Rhizome, assemblage, and drought

The rhizome itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers. – Deleuze and Guattari

The rhizome itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers. – Deleuze and Guattari

Principles of rhizomes include: connectivity, heterogeneity, multiplicity, regeneration, antigenealogy, cartographical.  D&G propose that perhaps its most important characteristic is that is always has multiple entranceways. (D&G, 14)  Having no subject or object, the rhizome is composed of ‘directions in motion’ and grows from the middle, extended its lines of flight.  “The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, and offshoots.”  (D&G, 23)  It is very much alive and for me a much more interesting and opportunity-laden imagistic and conceptual tool than what many of the other authors have offered.


I very much like this idea and can see how it can be a way to structure a way to ‘think through things’, but I cannot figure out what this idea has to say about the ‘dualism dilemma’ that has been shadowing us throughout our class discussions.  I was fascinated by what they had to say about it though and feel that their may be something here that can help us position ourselves with regards to this persistent matter:

     “We invoke one dualism only in order to challenge another.  We employ a dualism of models only in order to arrive at a process that challenges all models.  Each time, mental correctives are necessary to undo the dualisms we had no wish to construct but through which we pass.  Arrive at the magic formula we all seek – PLURALISM = MONISM-vial all the dualisms that are the enemy, and entirely necessary enemy, the furniture we are forever rearranging.”  (D&G, 22-23)




Bennett’s work centered around the agency of assemblages.  The concept of assemblage is borrowed from Deleuze, and she appropriates the following principles to inform her discussion:  an ad hoc collectivity that is historically situated, alive, decentralized, and constituted of the human and non-human, the material and immaterial.  She uses the assemblage to illustrate, “the distributive and composite nature of agency” across “an ontologically diverse range of actors-or actants.”  (Bennett, 446)  The human and non-human actants interact each possessing agency, and she furthers that the assemblages that they construct and that construct them possess agential propensity. 


However, I felt her piece that explored ‘thing-power’ a more original work.  Her section on trash captured my imagination, for it addressed this nagging question that often occurs as I walk through the city, travel to new places, encounter artwork, and meet new people: why do some things move us and what is the tension/energy/force that forms in the in-between?  She paints a misc-en-scene where relationships and intensities exhibit their power on a stage that is shared with us.  “Thing-power entails the ability to shift or vibrate between states of being, to go from trash/inanimate/resting to treasure/animate/alert.”  (Bennett, 354)  Her perspective resonated with the way I encounter an assemblage like Raushenberg’s Monogram where trash and treasure are interplayed along with the animate and the inanimate.  The power is relational.  And the power is in the in-between.




And my final thought is related to a novel that I am reading with a few other members of the class, Ballard’s The Drought.  Being read for a class on the apocalypse, I read it more as a classic example of an object study, and one that narrates the breakdown of a rhizome.  The object of study ostensibly is the drought itself, but if read with this class’s readings on the mind, it becomes a study of the relations between things (human and non-human, spiritual and physical) when one vital element is removed, water.  The story shows the disintegration of the rhizome where the center stops growing, the connections grow brittle, the root-like tendrils start receding, the parts of the assemblage begin falling away, and the ad hoc nature of the original grouping becomes glaringly obvious.  The rhizome, once as Deleuze described it, “a living, throbbing grouping whose coherence coexist with energies and countercultures that exceed and confound it” is now being desiccated due to its own principles of distribution and connectivity.


One Response to “Rhizome, assemblage, and drought”

  1. sarahelsasser Says:

    I also thought about the relationship between the drought and these readings. As the novel unfolds, we become more and more aware of the networks of relationships based around one thing … water. In the novel, it becomes clear that so many of the ways we live now are dependent upon water, a resource that is often taken for granted and forgotten about in the background. The nagging question, though that these readings brought up for me, is with so much depending upon this one thing, how can we avoid shifting the subject-object hierarchy to object-object hierarchy? When thinking about water in this light (or lack thereof), how can we avoid giving primacy to certain things? Does it eventually relate back to the human subjects?

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