Monday, January 2, 2012

Rhizome and Gift Exchange -- Ideas that Recreate Worlds

This is a piece I wrote recently as a summary of a book chapter I am preparing. However, I like the way it stands on its own. I think it provides a quick and clean description of rhizome and gift-exchange.


Christopher Kinman introduces certain processes that he sees as providing new promise and possibility to all of our current social realms -- whether those might be family life, friendship, community, business, and the various political structures we have, such as cities, nations and international organizations. Christopher discusses two metaphors which he sees as offering great promise to all of these realms. These two metaphors are rhizome and gift-exchange.

Rhizome reminds us that everything good and enlivening that happens to us, no matter what social contexts we are connected to, happens within relationships, within vast networks of relationship. Rhizome includes all those connections that bind us in our present time, real-life engagements – no relation is considered unimportant. Rhizome also includes those connections that precede us, the relations that provide legacies for our current movements. Rhizome also includes those relations that are not yet, those that are still to come. And these rhizome networks are not limited to relations between people, but also include connections with animals, geographies and landscapes, technologies, ideas, histories, spiritual relations, etc.

The second metaphor is certainly connected to the idea of rhizome. It is the gift-exchange. Christopher sees gift-exchange as an idea that reminds us of how life-affirming things and actions move throughout our social realms. The goods we receive, the positive outcomes we welcome, the loves we cherish, all these things come to us through lines of innumerable gifts. The movements of gifts abound in all social realms, not just human realms, and these gifts are too numerous to list. Gifts are given and received through gestures, through words, through objects, through creative processes. All day and every day we are in the midst of gift-exchanges. Our sense of Aliveness is connected to such gift-exchanges.

Christopher suggests that understanding rhizome and gift-exchange sets the stage for the creation of many real and pragmatic possibilities within our worlds. He goes as far as to suggest that these ideas contain the seeds of possibility that can address our most challenging world difficulties.

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