Rhodes articulates a queer feminist rootstock approach to thinking the rhizome, that sees the self and spaces as multiple and contested.
Keywords: Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Rhetorics, Culture, Cultural Rhetorics, Feminism Feminist Rhetorics, Composition, Rhetoric, Writing Studies
Anzaldúa, Gloria E., and AnaLouise Keating, eds. this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation. New York: Routledge, 2002.
Braidotti, Rosi. Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia UP, 1994.
“A feminist take on the rhizome renames it rootstock, for questions of place and space are crucial if we insist on embodied and ethical commitments to justice. The rhizome works flatly through lines rather than static point, but rootstock might dare ask Deleuze’s “useless questions,” for that reaching is part of an identity. Longing. This longing, too, is a tangled line. Indeed, we might say that a feminist rhizomatic or rootstock most resembles Rosi Braidotti’s nomadic subject, a vision of subjectivity that embraces simultaneity and multiple, sometimes contradictory layers of identity” (4).
“The rhizome’s third principle, multiplicity, demands that we hold layers and lines together and separately, distinct and yet communal” (5).
“[I]n our radical alterity we are at times unknowable to ourselves—and that it is within this incommensurability and unknowability that we find fruitful places to resist. But it is one thing to include all our voices, to hear lesbian or queer or feminist or woman. It is quite something else to undertake the systemic analyses that complicate our understanding of how each of these registers experiences the world differently—both rhetorically and materially. Who are we to speak for ourselves?” (5).
“We pay for (in)visibility when we seek to contain or erase our multiple spaces, identities, affiliations. Here: I am a woman and I am a feminist and I am lesbian and I am queer and I am a rape survivor and I am a cutter and I am white. Each of these spaces is multiple and contested, and the last is especially crucial to own” (6).
“What is a threshold, the site of such unraveling? A point between, belonging to neither. A doorway facing both sides; and when one threshold opens to the next, we find an endless chain of facing/approaching/leaving. Like the rhizome, like rootstock, thresholds assume—no, demand—a dynamic, bobbing-and-weaving approach” (6).
I hear in rootstock an asking to be attentive to reaching, longing—desire—in a way that refuses to be neutral and flat. It asks what can be grown out of the nodes and reaches up from them. These new lines can be tangled and multiple like their roots, but they move, they grow, and they reach. I think of Sara Ahmed’s Willful Subjects and the figure of the reaching arm, the willful child. The willful subject’s refusal to proceed along disciplined lines asks for attention to be given to the act of desiring, reaching, resisting, and conceding in ways that I hear the rootstock asking of the rhizome to both sustain and disrupt the subject and its multiplicity in a way that makes visible desire, contradictions, and movement.
Rhodes engages with the subject as multiple in a way that values the rhetorical and material differences afforded by that multiplicity. In owning that multiplicity we can find sites of resistance. Containing or erasing identities, reducing subjects to a single space can be dangerous. Here: I am a man and I am pro-feminism and I am gay and I am queer and I am a rape survivor and I am a suicide survivor and I am white. It is crucial that I own my male privilege, my white privilege and to, like Rhodes (and Pratt) “do my own work: express my sorrow and my responsibility myself, in my own words, by my own actions” (41).
The rhizome needs for layers and lines to be held “together and separately, distinct and yet communal” (5). I’m reminded again of the ways that subjects inhabit spaces and subjects inhabit a composed, rhetorical self as a space. Rhodes discusses thesholds, their between-ness. I’m thinking a lot about thresholds as existing in the inbetween of possibility, a choric self in which the subject is constantly facing/leaving generated/negated becoming. I think about this as an interesting especially in terms of our disciplinary conversation around threshold concepts and how we might disciplinarily inhabit the threshold. The self of the discipline facing/leaving generating/negating being/becoming. Rhodes engages the possibility of the endless chain of “dynamic, bobbing-and-weaving” (6) that I wonder exists in disciplinary conversations of these thresholds—and, if not, what this might offer to that conversation. What does that do to outcomes? To assessments? To our composed ideas of the student?
I think about the potential of rootstock ideas of knowledge and their attention to reaching, desire, and movement—their searching for sites of productive resistance—as they might work in/with/through/against network and ecological epistemologies, especially within rhetoric and composition. I think about all the rootstock might be a productive space to imagine a garden of arms reaching, generating productive spaces for resistance, for queer voices.