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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 February 2021

Page duBois*
University of California, San Diego


Looking at us from all sides, you'll find that in our character and lifestyle we're in all respects most like wasps. First, no creature is more sharp-tempered than we are when irritated, or more cantankerous. Then again, we engineer everything else just like wasps: we gather in swarms as if into nests, some of us judging in the archon's court, some before the Eleven, and some in the Odeum, packed in tight against the walls like this, hunched toward the ground and hardly moving, like grubs in their cells. We're very resourceful in making a living, too: we sting everybody and so provide our daily bread.

Research Article
Copyright © Ramus 2021

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1. All translations of Aristophanes’ Wasps are those of Henderson (1998a), as is the Greek text. The Frogs are from Henderson (2002).

2. López-Ruiz (2010); Richter (2011).

3. duBois (2010a), 16.

4. On heterotopias, see Foucault (1986).

5. Dupont (2007), 12–14.

6. On the potential effects of the Aristotelian labeling of the parts of dramatic works, see this passage from Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 27f.: ‘Thus, when there is no unity in the thing, there is at least unity and identity in the word. It will be noted that names are taken in their extensive usage, in other words, function as common nouns ensuring the unification of an aggregate they subsume. The proper name can be nothing more than an extreme case of the common noun, containing its already domesticated multiplicity within itself and linking it to a being or object posited as unique. This jeopardizes, on the side of words and things both, the relation of the proper name as an intensity to the multiplicity it instantaneously apprehends…Are we not witnessing the first stirrings of a subsequent adventure, that of the Signifier, the devious despotic agency that substitutes itself for asignifying proper names and replaces multiplicities with the dismal unity of an object declared lost?’

7. Guattari and Rolnik (2008), 230.

8. Ross (1988).

9. Ross (1988), 105.

10. Hardt and Negri (2004), 91f.

11. Hardt and Negri (2004), 92.

12. Hardt and Negri (2004), 340.

13. Hardt and Negri (2017), xiii, quoting Césaire (1943).

14. Hardt and Negri (2017), 295.

15. Hardt and Negri (2017), xxi.

16. Braidotti (2011).

17. Deleuze and Guattari (1987).

18. Braidotti (2011), 2.

19. Braidotti (2011), 5.

20. Braidotti (2011), 6.

21. Braidotti (2011), 101.

22. Braidotti (2011), 103.

23. Braidotti (2011), 103, citing Derrida (1997). On insects, see also Shaviro (1995).

24. Braidotti (2011), 103.

25. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 308.

26. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 13.

27. Braidotti (2011), 122.

28. See, for example, Wilcox (2017), 25: ‘Posthuman warfare…contains the possibilities of both appropriating and rewriting antagonisms of masculine and feminine in the embodiment of the subject of war in the swarm. This piece seeks to analyse new ways of feminist theorising of the relations of power and violence in the embodiment of war as the swarm.’ See also the sex workers website, Swarm Collective <>.

29. Mbembe (2003), 22.

30. Mbembe (2003), 23.

31. Preston (2006), 11. See also Sen. Clem. 19; cf. Verg. Aen. 1.430–6.

32. Preston (2006), 13.

33. Preston (2006), 61; Preston, 63, cites Les Murray's (1977), 39–46, poem ‘The Swarm,’ which condemns the English bees, enslaved to their sovereign, and contrasts monarchy with Australian republicanism.

34. Preston (2006), 139.

35. Preston (2006), 139.

36. Preston (2006), 74, citing Bevington (1895).

37. Preston (2006), 151.

38. For the citations in this paragraph, see Preston (2006), 154–6.

39. See duBois (2003), 170–88, and Kurke (2011).

40. See duBois (2008).

41. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 12f.

42. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 15.

43. On the chorus of wasps, in Wasps, see especially Corbel-Morana (2012), 136–70. Corbel-Morana suggests that the notion of autochthonous wasps, promulgated by the chorus, may owe something to the cicadas, born of the earth (Carmina Anacreontea 34 West, and elsewhere), which the Athenians in the archaic period took as the emblem of their autochthony, wearing golden cicadas in their hair. Authentic Athenians resembled the cicada; the warriors of the Marathon age, like the chorus of the comedy, also had waspishly fought on the city's behalf against the Persians (157). Corbel-Morana cites Herodotos 8.50, as well as verses from Aeschylus’ Persians. The warriors’ lances are likened to the insects’ stingers. ‘Pour créer son choeur, Aristophane s'est inspiré du bestiaire symbolique traditionnel de la poésie archaïque…et de l'imagerie populaire’ (167). Corbel-Morana argues that the comparisons between human beings, the chorus of Athenians and their audience, and animals serves as a moralizing discourse critical of the citizens, negative in its representation of the bestialization of the city. See also her reading of the Birds, 171–207 and 249–303: ‘les contradictions de l’État de nature créé dans les Oiseaux permettent par ailleurs de formuler le constat d'une rémanence de la sauvagerie au sein de la Cité’ (207). My interpretation of this bestiary is, obviously, more positive, seeing an energy and a ‘line of flight’ in the analogy with animals. Note also the appearance of insect representations on polis coins, as for example the bee of Ephesus.

44. The Aristotelian corpus expresses interest in actual insects, but as it has come down to us neglects such manifestations as the insect choruses of ancient comedy.

45. See the remarks of Deleuze and Guattari (1977), 29, on Wilhelm Reich: ‘Reich is at his profoundest as a thinker when he refuses to accept ignorance or illusion on the part of the masses as an explanation of fascism, and demands an explanation that will take their desires into account, an explanation formulated in terms of desire: no, the masses were not innocent dupes; at a certain point, under a certain set of conditions, they wanted fascism, and it is this perversion of the desire of the masses that needs to be accounted for.’

46. Ross (1988), 107.

47. Ross (1988), 107.

48. Ross (1988), 108.

49. Ross (1988), 120.

50. Soni (2010).

51. All translations of Thucydides are those of Lattimore (1998).

52. These combined qualities are also evident when Pericles comments on the benefits of recounting the growth of the Athenian empire to the entirety of the assembled body, which includes both citizens and foreigners: ‘[T]hese are not inappropriate to mention in the present circumstances and are advantageous for the whole gathering, both citizens and foreigners, to hear about’ (νομίζων ἐπί τε τῷ παρόντι οὐκ ἂν ἀπρεπῆ λεχθῆναι αὐτὰ καὶ τὸν πάντα ὅμιλον καὶ ἀστῶν καὶ ξένων ξύμφορον εἶναι ἐπακοῦσαι αὐτῶν, 2.36.4).

53. See Deleuze (1994), especially 28–69, and Deleuze and Guattari (1987), passim.

54. Harney and Moten (2013), 82.

55. Harney and Moten (2013), 105.

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