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Volume 61 , Issue 1 February Pages Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? This has raised some curiosity. For example, Dorothea Olkowski's essay in this special issue ponders over the reasons why Barad leaves pivotal parts of quantum physics, like the wave nature of quantum phenomena, largely unaddressed. We can surmise that this is because unknowability and separation are at the core of her ontological approach and thus hers is not a project that attempts to make the unknown knowable, to parse out 'facts' as though independent of their values, or to determine set meanings.

Barad does not provide us with a ready-made model of quantum reality. Her texts do not provide 'final' answers—because according to Bohr's and Heisenberg's Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, the nature of the world is, and will remain indeterminate. Barad's readers are invited to study and interpret important concepts and methods from quantum physics, but she does not provide a quantum mechanical 'truth' or set methodology. Barad thus emphasises the uncertainty and changeability of her own approach, and one of its basic premises is indeed the fact that it continually reforms itself in intra-action.

In this special issue dedicated to Barad's work, we strive to maintain a similar mode of complementarity. Rather than manifesting any form of Baradian doxa, 'truth', absolute or correct approach, we explore the many ways in which a range of current scholars engage with Barad's ideas and methods. Our focus in this issue is partially on the nature of critique and academic engagement itself—and the ways in which we may respond to Barad and each other response-ably.

The matter and mode of critique is a critical affair for a special issue "that takes as its focus positive and critical engagements with the work of Barad, drawing together a number of voices to offer a nuanced and current response to her emerging theories of ontology and materiality," as the call for papers to this issue proposed. Our aim in soliciting contributions was to encourage conversations and analyses of Barad's conceptual and methodological formulations that could develop their suggestions further, addressing subtleties and possibilities in her work in order to avoid the doxic formulations that too conveniently emerge with the proliferation of a significant oeuvre.

Accordingly, this was also a call to avoid what Katie King points to in her essay in this issue as a "retreat to punitive critical? Granting the complexity of Barad's agential realism and its counter-logical provocations regarding the very units of reality and analysis that we inhabit and operate with on a quotidian basis also requires what King, in line with Barad, alludes to as a sensitivity to what is being engaged as well as to what this engagement elicits.

In the mode of reading diffractively, neither benign agreement nor oppositional antagonism is purely available as a mode of critical participation. Instead, as King suggests, we learn to work with "fuzzy appreciations for noncoherences, of rueful acknowledgement of both willful and unintended mis understanding, and of sensitivity to double binds," all of which can be said to constitute response-able critical practice.

These are "gatherings for flourishing," according to King, or "inventive provocations" in Barad's terms in Dolphijn and van der Tuin 50 , and they imply a far deeper ethical encounter as they "help us question with, rather than assume, ourselves amid apparatus in boundary making practices" King, this issue, emphasis removed.

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Opening the essay that marks his contribution to this special issue, Rick Dolphijn relays Barad's comments on the practice of critique from an interview conducted for inclusion in his co-authored text New Materialism Dolphijn and van der Tuin. Instead, she suggests, it resembles something more akin to "a destructive practice meant to dismiss, to turn aside, to put someone or something down— another scholar, another feminist, a discipline, an approach, et cetera" This mode of critique, as Barad points out in her own terms, is all too familiar with a logic of opposition and negation, and, in this dialectical mode Dolphijn and van der Tuin, New Materialism ; van der Tuin, "Jumping Generations" , it prioritises classification and progression over indeterminacy.

In pegging down coordinates or excavating and exulting alignments, critique in the 'destructive' vein confuses authorship with the idea of a comprehensive and fixed position, and it presumes a hierarchy in time and space that stacks recent, conceivably more expansive and informed dialogue against its superannuated relatives, while presuming of the latter that they are inadequately equipped to speak of the here and now, to respond to the 'global crises' and quotidian conditions that mark the 'posthuman era' Braidotti. A deconstructive practice by its other name is "the practice of diffraction, of reading diffractively for patterns of differences that make a difference," as Barad explains in the same interview with Dolphijn and van der Tuin New Materialism Bringing the relational elements of critique into focus, opening the question of how it is that positional difference is forged and sustained, the diffractive methodology that Barad advances confuses any claim to an a priori separation of positions that destructive critique assumes, thus simultaneously bewildering the temporal distinctions upon which it is conventionally premised:.

Evelien Geerts and Iris van der Tuin provide a clear example of the temporal implications that Barad relates here. Here the perceived antimonies of Beauvoir's and Irigaray's variants of feminist liberatory politics are reworked and the continuities in their approaches, rather than dialectical dissimilarities, are underlined.


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What the authors deliver is a reading that emphasises the "cross-fertilization" of these feminists' approaches to alterity that also finds its voice in Barad's work. For the editors of the Parallax special issue, "Diffraction: Onto-Epistemology, Quantum Physics and the Critical Humanities", diffraction appeals "as alternative vocabulary and different technology for critical inquiries" Kaiser and Thiele It pays attention to difference without dismissal or correction, thus reconsidering the how of positional hierarchy and refusing to foreclose position:.

The impetus for this diffractive methodology, with its careful attentiveness to the details of a text, to the positions of others that works with rather than directly against their suggestions, can be located with the notion of intra-action that lies at the heart of the relational ontology Barad elaborates. According to Barad, then, " intra-actions — don't produce absolute separation, they engage in agential separability —differentiating and entangling that's one move, not successive processes " , original emphasis.

This paradoxical movement of simultaneous "differentiation and entangling", of separation and connection, is counterintuitive to our usual understanding of things or identities having discrete boundaries and qualities proper to them, independent of other entities. What it suggests is that "[d]istinct agencies are only distinct in a relational, not an absolute sense, that is, agencies are only distinct in relation to their mutual entanglement; they don't exist as individual elements" fn1.

Thus, contrary to readings of entanglement that understand it in terms of the non-differentiated or primarily interconnected status of 'things', Barad presents a more complicated picture, and it is one that makes specific demands regarding participation and accountability in performing inquiry:. What becomes clear in this quotation, and as Barad discusses across her oeuvre see also Meeting ; "On Touching" , is that the work of critique carries an ethical premise; it is an ethico -onto-epistemological practice with consequences for 'what matters' also in the way we engage with others.

Importantly, and perhaps most difficult to swallow, is what intra-action makes of this relation to the other, namely, its assertion that any other is at once "threaded through" the self. As diffraction insists, this "threading through" does not make the other coincident with the self.

This is not a matter or practice of making 'self same' reproductions of one's own identity. Rather, "[e]thicality entails noncoincidence with oneself" Barad, "Quantum Entanglements" It thereby renders us unknowable to ourselves, and always and already partially positioned c. Haraway, "Situated Knowledges". The ethical charge of unknowability is, as Barad points out in our earlier quotation, a matter of response-ability, and following Haraway, "not something that you just respond to, as if it's there already.

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Rather, it's the cultivation of the capacity of response" Haraway in Kenney That is, in the absence of any ability to anticipate what it is that will be encountered, as though this could constitute a full and knowable position or identity even one's 'own' that could be recognised in advance, ethical relation is, in simple terms, a practice of remaining open to difference. This difference, however, is not so simple.

It is never totalizable, never wholly discernible, but rather unceasingly cross-cut and cross-cutting, or diffractive. As such, in any critical practice, each meeting, a different encounter, is an encounter with difference and this difference, being "threaded through" self and Other, reveals all encounter as self- transformation.

Thus, Barad's diffractive methodology finds critical practice to contain both attentiveness to the detail of an argument in order to do justice to it as well as an uncanny proximity to that which we engage—a relation of entanglement which, even if tensile and complicated entanglement involves simultaneous attraction and repulsion, as Barad points out "Transmaterialities" ; its constitutive capacity also involves cutting across or interrupting , necessarily implicates, reiterates, and transforms our 'own' positions, rendering them immanently dynamic, incomplete, co-authored, non-innocent, contaminated, and indebted.

The ethical gesture of critique, par excellence , would then be to do justice to this relation without attempting to veil or repair its complicated, at times challenging and uncomfortable, suggestions, nor regulate or emend the shifts in theoretical and methodological perspective and practice that it calls through us to enact. It proposes a critical approach that neither sanctions nor censures, but rather accounts for indeterminacy. With diffractive reading, the limit of another's difference cannot be determined or fixed, thus the capacity to claim alliance or to be said to have read a concept, theory, methodology, or body of work 'correctly,' is, at its core, compromised.

Although our contributors come from specific disciplinary backgrounds, and specific academic cultures, we will not attempt to define them—but it is in some cases useful to distinguish certain disciplinary differences or points of fruitful connection. A significant number of our contributors are actively involved with, and along with Barad, have become formative voices in the current wave of scholarship identifying itself as feminist new materialism.

This movement tends to emphasise material relationships between entities, rather than separate bodies. It thus presents an opportunity "to think about materiality without the usual accompaniment of essentialism, where matter is understood as an inert container for outside forms" Hird, Matter, according to the new materialists, only truly exists relationally, and if we want to develop a deeper understanding of the world, we should investigate the processes of material formation, the 'mattering', rather than the 'final' forms. The focus on relationality and ontological processes is to some extent shared by all authors in this special issue, but not all approach it from the same perspective.

Critical Perspectives on Embodiment

Some, like Kathrin Thiele and Dorothea Olkowski, have backgrounds in different forms of Deleuzian feminism. As an acknowledged influence on contemporary new materialist conceptual frameworks, the suggestions delivered by Deleuze's materialist philosophy have been adroitly and inventively taken up within this field see for example Dolphijn and van der Tuin, New Materialism ; Bennett; Ringrose and Rawlings; Mazzei. Correspondences between Deleuzian thought and Barad's agential realism more specifically have been forthcoming, and Thiele, Olkowski and others in this issue join a recent and increasing assembly of scholars whose discussions are occupied by their resonances, differences, and applications see Garoian; Thiele, "Of Immanence and Becoming"; Fox and Aldred; Lenz Taguchi; Dolphijn and van der Tuin, "A Thousand Tiny Intersections" for examples.

The connection between Gilles Deleuze's conception of ethical sense as that which calls us "to become worthy of what happens to us, and thus will and release the event" Logic of Sense and Barad's conception of 'response-ability' is highlighted in Thiele's essay in this volume.

Here she finds an important continuation of this Deleuzian ethical formula, which is "thickened by taking account of the feminist lesson of diffraction" and its emphasis on differences that matter rather than pure difference. Similarly interested in Deleuze and Guattari's quest for immanence, Rebekah Sheldon reads the philosophers' notion of concepts the plane of immanence of concepts alongside Barad's understanding of measurement in order to explore the physicist's approach to the role of meaning.


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In a rare move, Sheldon unfolds the affective dimensions of meaning's materiality and finds its vitality to be complementary to virtuality, wherein, she argues, a different reading of Deleuze and Guattari's concept becomes available. Lastly, Andie Shabbar's essay draws on Deleuzian conceptions of affect and assemblage, in its reading of Baradian intra-action, finding myriad points of communication and mutual elucidation that are worked through her analysis of queer bathroom graffiti. As Harman recognises in his essay in this issue, Barad's agential realism and speculative realisms like his own "seem destined to be explicit opponents in contemporary philosophy, though there is no reason why this opposition needs to be a hostile one".

The feminist and object-oriented strands have developed from somewhat different philosophical traditions, although at first glance they appear similar. Both profess to construct a 'posthumanist' or non-anthropocentric approach to ontology and matter. Both also emphasise inter- or intra- action.


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