RHIZOMATIC PENNSYLVANIA: PHILOSOPHY, ECOLOGY, AND THE NEUTRAL POSITION IN THREE FIGURES OF PLANT LIFE

Open Access
Author:
McCullough, Andrea Leigh
Area of Honors:
Letters, Arts, and Sciences
Degree:
Bachelor of Landscape Architecture
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Heather Davis, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jack Selzer, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • rhizomatous plants
  • Deleuze and Guattari
  • rhizome
  • ecology
  • pennsylvania
  • Japanese honeysuckle
  • Watercress
  • Kentucky bluegrass
Abstract:
This is a study of rhizomatous plants through three figures: the weed, the neutral, and the cultivated. I will elaborate the figures with the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in addition to three case studies of rhizomatous plant species: Lonicera japonica, Nasturtium officinale, and Poa pratensis, respectively. The case studies situate knowledge of the rhizome, from philosophy to invasion rhetoric, in the material reality of anthropogenic disturbance and maintenance regimes. This project brings attention to disturbance across a gradient from constructed lawns to the distant invasive weed in the forest to an edible and foraged wild plant that is also non-native. An analysis of disturbance shows our current conceptions of plant life have contributed to the polemic and ecologically destructive figures of the weed and cultivated, which have resulted in massive use of pesticides, fertilizers and other chemical agents that have negative impacts on human health and the environment. I show that these figures arise because of the contested nature of how we think about who belongs and who doesn’t, who is an alien and who is native, in the context of Pennsylvania. While the weed and cultivated crop are two familiar tropes, I propose the neutral as an ameliorative figure to eradication, cultivation, and ecological anxiety. The neutral, a term I have formulated, offers a new paradigm for plant and human interactions, informed by what anthropologist Anna Tsing calls the “arts of noticing.”