Political Objects. Prescriptions, Injustices and Promises of Material Agents
Corinna Bath (Technische Universität Braunschweig)
Waltraud Ernst (Johannes Kepler University Linz)
Sigrid Schmitz (HU Berlin)
Friday 2 September, 14:00-15:45 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

Phenomena are constituted within material-semiotic networks and materialize in technoscientific devices. Does "new materialism" offer a new understanding of objects as e.g. algorithms, nanomaterials, food, brain-machine interfaces, artifacts used for and by refugees, lasergraving machines, and cows?

Long abstract:

As political objects, phenomena are constituted within material-semiotic networks of biopower and materialize in technological innovations and technoscientific devices. As material agents they contain and execute manifold old and new prescriptions and injustices. At the same time and often because of the same properties they make various enactments and entanglements possible and therefore carry promises for alternative movements such as feminism, transnationalism, class and even gender transgressions.

Karen Barad provides us with a powerful understanding of matter as a "congealing of agency" (2007: 151), rather than as a substance or a thing. However, the question remains what it means forpolitics and political agency that there are no such things as individually constituted entities, times, and places. Furthermore, if we—that is, our bodies, thoughts, and lives—are always already entangled in a close web of "ongoing responsiveness" (ibid.: 394), what is the basis for ethical and political action? What does it mean for emancipatory politics that, according to Barad's concept of "agential separability", entities can always break with their relations and entanglements and enter into (become part of) new relations and entanglements? What is at stake for "science and technology by other means" if relata do not precede their relations?

Elaborating from a perspective of "new materialism", the papers in this session offer a new understanding of such diverse political objects as algorithms, nanomaterials, food, brain-machine-interfaces, artifacts used for and by refugees, user-designer-interactions within the development of lasergraving machines, and cows or organic milk production, among others.