Pollination and the Multiplicity of Mattering

NCA 2021

This work searches for perspectives on the infrastructures that precede and enable rhetoric in response to turns toward the material, nonsymbolic, and planetary.

Rather than suggest that plants "do" rhetoric (but also without closing off that potential), the aim is to "think about rhetoric with plants" (Muckelbauer). We can learn about how rhetoric works (its infrastructure) by resituating our perspective via plants.

The following notes rethink key terms and relationships.


Assistive techniques: plants can’t move (at least as we normally think of movement), so they induce other organisms to move for them

Turning: plants are themselves induced to turn toward the sun, a movement they are capable of performing despite their stability (Muckelbauer 2016)


Growth: time as a continual addition of concentric layers (e.g. rings), instead of time as a linear path from one point to the next (Powers 2018)

Articulation: a stationary tree is in continual movement -- branches blowing in the wind (Nadkarni 2010); seeds and pollen travel for miles


Circulation: not just matter that travels from point to point, but infrastructure that rearranges, enabling new combinations

Literal/metaphorical: moving an audience is both a persuasion and a rearrangement


Persuasion w/o movement: nonsensical under ordinary definitions of terms, but plants reveal layers of nuance

Making things matter: entities in the world draw on its infrastructure to attach significance to certain elements