When D+G write that long-term memory '(family, race, society, or civilization [TP, 16])' is an arborescent tracing-over of the rhizome of short-term memory relations, and suggest that we 'forget' these 'artificial, imaginary, or symbolic territorialities' (AO, 34), I find myself wondering whether this rhizomic, 'subversive' forgetfulness is a reformulation of 'the death of history.' (For what it's worth, I also find myself wondering this when D+G call for Nomadology, 'the opposite of history' [TP, 23].) There have been a lot of heart-boners on the blog for the 'life-affirming' message or 'soul-stirring' rhetoric of D+G's writing on the rhizome, and I feel as though it might be productive to step back and take the cold shower of Benhabibian fem-skepticism:
'The more difficult question suggested by the strong thesis of the "death of history" appears to me to be different: even while we dispense with grand narratives, how can we rethink the relationship between politics and historical memory? Is it possible for struggling groups not to interpret history in light of a moral-political imperative, the imperative of the future interest in emancipation?' (Benhabib, 23)
It's true that the casualty of the death of history in Benhabib's passage is historical metanarratives or macro-historical teloi, but it seems as if Benhabib would find equally problematic those casualties of the rhizomic injunction to one-minute memory, namely 'long-term' relational categories like race or family or gender or nationality. Which is to say, it seems as if Benhabib would find it equally difficult to imagine an emancipatory political project that could obtain to any group that wasn't rigidly and endurably and singularly a group, e.g. for 'female' ''Iranian' 'mothers' who unstably reterritorialized as orchids and wasps. In Benhabian terms, to make historical progress on the historical stage, historical players must remain historical players.
I can think of at least two possible responses to this:
1) Rhizomes are about reconnectability and the potential for changing, emergent connections, including, maybe, filial or racial ones. So long as long-term relational identities are neutered of their arborescent, fixative potential, i.e. so long as filial or racial or national relations don't threaten to trace the rhizome or fix a member at a single identity-point and prevent her from being reterritorialized by orchids and wasps, those long-term relational identities can be peaceably maintained within a rhizome.
2) Rhizome-rhetoric is its own emancipatory politics, and once single Iranian mothers are rhizomatized they won't need macro-historical teloi or long-term relatonal identities - they'll be rhizomes!
I feel as though by posing the question in the way that I have I've denied rhizomes some crucial flexibility, or underestimated or misunderstood their 'grassroots' political efficacy. That said, this does seem like a genuinely Benhabibian worry (though I also feel as though I might have been a poor devil's advocate for Benhabib, so maybe it isn't).