From trees to rhizomes, a line of flight …


kaleidoscope © Belinda Allen

For me, liminal space in learning, where developing new knowledge requires a leap of faith, resonates with Deleuzian notions of ‘rhizomatic’ knowledge. Rhizomatic networks were posited by Deleuze and Guattari (1987) as a metaphor describing the structure of knowledge.  A ‘tree’ metaphor was (and is) a widely used way of describing the way knowledge and understanding emerge from root concepts and branch out into related ideas and concepts, as opposed to a strictly hierarchical and linear mode of progression in knowledge development. Concept-mapping and mind-mapping follow the root-branch-twig structure of the arboreal metaphor. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) found that this model did not adequately represent inter-relatedness, connectivity and spontaneous eruptions of ideas that are apparent when knowledge is looked at in a social constructivist light. According to D&G, the rhizome represents an anti-model, (amodel? immodel? unmodel?) that liberates us from formal thinking and knowledge structures:

“Let us summarize the principal characteristics of a rhizome: unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature; it brings into play very different regimes of signs, and even nonsign states. The rhizome is reducible neither to the One nor the multiple. … It is composed not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion. It has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and which it overspills. It constitutes linear multiplicities with n dimensions having neither subject nor object … When a multiplicity of this kind changes dimension, it necessarily changes in nature as well, undergoes a metamorphosis. Unlike a structure, which is defined by a set of points and positions … the rhizome is made only of lines: lines of segmentarity and stratification as its dimensions, and the line of flight or deterritorialization as the maximum dimension after which the multiplicity undergoes metamorphosis, changes in nature. These lines, or lineaments, should not be confused with lineages of the arborescent type, which are merely localizable linkages between points and positions. Unlike the tree, the rhizome is not the object of reproduction: neither external reproduction as image-tree nor internal reproduction as tree-structure. The rhizome is an antigenealogy. It is a short-term memory, or antimemory. The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots. … the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight.” P21 (A Thousand Plateaus).

And so I enter the labyrinth …

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus. (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.