Rhizomes, 30: Quantum Possibilities: The Work of Karen Barad (2016)

4 August 2016, dusan

“In the past decade, Karen Barad’s oeuvre, especially the voluminous Meeting the Universe Halfway (2007), has attracted increasingly great attention in feminist philosophy, cultural studies and feminist science studies. Alongside scholars like Elizabeth Wilson and Vicki Kirby, she has spearheaded the recent feminist exploration of complex scientific issues, and presented new less categorical ways of thinking ontology and epistemology (or indeed onto-epistemology as she refers to it) as a result. Many of the terms introduced and developed by Barad, such as ‘intra-action’, ‘diffraction’ and ‘agential realism’ have shifted the standard metrics of knowledge production and her theories have inspired animated discussion in emerging critical strands as varied as the new materialism in feminism, object oriented ontology, post- and transhumanism, speculative realism, environmental and digital humanities, among others. In a critical climate that is becoming increasingly ‘Baradian’, this special issue on the ‘Quantum Possibilities’ of Barad’s work does not merely aim to reflect the engagements currently being made within these fields, but extends Barad’s ethos of continually rethinking our critical concepts and methodologies ‘without taking these distinctions to be foundational or holding them in place’. Creating ‘diffractive’, or new ‘quantum level’ means of reflecting on, and engaging with Barad’s work, the essays collected here stake out a new set of directions for their wide array of disciplinary identities.”

With essays by Joseph Rouse, Evelien Geerts and Iris van der Tuin, Rebekah Sheldon, Kathrin Thiele, Hanna Meißner, Andie Elizabeth Shabbar, Ulf Mellström, Martin Savransky, Dorothea Olkowski, Graham Harman, Levi R. Bryant, Rick Dolphijn, Katie King, Ino Mamic, and Myra J. Hird.

Edited by Karin Sellberg & Peta Hinton
Published 12 July 2016
Open access
ISSN 1555-9998


Karen Barad: Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (2007)

14 February 2013, dusan

Meeting the Universe Halfway is an ambitious book with far-reaching implications for numerous fields in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. In this volume, Karen Barad, theoretical physicist and feminist theorist, elaborates her theory of agential realism. Offering an account of the world as a whole rather than as composed of separate natural and social realms, agential realism is at once a new epistemology, ontology, and ethics. The starting point for Barad’s analysis is the philosophical framework of quantum physicist Niels Bohr. Barad extends and partially revises Bohr’s philosophical views in light of current scholarship in physics, science studies, and the philosophy of science as well as feminist, poststructuralist, and other critical social theories. In the process, she significantly reworks understandings of space, time, matter, causality, agency, subjectivity, and objectivity.

In an agential realist account, the world is made of entanglements of “social” and “natural” agencies, where the distinction between the two emerges out of specific intra-actions. Intra-activity is an inexhaustible dynamism that configures and reconfigures relations of space-time-matter. In explaining intra-activity, Barad reveals questions about how nature and culture interact and change over time to be fundamentally misguided. And she reframes understanding of the nature of scientific and political practices and their “interrelationship.” Thus she pays particular attention to the responsible practice of science, and she emphasizes changes in the understanding of political practices, critically reworking Judith Butler’s influential theory of performativity. Finally, Barad uses agential realism to produce a new interpretation of quantum physics, demonstrating that agential realism is more than a means of reflecting on science; it can be used to actually do science.”

Publisher Duke University Press, 2007
ISBN 082238812X, 9780822388128
xiii+524 pages

Reviews: S.S. Schweber (Isis, 2008), Sherryl Vint (Science Fiction Studies, 2008), Peta Hinton (Australian Feminist Studies, 2008), Lisa M. Dolling (Hypatia, 2009), Vita Peacock (Opticon1826, 2010), Beatriz Revelles Benavente (Graduate Journal of Social Science, 2010), Trevor Pinch (Social Studies of Science, 2011), Haris Durrani (2015).
Commentaries: Levi R. Bryant, Steven Craig Hickman.


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