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Relational Ontologies


Barbara Thayer-Bacon

Relational Ontologies uses the metaphor of a fishing net to represent the epistemological and ontological beliefs that we weave together for our children, to give meaning to their experiences and to help sustain them in their lives. The book describes the epistemological threads we use to help determine what we catch up in our net as the warp threads, and our ontological threads as the weft threads. It asks: what kind of fishing nets are we weaving for our children to help them make sense of their experiences? What weft threads are we including and working to strengthen, and what threads are we removing or leaving out? It is important to carefully re/examine these most basic ways of catching up what sustains us in our ocean of infinite experiences, as the threads we weave for our children will determine what they catch up in their nets, until they are old enough to re/weave their own. Relational Ontologies reweaves America’s epistemological and ontological fishing net on a larger scale, turning to indigenous cultures and diverse spiritual beliefs for assistance in reforming American schools.

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Chapter 3.   Plants: Deleuze’s and Guattari’s Rhizomes


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So far, we have explored relational ontologies in terms of Oceans and fishing nets, with the help of William James’s classical pragmatism (radical empiricism) and feminist theories (Introduction, Chapter 1), and First Nations’ expressions of relationality in terms of the Land (Chapter 2). This chapter takes a turn to the European continent and considers Gilles Deleuze’s and Félix Guattari’s rhizomatic model to illustrate a relational ontology. One of the ways Deleuze and Guattari describe rhizomes is in terms of a tension between trees and grasses, which is why their work is placed in a chapter labeled Plants. The tension they describe is between deeply rooted structures, which Deleuze and Guattari refer to as “arboretum or tree models” and more shallow rooted grass-like structures, which they refer to as “rhizomes or plateaus,” and I will refer to as crabgrass. If one is from the South, crabgrass is as common as kudzu, but for those not familiar with this type of grass, it is able to withstand a significant amount of heat and sun, turns brown in the winter but withstands cold temperatures well, stays snug to the ground, and it spreads with ease.

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