Revisiting New Babylon: the making and unmaking of a nomadic myth
McGowan, Jérémie Michael
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This thesis revisits Constant’s New Babylon (about 1956-1974). Turning to theories of primitivism and, in particular, Christopher L. Miller’s critical reading of ‘the nomad’ found in Gilles Deleuze’s and Félix Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (1980), I use previously published and unconsidered archival materials alike to demonstrate the importance of Romani to Constant’s original work and thinking on New Babylon. Positioning these materials against a selection of dominant claims, reference points and images now circulating in established New Babylon and Situationist International scholarship, I argue that Constant’s daily life and artistic practice, together with key moments in the development and public display of his project, are framed by references to, yearnings for and personal dealings with Romani, both real and imagined. Questioning contemporary theorisations of nomadism through a consideration of who travels and why, I advocate for a greater awareness of and sensitivity to the historical conditions that produce particular forms of movement. New Babylon and Romani are inextricably intertwined: to forget the one is to misunderstand, and misrepresent, the other.