After last week’s (not so) Spring Break, we are back and on a new subject entitled, New Materialism. Generally, this topic is one that is challenging feminism’s linguistic turn. What I find it demanding of us is to recognize HOW MUCH POWER we give to language and how that is what primarily structures our concepts of what is real. It is pushing us to think outside of our anthropocentrism, and instead of simply using materiality (non-human objects and beings, matter) as supplementary (or not at all in relation) to our social, cultural, feminist theory and critique, we probably should take time and really consider how our critical thinking analysis and materiality are intertwined. Perhaps considering how [hard] science (whether it be biological, chemical, physical, or other) and feminist critique interplay would likely give us a more dynamic understanding of the structures that shape the atmosphere of our dialectic. I think the following statement from one of our readings says it best:
Discourse is not a synonym for language. Discourse does not refer to linguistic or signifying systems, grammars, speech acts, or conversations. To think of discourse as mere spoken or written words forming descriptive statements is to enact the mistake of representationalist thinking. Discourse is not what is said; it is that which constrains and enables what can be said. (Barad, 820 [emphasis mine])
The readings we engaged with this week were Karen Barad’s, “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter,” Sara Ahmed’s, “Open Forum Imaginary Prohibitions: Some Preliminary Remarks on the Founding Gestures of the ‘New Materialism’,” and Samantha Frost’s, “The Implications of the New Materialisms for Feminist Epistemology,” ALL of which were not easy to wrap my mind around, but were refreshing in the aims and goals. To think about how bodies are actually structured, and the agency that it plays in our understanding of social and political acts made upon them, really gets me thinking. I want to think more about how our brains are structured, and why certain objects are feminized, while other objects are utilized to serve hegemonic aims.
Remember the discussion a few weeks back about the interdependency of intersectionality and assemblage? Thinking more about assemblage, or more specifically the pattern and the structures that play in generating the potentiality of normative power relations, really helped me understand New Materialism a little clearer. Even though this notion of assemblage isn’t exactly focused on materiality, it does look to the actual structures at play in the perpetuation of normative power relations more directly. So, now we take it a few steps further, and really consider the agency in matter, material practices, and the interplay with our social and political atmosphere to really understand our feminist critiques more dynamically. In the words of Jesse Pinkman:
But seriously, as far as questions are concerned, I find myself coming up short. I’m understanding this topic very generally at this point, so I will keep my question really general & (hopefully) brief.
After all of this, I know this might seem a bit anthropocentric, but I have to ask…
I wonder how looking at the composition and evolution of bodies (in relation to environment) can inform us about “the” subjugated body v. “the” normative ideal, how this can be used to explain comportment, and how the structure of our bodies and comportment inform us of of socio-political positioning?
Alright, that’s all she wrote.