Militant Analysis – Schizoanalysis for everybody
Susana Caló and Godofredo Pereira talk with Ana Bigotte Vieira
Ana Bigotte Pereira: How did your research project begin?
Susana Caló e Godofredo Pereira: In a natural way as an encounter between our work. A few years ago Godofredo was working on self-management and programming of collective equipment from a counter-hegemonic perspective. At that time, Susana was working on the psychiatric clinic La Borde and investigating the collective modes of organisation of the clinic, which according to the perspective of institutional psychotherapy are the core of therapy. Although we were both strongly inspired by Guattari’s work, it was only then that we discovered CERFI’s work. Their focus on programming of collective equipment was exactly at the intersection of our work. However there was very little information, nobody had written anything specifically about this group, it only appeared in footnotes. So we decided to start a more in-depth research process.
ABV: What was the CERFI?
SC e GP: The Centre d’Études, de Recherches et de Formation Institutionnelles (CERFI) was a research cooperative founded in 1967, which aimed to explore a new kind of political militancy, characterised by bringing analysis into all institutional and professional fields, with a view to creating lines of escape in the most unlikely place, namely within the body of the capitalist state itself. It tried to do this through, on the one hand, the programming of collective equipment (programming understood here as the creation of analytical mechanisms of self-management); and through action-research, research understood and explored also as an analytical mechanism to which all have a right. Furthermore, CERFI published a journal, Recherches, which served not only as an archive and form of communication of its research but also as a platform that was given to other groups and collectives so that they could speak in the first person about their experiences rather than just occupying the position of objects of study, and in contrast to the “specialist perspective”. This is the case, for example, with the issues on homosexuality, drugs or sex work.
ABV: What is meant by militant analysis – schizoanalysis for all, the slogan that gives the title to this set of events?
SC e GP: First of all what analysis is: it is about generating mechanisms to bring out and work on the bodies or collective assemblages that run through us and of which we are part. Considering that capitalism directly attacks subjectivity, one cannot have an anti-capitalist politics without considering analytical processes. This is what Guattari proposed very early on. If in experimental clinics like La Borde, mechanisms of collective analysis were being developed (beyond the individual and the personal, considering environmental, institutional, bureaucratic dimensions, etc.) for Guattari these mechanisms should not remain confined to clinical contexts, but were relevant in all professional, institutional contexts and even for militant political organisations. Militant analysis is therefore the name we use to refer to this need to bring analysis into the field of militancy, and even more, the need for a constant analytical militancy. Now, militant analysis is nothing more than what Guattari with Deleuze would later call schizoanalysis. A labour of creating analytical machines, at all scales, and to which the CERFI was dedicated.
ABV: The time arc in which all this takes place is relatively long, between the 1960s and the 1980s a lot has changed and several generations have succeeded each other or, at least, have crossed paths. How do you account for this passage of time in your research? Or, in other words: what is changing?
SC e GP: When writing about CERFI we often use the terms ‘nebula’ and ‘consistency’ which we derive from the interviews we have done. We use these terms to account for CERFI as something that is difficult to define and has necessarily uncertain boundaries. CERFI is formed in a moving context, of molecular relations between bodies, in the meeting of militant groups, a consistency that has been defining and formalising itself. During its life it was crossed by generations, but also by very striking historical and political moments, both in the French and international contexts, and so its mode of operation changed. It was composed of multiple sub-groups, at one point it was distributed into multiple small CERFIs, until it later dissolved, back into the militant humus, certain aspects of its logic re-emerging in other militant organisations.
ABV: What kind of materials exist on what happened?
SC e GP: Our work has been going on for several years now precisely because there were no organised materials on CERFI, apart from the written materials present in the journal Recherches published by the collective. Our struggle has been to bring out the polyphonic dimensions. We have been able to compile a fairly extensive archive of written, visual and filmic materials, including records of their parallel research sub-groups (Imago group, sewing club, research club on drugs, theatre club, music club, psychoanalysis by letter, etc.), their architectural and urban planning projects, as well as many other things that have not been published. But the main material on which we are basing our work are oral histories and interviews, because they carry a political, situated and affective dimension that is difficult to grasp from written materials – besides, it is these histories that we are most interested in highlighting politically today, because they bring nuances of life that prevent the discursive simplifications into which dominant history and criticism often fall.
ABV: This will be the first public meeting of a series of meetings, in various institutions, regarding a book that will also be launched soon. Would you like to tell us a little about the book?
SC e GP: We thought a lot about what would be the best way to express this project and we ended up deciding for the book format. We also thought about an exhibition, given the richness and polyphony of the materials, but due to the years of the pandemic we opted for the book format only. We have an editorial partner, Minor Compositions, with whom we are in the process of editing the contents. The book will contain a lot of archival material, interviews, and translations of unpublished original texts. This public meeting at the TBA at the invitation of Ana Bigotte Vieira will be an opportunity to test ideas and priorities. We have invited François Pain to join us. Member of CERFI, he worked in La Borde, is a media-activist-filmmaker and a wonderful person thanks to whom there are a number of video records of the atmosphere in La Borde, and from whom we learned a lot. At the CERFI he founded the IMAGO group, an institutional intervention group using video as a tool.
ABV: Where has this research led you, what would you like to do from/about/in reaction to it?
SC e GP: This was a very rich research process in terms of the evolution of our own thinking. We weren’t just working with books, or archives, but with people and what we realised was that as the research progressed relationships of affect were formed that moved the project forward in a certain way. In terms of research approaches, we are interested in this involvement. The virtue of understanding concepts and the history of ideas from oral histories, for example, is to capture the pragmatics of the concepts, their life. How did they operate, what were they used for, how did they come about? How have they influenced collective experiences and how have they been transformed by them? We need only think about the limitations of the dominant history of ideas that focuses on individuals and grand theory to understand how vital it is to re-construct minor histories. We value the possibility of autonomous and independent research, not exclusive to the university, but transversal, recognising the importance of popular research, and of the knowledge produced by the experience of anti-capitalist struggle.
Between the sixties and the eighties in France, the CERFI group (Centre d’études, de recherches et de formation institutionnelles) stood out for its attempt to bring analytical collective practices developed by institutional psychotherapy to other fields of collective organisation, namely professional and militant ones.
The assumption was that all collective organisations require an analytic militancy – an active work on the subjective and unconscious dimensions of collective processes – in order to guarantee their ability to recognise and support the most various revolutionary processes and to avoid crystallisations of power. From this arises a transversal analytical practice that Félix Guattari, activist, psychoanalyst and co-founder of CERFI, called schizoanalysis.
Schizoanalysis focuses on the operations and functioning of the deeper existential machinisms that traverse the subject: “What are your non-human sexes?” It operates a shift from the individual to the collective, and from systems of enunciation to assemblages of enunciation. As such it is a practice that exceeds the problematic of the individualised subject.
In its attempt to explore a new type of analytical militancy, CERFI was principally dedicated to the programming of collective facilities (such as schools, day-care centres or clinics) as well as to the creation of popular programming teams. It also engaged in a fertile editorial activity with the publication of the journal Recherches (49 issues, 1966-1982), whose themes covered Third World revolutionary struggles, pedagogy and primary school education, architecture and psychiatry, childcare, reproductive work, sexual liberation, among many other topics, always insisting on giving voice to those with lived experience rather than that of the “expert” perspectives.
The richness of CERFI’s experimentation, both conceptual and social, points to alternative horizons of militancy in which the unconscious dimension of collective processes is taken into account.
It is this practice, which brings analysis to the centre of political struggle, that the event proposes to debate.
Over the last five years Susana Caló and Godofredo Pereira have developed research on CERFI, based on interviews, conversations, oral histories and studies of archives, in a project that will result in forthcoming book, by Minor Compositions.
The programme is organised in two parts.
During the morning, Susana Caló and Godofredo Pereira will present their research around the analytic processes developed in the La Borde clinic and how these were mobilised as militant tools by the CERFI group. This will be punctuated with a display of archives, and interviews from their own research.
In the afternoon, François Pain who they have been working with will join them to facilitate a film screening and discussion session and a reflection around the politics of collective analytical processes and the analytical potential of audio-visual tools.
Pain is director and author of numerous films on alternative psychiatric experiences, in particular institutional psychotherapy and La Borde, close collaborator of Félix Guattari, member of FGERI and CERFI, and co-founder of the Fédération de Radios Libres Non Commerciales and Radio Tomate.