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Reading Notes: Class Meeting 4/15/14

Deleuze and Guattari - Introduction: Rhizome


Rhizome Illustration featuring a variety of structures and properties. Posted by The Rhizome Archive.

Assemblage and Bateson:
"A book is an assemblage, and as such is unattributable" (4).
The authors begin the text with this explanation for why individual names are not associated with the "plateaus," or chapters. They do not see the book as an individual construction, but as the child of many parents, objects, ideas, and environments. They have also abandoned ego, claiming "we are no longer ourselves: (3). It reminds me immediately of immanence and Bateson, who advocates the same sublimation of the self in the humble recognition of the vast and powerful connected universe. In such a connected and overlapping space, who can say where one autonomous object begins and ends, if indeed autonomy exists?

What is the rhizome structure?

The authors emphasize that their book (as a metaphor for networks and structures of connectivity) is most aptly described a rhizomatic structure. This stands in opposition to the common tropes of the tree (with a central trunk and radiating branches) and the root (radiating structures pulling inward from the environment).


The authors outline four main groupings of principles for the rhizome:


  1. Connection and Heterogeneity: The rhizome structure affords that "any part of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be" (7). Nothing in a rhizome is isolated from the structure. It is also important to note that the rhizome is a structure of varied properties. In the illustration above, it is clear that there are larger channels, smaller tubes, internal connections and outward-reaching chutes. This diversity is a key component of the rhizome; there is not a single type of node or connection.
  2. Multiplicity: Similar to the idea of heterogeneity, the rhizome is also multiplicitous. It "has neither subject nor object, only determinations, magnitudes, and dimensions" (8). While the language in this section is abstract, what I am able to discern is a sense of the rhizome as resistant to unified classification; it has multiple origins, destinations, properties, and purposes. We cannot understand the rhizomatic network as having AN origin or A destination, but many origins and end points. These multiplicities are without privilege, but exist in a flattened space.
  3. Asignifying Rupture: The rhizome resists destruction and decay because even when one section is damaged, the remaining structure is unharmed. Owing to the diversity and multiplicity of the structure, no single aspect is vital to survival of the whole. Compensations will be made; workarounds can be made. Like the starfish in the video below, regeneration and survival occurs after a portion is damaged. The rhizome is a resilient form. 
  4. Cartography and Decalcomania: I understand this aspect to mean that rhizomes resist having a generic underlying structure or skeleton. A tree or root can be understand to have a basic form that all structure in that category will follow, despite their surface differences. This is the why rhizomes cannot be "traced," but instead require mapping, which follows unique structures rather than repeatable lines and shapes (as in a copy from tracing another object). Even still, the map is highly organic and "constructs the unconscious" (12). This is a key component of rhizomes and their evolving structure that cannot be predicted or repeated, only mapped after they are rendered.