I have my own half formed thoughts about the differences between the concepts of assemblage, structuration and praxis.
Aside from simply pointing to the theories from which these three terms originate, what can we say about the similarities and differences between these three terms?
Are they merely different words for the same term? Or, are there real semantic differences underlying the lexical differentiation?
I am sorry for engaging in a "half present" way. When I know I do not have time to follow up I do not say much but I thought I can mention some sources that you probably already know but I think to mark the difference one needs to see the way in which these concepts have been employed. As John notes the genealogy of the concepts matter. "What was it that it was developed in opposition to?" is the question which is part of the difference. That is why I focus on the last one...
Deleuze, J. and Guattari, F. (2004) A Thousand Plateaus, London:
Continuum, first English edition 1987) is the source of inspiration for many anthropologists.I think John Clarke does good job of employing "assemblage" in relation to policy, state and neoliberalism, (2004) Changing Welfare, Changing States: New Directions in Social Policy, London: Sage.
And Aihwa Ong, Stephen J. Collier (Editors), (2004) Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, And Ethics As Anthropological Problems , Wiley-Blackwell is also a good source with various articles.
I hv used assemblage theory of D&G, in the meaning it has in complexity theory "a bifurcation or emergence" where you can bring parts of some whole and attach to a new whole, where emergence could happen". Manuel DeLanda has done more theoretical analysis in his books.
I will have to look at the YouTube link later.
I'm not saying lower-order meanings, as if they can be rank-ordered as such. Rather, I'm referring to lower-order levels of meaning. The concept rests on the idea of association. So, there are first-order and second-order signs. First order signs are constructed from nothing more than ruled associations. To my mind, first-order signs are ultimately about phonemic differentiation. From those elementary phonemic partings, we get first-order levels of meaning. So, the phoneme corresponding to /m/ will be distinct from the phoneme uttered corresponding to /n/, and all others, at least within the English that I know.
Second-order signs are not built as such, from stark differentiation (which is significance). Instead, they are built within a supporting environment of other signs. At this level of meaning (signification), meaning is a matter of a relational field of signs, and not a matter of direct contrasts. Underlying these meanings, we can expect to find another level of association-environment that is presupposed in the level of meanings in question.
This approach strikes me as being a valuable tool for dispelling the myths of naturalized concepts. If you can show how they are built on other, presupposed differentials, which themselves presuppose other concepts...then you open up a new way of regarding ideologies and practices, aside from the unquestioned and normalizing way in which they are usually ignored as fact. An interactionist approach has the potential to do the same thing.
To my mind, signification rests on the association of memories to present experiences. One of the implications would be that meaning does not reside in any one thing, on it own terms. Rather, meaning is an effect of relationship between signs within the environment of signification. So, in some ways, our meaningful grasp of the world around us is not a function of the innate qualities of the phenomena experienced (indeed, with the concept of qualia, can we even speak of such?). Meaning is rather an artifact of our association of present-experience with memories.
So, in speaking the same language, we might recognize certain rules in common. Those rules may be so basic that few will pay much ethnographic attention to them, but they are presupposed in other sign associations, which are themselves presupposed in others...
It seems to me that such an approach should be married to an interactionist perspective. I feel this orientation is very valuable for highlighting the constructedness of meanings, and ultimately, practices.