“This squiggly wiggly, not quite democratic thing”: A Deleuzian frame for Boaters’ political (dis)organisation on the waterways of London

  • Benjamin O. L. Bowles
Keywords: boats, waterways, travelling communities, Deleuze, horizontal organisations


Itinerant boat dwellers in London (Boaters) utilise political strategies, emergent from their mobility as afforded by the water on which they live, that are “flat” in a Deleuzian sense. This makes them difficult to grasp from the perspective of the agencies of the state that attempt to interpellate the Boaters. When outsiders attempt to identify representatives empowered to speak on behalf of the community, they are presented with an ungraspable flat organisational surface. Here, the life history of a Boaters’ political organisation, London Boaters, is drawn, demonstrating its rhizomatic form. It is argued here that Boaters’ political organisations tend to emerge in response to specific external stimuli, refuse to adopt hierarchical forms or otherwise resist them, and then disperse before they can become captured by state-form hierarchies. Thus it is shown that Deleuzian ideas can be useful tools for examining the interplay between material conditions and political organisational forms.