Infratheory and Metatheory

September 26, 2013 § 5 Comments

I am happy to announce that I will be contributing an essay to the forthcoming anthology Metatheory for the 21st Century: Critical Realism & Integral Theory in Dialogue. The book is scheduled to be published in 2014 and will appear in Roy Bhaskar’s series in Critical Realism through Routledge Press. While the title indicates the focus is on Critical Realism and Integral Theory, the volume also incorporates many influences from additional sources including speculative realism, object-oriented ontology, actor-network theory, and new materialism. In one way or another each of these approaches have something to say about “Metatheory for the 21st century,” and I suspect the divergences and similarities between these many strands of thought will produce a complex and interesting dialogue. My own contribution to the volume is titled “Infratheory and Metatheory: Bruno Latour’s Metaphysics Meets Integral Theory and Critical Realism.” I am uploading a copy of my précis in pdf format here, and also including it below.  « Read the rest of this entry »

Ontologies of Knowing: Mediations and Intra-actions

August 9, 2013 § 4 Comments

I’ve just completed my contribution to the Rhizomes issue dedicated to Karen Barad that I’ve been working on throughout the summer. My original intention for the piece was to do a comparison between Barad’s agential realism and Tim Morton’s recent work in object-oriented ontology. I had hoped that either Realist Magic, Hyperobjectsor both would have become available in between the time that I wrote my initial abstract for Rhizomes, and the deadline for submitting drafts. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, so I had to switch gears and bring in someone else for the dialogue. The paper now centers a discussion between Barad and Bruno Latour, though it’s really a conversation between Barad, Latour, and Neils Bohr and Alfred North Whitehead—the key philosophical predecessors for both philosophers, respectively. I still have every intention of writing about Morton’s new books, but that will have to wait for another day. Below I am posting the introduction to my essay, which I believe should be published sometime this winter.

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More Info on the Rhizomes Issue on Karen Barad

February 2, 2013 § 2 Comments

This special issue of Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge takes as its focus positive and critical engagements with the work of Karen Barad, drawing together a number of voices to offer a nuanced and current response to her emerging theories of ontology and materiality. Barad’s reading of quantum phenomena has gained considerable popularity in the past few years, not least with Slavoj Žižek’s attention to it in his most recent book Less Than Nothing. As a result of this increasing and significant engagement, something of a critical mass has developed within cultural, feminist, and science studies. In foregrounding matter’s dynamic entanglement with/in conceptual work and forms of representation, Barad radically shifts the anthropocentric stronghold on meaning making by conjuring a posthumanist performative agency that demands attention to the materially constitutive processes and practices that participate in, and as, inquiry. If, for Barad, identity only emerges in mutually constitutive relation, these quantum levels of engagement raise significant and counter-intuitive suggestions for how political and ethical accountability materialises and stabilises. « Read the rest of this entry »

Intra-actions and Strange Strangers

November 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

The folks over at Rhizomes have posted the description for their upcoming volume on the work of Karen Barad HERE. Below is the title and abstract for my contribution.

Title: Intra-actions and Strange Strangers: Karen Barad Meets the Ecological Thought.

Abstract: By coining the term “intra-action” Karen Barad seeks to overturn the metaphysics of individualism—the general view that individuals pre-exist their contexts and interactions—by placing relations at the center of her metaphysical inquiry. The term intra-action has subsequently been adopted by Donna Haraway to describe the multispecies entanglements “through which entities, subjects, and objects come into being.” In contrast to these views, Tim Morton has proposed the concept of “strange strangers,” a precursor to his more recent work in object-oriented ontology. While Barad’s critique of the metaphysics of individualism targets a certain understanding of the ontological status of individuals, this paper argues that Tim Morton’s object-oriented approach—which emphasizes the withdrawn and irreducible nature of individual substances—offers an important complement to the intra-active approach to ecology and ethology. This paper proceeds by way of comparative analysis: First, by outlining Barad’s intra-active philosophy, and second by contrasting this view with Morton’s object-oriented ontology. The paper takes a pluralist approach that applies the best of both views in service of deeper ecological thinking.

The Rubicon Has Been Crossed

June 21, 2012 § 8 Comments

There is a curious moment in Modes of Thought (1968) where Whitehead writes, “The distinction between men and animals is in one sense only a difference in degree. But the extent of the degree makes all of the difference. The Rubicon has been crossed” (p. 27). The question that always strikes me when reading this passage concerns exactly what worlds the “Rubicon” is connecting. Where — or amidst what — were beings situated before the Rubicon was crossed? What kind of ecology are humans situated amidst after having crossed the Rubicon? What is the Rubicon itself made from — what kind of structure does it have? Where did it come from?

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