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updated: image and text, June 19, 2012

Well, more synchronicity here.

Remember Gregory Bateson’s puzzle, about what connects the orchid with a host of other biotics, including “me” and “you”? (see my multimodal file on parallels between Bateson and the early pragmatists, p.  9) It turns out, unsurprisingly, that Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus, rely on “the orchid and the wasp” biological mutualism to illustrate their concept of the rhizome (on the analogy of the biological rhizome [< Gk “mass of root”], see definition below). Biological “mutualism,” or what I’d compare to “ecology,” was theorized at least as far back as Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, where he talks about orchids (once again!!!) being pollinated by a specific subspecies of insect.

The Deleuzian-Guattarian rhizome/rhizomatic as a mode of knowing, knowledge making and representation thereof, is pretty much what I have been calling “heterarchy/-ical” (combined with “ecological”) as an alternative to a hierarchical (tree-like, in their terms) epistemological format. I advocate heterarchy/-ical as the ecological mode of Open Review/Ecological Knowledge epistemologies (a couple of posts ago).

Of course, if in a D-G rhizomatic model everything is connected to everything else, and entry and exit points, beginnings and ends cannot be locationally fixed, then the rhizome concept is deeply ecological/systems theoretical.

What I’d be specifically interested in–over and above the overlap with systems theory, e.g., epistemologically–are two biological aspects thanks to the analogy to a plant rhizome: 1) fecundity (biol. propagation) and 2) resilience (biol. perennation). That is, per 1), the regenerative powers of the rhizome, whereby, if a piece is separated from it or extends it, it will sprout a whole new plant, effecting propagation. Per 2), the ability of a rhizomous plant to wait out the winter season underground, and then to re-grow, out of the rhizome.

Thus the rhizome is a powerful competitor of fractality for the role of a metaphor for the epistemological regeneration-upgrade in history and geography (see Bateson file referenced above).

Thinking of Bateson’s “deuterolearning” (learning to learn), and basically the same idea as a measure of successful education in John Dewey’s philosophy, it is logical to think of successful education as rhizomatic.

Ditto the responsibility of anyone (who has knowledge to share) vis a vis anyone else who might (want to) benefit?

Which takes us back to the open, ecological co-construction of knowledge.

To your attention: a free stock img of a sympodial (with rhizome) and a monopodial orchid:


  Iris: rhizome [Credit: John H. Gerard] rhizome, in botany, horizontal, underground plant stem capable of producing the shoot and root systems of a new plant. This capability allows the parent plant to propagate vegetatively (asexually) and also enables a plant to perennate (survive an annual unfavourable season) underground. In some plants (e.g., water lilies, many ferns and forest herbs), the rhizome is the only stem of the plant. In such cases, only the leaves and flowers are readily visible. [the links are to entries]

Since Ana Ramos set me sur leurs traces, a quotation adapted from Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 204 (Qu’est-ce que la philosophie, 192):

Art is not chaos
It is a composition of chaos
Giving forth
Vision and sensation
Not foreseen, never preconceived

[credit: senselab, c/o Erin Manning]


WP’s comment on this one:

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
Author Unknown


January 2021


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