Heterogeneous rhizomes

By Anneli Salo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When folk hear about the concept of a rhizome in D&G they often assume, not unreasonably, that the analogy being made is to the botanical concept of ginger, or potatoes, or Japanese Knotweed. Well, sometimes it is, and it can be useful to think about how some ideas, like some plants, can invade, take over, stifle; or how factions can work underground and erupt out to surprise us. But not all rhizomes are homogeneous.  D&G give 6 characteristics of the rhizome. Here’s the first two:

1 and 2. Principles of connection and heterogeneity: any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be.

By Amada44 (From the Book: William Heath Robinson Inventions) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Heterogenity. Rhizomes can be heterogeneous, which means that they can be made up from diverse elements: animal, vegetable, mineral, and abstract entities can all connect together into a heterogeneous thing. In his Actor Network Theory and Material Semiotics John Law suggests that Actor Network Theory is  “an empirical version” of D&G’s “nomadic philosophy”, and notes that Latour himself observes that talk of “actor-rhizomes” could be an alternative to “actor-networks”.  So instead of ANT, we might have “actant-rhizome ontology”. All of this was a bit of a eureka moment to me when I thought about it: ANT tells us that concepts and objects are also part of our social network; D&G tell us that rhizomes are heterogeneous – similar points are being made in different ways.  To put it another way, they are both types of material semiotics – which is to say that they both map the relations between things and concepts.

So that’s some big words cut down to size 🙂

This entry was posted in #rhizo15, D&G, Philosophy, Rhizomes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Heterogeneous rhizomes

  1. Dave Harris says:

    I think the heterogeneous bit is the crucial term.It departs from seeing complex objects as either explicable by a simple essence (like something ‘natural’ or individual’) or having some defining ‘facts’ (like class or gender membership) that can be studied scientifically. Thus are two main props of ‘normal thought’ disposed of with one blow! Good idea to explore links with ANT, by the way — I haven’t thought about that for some time.

  2. scottx5 says:

    Objects combining with human agency to produce?
    Ukulele Lady

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