and at correcting the traces of mortality of the corporeal self (plastic surgery, dieting, the fitness craze and other techniques for disciplining the body) also simultaneously help to supersede its 'natural' state." (Braidotti, 200). Becoming the "natural woman/man" by modifying the features that socially distinguish and reinforce genders not only inscribes discursive practices but also incorporates the discourse itself in a very fashionable sculpturation of the self. Therefore these are apparatuses that help us to conceptualize otherwise how bodies interact and how those bodies respond to the discursive practices that are exercised upon them. The concepts are not liberating in themselves, but they produce new forms of visibility and the production of new theoretical viewpoints.

[34] In fact, monstrous visions (Haraway, 1991) as diffracted perspectives contest the uncritically claimed metaphors that have been hegemonically enforced. Monsters/freaks—the grotesque—are used metaphorically, but in a multilayered and risky fashion. Metaphors, as theoretical apparatuses, are informed by practices and social contexts. They cannot be extirpated from embodiment. A social and cultural fascination for "freaks" reveals a revulsion that re-enforces binary categories and forms of exclusion. The perverse side of processes of normalization/exclusion also acts to modify one's perception, since eyes are not disembodied, detached features. To say that a diffracted pattern is produced, and that there is no such thing as pure reflexivity goes both ways. It distorts images to the point of morbidity (e.g., anorexia, bulimia, suicide, depression and so on). In other words, discourses on healthy versus pathological both produce the healthy and the sick.

[35] On the other hand, as explained by Haraway, monsters as diffracted views depart from a discourse on normalization that creates the conditions of visibility and intelligibility of certain bodies. As stated earlier, Haraway's project is to revisit and to contaminate metaphors that are already stained by practices of violence and of exclusion and offer new narratives [xiv]. The figure of the cyborg plays a similar role: "cyborgs, especially in contemporary cinema, assert a phallic metaphor to sexuality, as opposed to the feminine fluidity or passivity. It is against such stereotypical images that Haraway opposes her idea of the cyborgs as hybrid, mix and multiple-connector" (Braidotti, 231). Like the dolls in Innocence, cyborgs are eroticized technologies, objects of desire, of consumption, of art; they represent the postmodern tale of Pygmalion complete with new dangers and apocalyptic endings. Following Braidotti, cyborgs, freaks and monsters expose bodies as constantly mediated and informed by technological practices of prosthetic extension. As "wetware" [xv], they are multi-functional, multi-lingual, flowing/leaking from one mode of articulation to another and infecting all (Braidotti, 227-8). The cyborg might be dealing with networks of information circulating through external memories, cybernetic criminality and ghost-hacking/dubbing, but this is merely an exaggerated version of the contemporary "cyborgs" that we embody.

[36] What Innocence illustrates is, in part, the fact that all have become human-shaped "dolls" due to their vulnerability to ghost-hacking attacks; but the playfulness of the metaphor goes further (Brown, 228). As Haraway and Shildrick state, this vulnerability is the most representative fact of our embodiment,and not the model of an autonomous self underlying liberal conceptions of the subject [xvi]. Revealed in Batou's furious reaction to the dolls' abuse is the blatant recognition that there is no clear distinction between dolls and humans. The dolls represent idealized versions of humans, but humans are also shaped through the ideal of perfection that dolls epitomize. Both have a body that is and is not theirs. Both speak—or are in the presence of—words that pre-exist them. Both are put in a world that is already there, and made of categories through which they make themselves intelligible. But more importantly, both dolls and humans, bodies, can transgress the discursive practices, even though traces and scars are not easily erased. As such the disruptive potential of a Deleuzo-Guattarian collective assemblage of enunciation rather than the Cartesian's coherent individual formed through auto-affection is placed in the dolls. Subjects, say Deleuze and Guattari, are not auto-sufficient monads but are rather created from interactions, connections, intertextuality (1980, 13-4).

[37] Considering the dolls in Innocence, we now perceive from a different perspective their hypnotic and deadly dance; performing as objects of art, the doll repeats the motions that she has learnt, yet, the repetition is a diffracted pattern; it introduces a difference while provoking a hypnotic moment that leaves the other helpless and paralysed. Diffraction corresponds to a repetition that introduces a difference; acting as a virus, it contaminates. As monstrous, diffracted versions of the ideal, the dolls epitomize the site of transgression and of resistance, from within the metaphors used by the law to fabricate bodies and subjects. Following Deleuze's work on sadism and masochism, as well as Deleuze & Guattari's work on Kafka and schizoanalysis, repetition as transgression implies that there is a double-repetition at stake in the process of challenging and criticizing the solidity of these categories. The repetition introduces a difference that can destabilize the law, infiltrating and contaminating the already unstable discursive practices and destroying the illusion of stasis.

[38] In Innocence, this repetition is what allows the rejection of the fantasy by the doll. On one hand, their tragedy is to be incapable of freeing themselves. But on the other, this does not have to be how the tale ends. We do not know what the dolls are (everyone is, to a certain extent, a doll) and no one knows where they go when the bodies are deactivated. One thing is certain: they cease to be inert, passive dolls that were fantasized. They have formed a collectivity, a specific assemblage that was neither ever-lasting nor simply ephemeral.


[39] In Innocence, the tale of the law tells us that there is no other option for the dolls except (self-)destruction. Informed by fantasies that transformed them into objects of consumption, their capacity to modify the metaphor and to metamorphose themselves as uncanny agents of disruption is limited. In other words, they can neither exist inside nor outside of the fantasy; as sites of transgression, of resistance, they can infect the myths of innocence and beauty to reveal its profound contradictions. Their desire for self-mutilation epitomizes a last attempt toward the denial of the false (and scarring) ideals of beauty, of innocence, and of fantasy. As monstrous and grotesque, as diffracted views turned inside-out, they offer the site for a social critique of these ideals that are naturalized as pure and innocent metaphors (Brown, 235).

[40] There is no innocence in this narrative, but only dolls that are animated by a dance they do not fully control, by words they do not fully possess. All of the characters are puppets, subjected to exercises of ventriloquism. The boundaries are constantly challenged and blurred, exposing how innocence is both a myth and a metaphor used to reinforce and reject ideals (of beauty, of childhood, of purity, of womanliness). The exercises of the dolls demonstrate that metaphors are far from being innocent and that they are constantly embedded in unstable relations of power; where seen through the lens of desire, metaphors cease to address a fixed law, cease to be "metaphors" acting as representations. As metamorphoses, they reveal the dynamic and immanent nature of a moving desire that constantly deterritorializes the regime of signs. Therefore, the ideals of innocence and of beauty need to be revis(it)ed and re-inhabited in order to unveil the mystification they produce and the fantasies that inform cultural practices.


[i] In her work on sexual difference, Luce Irigaray claims that masculine subjectivity constitutes itself by denying the support and existence of the feminine. Hence, its presence is ignored, but the feminine still acts as the mirror through which a male subject can experience and love himself back. For the female "other" to become a subject, both subjectivities need to be redefined. For more on this topic, see L. Irigaray. Ethics of Sexual Difference. New York: Continuum, 2005.

[ii] The same can be said of masochism and sadism, which fail to be fully comprehended if one only considers the sadist or the masochist, and not the whole world the fantasy creates. For more on this topic, see Deleuze, 1994.

[iii] As I will show later in this paper, the usage of metamorphosis instead of metaphor in Deleuze and Guattari's work does not contradict Haraway's use of metaphors. By shifting the notion, they make explicit that the concept of "metaphor", as used in psychoanalysis, always presupposes an original to which it refers. This is what they are trying to avoid. Haraway, however, uses the concept to make explicit that it is through metaphors that we acquire knowledge; in other words, there is no true(r) referent to the metaphor used, but it suggests that they can have consequences on real, material, things/bodies.

[iv] Deleuze and Guattari hope to shift a philosophical inquiry concerned with transcendence, heights and depths, to that of immanence, of surface and horizontality.

[v] Accord to Orbaugh, in various interviews, Mamory Oshii specifies that he purposively incorporated philosophical and science fiction references in his film, notably Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's L'Éve Future. What his usage of Dr. Haraway and his reference to her famous "Cyborg Manifesto" imply of his intentions are not the topic of this paper. I will however present how those intersections play in my reading of the tale. For more on these connections, see Sharalyn Orbaugh, "Emotional Infectivity: Cyborg affect and the Limits of the Human", in Frenchy Lunning (Ed.). Mechademia: volume 3. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

[vi] Braidotti's discussion of Barbie is linked to her reading of 19th century Sci-Fi, notably Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's L'Éve Future. Interestingly, the female android, which is an enhanced copy of the human Alicia, is named Hadaly, which is also the name given to the special brand of gynoids in Innocence (Braidotti, 219-20)

[vii] "She [the woman in the masochist situation] does indeed belong essentially to masochism, but without realizing it as a subject; she incarnates instead the element of "inflicting pain" in an exclusively masochistic situation" (Deleuze, 1991, 42). "..women become exciting when they are indistinguishable from cold statues in the moonlight or paintings in darkened rooms. [...] The scenes in Masoch have of necessity a frozen quality, like statues or portraits; they are replicas of works of art, or else they duplicate themselves in mirrors" (69). In both these passages, it should be clear to the reader that the female character plays the role of a supportive "other", is not a subject, and corresponds to a essential "element", an object "inflicting pain". See note IX for more.

[viii] For more on speech as occupying a hegemonic position and as a precondition to subjectivity, see Jacques Derrida. Of grammatology. Baltimore: Hopkins Fulfillment Service, 1998.

[ix] I use male-based fantasies yet I refute the idea that only men have those fantasies. In fact, my usage suggests that the masculine subject is the dominant figure and interacts with a female other/object. In this fashion, and following Deleuze in Coldness & Cruelty, a male masochist interacting with a female "sadist" (which is not to be equated with the sadist of the sadism's tale) makes of her the object of torture. Both sadism and masochism correspond to different worlds, different responses to the patriarchal configuration/law of desire (notably as expressed in psychoanalysis); however, in both fantasies, the male subjects are males passing through a becoming-woman that can (and do) fail. Furthermore, the female characters correspond to a different essence, an element, in both fantasies that cannot be equated with the other, but remain a token in the reconfiguration of the male desire. In other words, by only looking at the male subjects, one stays in the configuration of the law, of the regime of signs, but if one considers sadism or masochism as embodying a collective assemblage of enunciation, one can challenge more effectively the inescapable law, and make visible processes of re/de/territorialization. See note VII for more.

[x] Vulnerability, instead of autonomy, as the core condition of subjectivity is a theme to which Margrit Shildrick offers a very compelling analysis in her latest work. For more on intercorporeality, see Shildrick, 2009.

[xi] Using "eyes" instead of "vision" shows that all practices of vision have theoretical and material impacts. Eyes are limited. They offer a partial account of reality. For more on the distinction between vision and "eyes", see Donna Haraway. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, Free Association Book, 1991.

[xii] In her latest work, Shildrick makes an interesting parallel between our interactions with other bodies through the production of prosthetic devices as well as our dependence and vulnerability to other bodies in the form of care givers and workers. For more on this topic, see M. Shildrick, 2009.

[xiii] The concept of actants represents the agency of something, which can provoke. It is not necessarily an individual, an actor. It refers to what makes us act. For more, see Bruno Latour. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. New York: Oxford, 2007, pp.54-5.

[xiv] As such, her task is quite similar to Deleuze & Guattari's insofar as they propose alternatives to the overarching metaphors proposed as the only truth by psychoanalysis.

[xv] The emphasis is put on fluidity and leakage, and female bodies.

[xvi] See Shildrick, 2009, and Haraway, 1991.

Works Cited

Bennett, Jane. "The Forces of Things: Steps toward an Ecology of Matter," Political Theory 32.3 (2004): 347-372.

Brown, Steven T.. "Machinic Desires: Hans Bellmer's Dolls and the Technological Uncanny in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence" in Frenchy Lunning (Ed.). Mechademia: Volume 3. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

Braidotti, Rosi. Metamorphoses: Towards a Materialist Theory of Becoming. Malden: Polity, 2002.

Deleuze, Gilles. Le bergsonisme. Paris: PUF, 2007.

___. Difference and Repetition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Deleuze, Gilles & Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty & Venus in Furs. New York: Zone Books, 1991.

Deleuze, Gilles & Félix Guattari. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1986.

___. Capitalisme et Schizophrénie 2: Mille Éditions de Minuit, 1980.

Foucault, Michel. Surveiller et punir. Paris: Gallimard, 1975.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Dir. Oshii, Mamoru. Distributed by Go

Grosz, Elizabeth. The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution and the Untimely. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.

Haraway, Donna. The Haraway Reader. New York: Routledge, 2004.

___. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Free Association Book, 1991.

Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernectics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: the University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Shildrick, Margrit. Dangerous Discourses of Disabilities, Subjectivity and Sexuality. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

___. Leaky Bodies and Boundaries: Feminism, Postmodernism and (Bio)Ethics. New York: Routledge, 1997.