Geography Assemblage
Jon Anderson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 April 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 April 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0114


Assemblage theory offers a challenge to conventional configurations of the relations between parts and wholes. In a challenge to the concept of organic and seamless entities, assemblage theory argues that wholes (be they urban assemblages, policy assemblages, ecosystemic assemblages, etc.) are constructed by the coming together of separate and individual parts. From the perspective of assemblage theory, parts can function autonomously, yet they can also become part of assembled wholes, be removed from them, and then become part of further yet-to-be-assembled “coming togethers.” Assemblage theory draws our attention to how the relations between these parts are reformulated not just by components internal to the assemblage but also by parts exterior to them. Initially developed by Gilles Deleuze, often with Felix Guattari, the idea has subsequently been applied to a wide variety of areas, including urban places, policy networks, state relations, social relationships, nature–culture configurations, social movements, and surveillance technologies. There is also an identifiable Actor–Network Theory tradition for approaching assemblages.

General Overviews

To develop an understanding of assemblage theory one can and perhaps should begin with Deleuze and Guattari 2003; however, readers must assemble their own whole from the parts littered across the writers’ multiple plateaus. Manuel Delanda, in his New Philosophy of Society (Delanda 2006), has done just this, assembling together Deleuze and Guattari’s parts into what he calls “neo-assemblage theory” or “assemblage theory 2.0.” Latour 2005 explores how assemblage has influenced “the social” and Actor–Network Theory, whilst Dovey 2010 offers a useful introduction to how assemblage can change our understanding of space and place.

  • Delanda, Manuel. A New Philosophy of Society. London: Continuum, 2006.

    Delanda argues in detail how assemblage theory is a reaction to the theory of organic totalities. He outlines how all “parts” have a degree of independence with regard to the assembled whole they help to constitute, and although that whole will change as a consequence of the addition or removal of any individual part, the components themselves will not necessarily change as a consequence of their new (dis)assembly.

  • Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. London: Continuum, 2003.

    From Deleuze and Guattari’s parts, strewn across their thousand plateaus, assemblage theory can be identified as an approach that reminds us that entities are never fixed, pregiven, or forever stable in their ontological form or location. In this sense, assemblage theory emphasizes the dynamic, precarious, and emergent qualities of all “coming togethers.”

  • Dovey, Kim. Becoming Places: Urbanism/Architecture/Identity/Power. New York: Routledge, 2010.

    As Deleuze and Guattari 2003 insists, “every assemblage is basically territorial . . . [and t]he territory makes the assemblage” (pp. 503–504). The role that assemblage theory can play in understanding spaces and places, or help to frame those policy, social, and surveillance interventions that shape geographies, allows scholars to reimagine the relations between parts and wholes that shape our lives. This book is one useful example of this. It uses assemblage theory to cast all places not as fixed and stable but as states of continuous change.

  • Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social. Oxford: Open University Press, 2005.

    Latour problematizes our understanding of “the social,” explaining how the term is often used to denote a “thing” (e.g., a type of material) or a process that assembles “things” together. Through examining assemblages of nature, Latour redefines the social and develops a sociology of associations, which has also come to be known as Actor–Network Theory.

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