The rhizomatic PhD: a fruitful, disconcerting balancing act

By the time I consciously knew that rhizome theory would form a major part of my PhD thesis, it had already been growing in my brain for a while. Reading about connectivity and multiplicities all seemed very familiar to me, probably in part due to encounters with rhizomatic learning and in part due to a convergence with poststructuralism with which I had been wrestling. Once I let in the idea that Deleuze and Guattari’s work would be a lens through which to view my subject area, it started to creep weed-like into everything: my analytical approach, my epistemological position, my world view. It became a way to problematise the very nature of a thesis and its inherent arborescence. It may be wishful thinking on the part of procrastinating doctoral researcher to dream about constructing a rhizomatic thesis, but at the end of it all I must engage with the pre-ordained structures that are there. The lines of flight of learning throughout my PhD have been rhizomatic, but its representation here on earth will be a tree-like thesis. Throughout my work I have confronted in myself instincts and approaches which have been less than pure rhizome – heresy! A case in point: at the moment I have imported most of my qualitative data into spreadsheets and sorted it with various formulae and filters – can one get any more hierarchical? However my purpose in this is to find ways of making connections between different parts of the data, literally by the patterns they make across the rows and columns. Is it possible to thus deterritorialise spreadsheets? It’s a balancing act and somehow that tension between rhizome and the traditional structures is a fruitful if disconcerting place to plough my furrow. All this echoes perfectly what I am mapping in my data: lecturers use of technology is fruitful, disconcerting and a balancing act.

One thought on “The rhizomatic PhD: a fruitful, disconcerting balancing act

  1. In the research for my master's thesis, I came across the rhizome and D&G. When it came time for analysis, rhizomatic analysis was the only way that made sense. It drove me crazy trying to squeeze the rhizome into and onto trees. Like a recent PhD done in graphic form, I've long wondered what a rhizomatic could look like. For one, the dissertation would be digital, full of all the delicious line of flight links.


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