Materialities & Subjectivities - Accounting for Complicated and Complicating Entanglements in the Humanities
Since the 1990s, the humanities’ interest in material and materiality has been growing steadily. A material turn has been called out in order to coin a programmatic shift away from social constructivism and a text-heavy linguistic turn, which was criticized for maintaining modern and humanist binaries such as matter/subject, or nature/culture.
Feminist new materialists advocated for embracing the vitality of matter as it encompasses humans and non-humans alike (f.e. Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, Jane Bennett). The latter’s rejection of anthropocentrism aligns feminist new materialism both with speculative realism (f.e. Quentin Meillassoux), a branch in philosophy that demanded a recognition of an autonomous reality that is independent of man and their consciousness, and with Actor Network Theory (ANT) (f.e. Bruno Latour), which positions humans as one actor amongst other “actants” who collectively form networks with particular capacities. And in regard to the emergence of New Media, media theorists such as Friedrich Kittler made a case for considering technology as essentially autonomous, leaving the human and written history behind.
While some matter-oriented approaches might have overstated the power of matter and technology by seemingly asserting and sometimes celebrating its primacy and self-sufficient agency (f.e. Kittler’s polemic “driving the human out of the humanities”), for most of them (as well as this summer school), a return to matter does not mean to discount subjective, conceptual/ideal, discursive, or socio-cultural constructions of gender, class or race. The concepts that interest us consider how material objects, bodies, spaces, media stores and tools, technology, conditions are entangled with discourses and subjectivities, and how agency is co-produced – always infected by power modalities.
A mode of thinking through the intersections of … READ MORE