New Materialisms

Ontology, Agency, and Politics

New Materialisms

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: Published: September 2010

Politics > Political Theory, Sociology > Social Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

New Materialisms brings into focus and explains the significance of the innovative materialist critiques that are emerging across the social sciences and humanities. By gathering essays that exemplify the new thinking about matter and processes of materialization, this important collection shows how scholars are reworking older materialist traditions, contemporary theoretical debates, and advances in scientific knowledge to address pressing ethical and political challenges. In the introduction, Diana Coole and Samantha Frost highlight common themes among the distinctive critical projects that comprise the new materialisms. The continuities they discern include a posthumanist conception of matter as lively or exhibiting agency, and a reengagement with both the material realities of everyday life and broader geopolitical and socioeconomic structures.

Coole and Frost argue that contemporary economic, environmental, geopolitical, and technological developments demand new accounts of nature, agency, and social and political relationships; modes of inquiry that privilege consciousness and subjectivity are not adequate to the task. New materialist philosophies are needed to do justice to the complexities of twenty-first-century biopolitics and political economy, because they raise fundamental questions about the place of embodied humans in a material world and the ways that we produce, reproduce, and consume our material environment.

Sara Ahmed
Jane Bennett
Rosi Braidotti
Pheng Cheah
Rey Chow
William E. Connolly
Diana Coole
Jason Edwards
Samantha Frost
Elizabeth Grosz
Sonia Kruks
Melissa A. Orlie


New Materialisms... [is], in the truest sense, [a] timely volume; [it] ... illuminates and reflects contemporary compulsions in critical theory while making important contributions to transdisciplinary feminist and queer posthumanist inquiry, a minor arc of theory that nevertheless has an extensive history in feminist studies of science, technology, and epistemology, as Sara Ahmed (2008) has argued elsewhere.” — Women's Studies Quarterly

New Materialisms is an extraordinary and in fact interdisciplinary collection in its own right. . . . [T]he work coming out of the material turn is mind-blowing work, both in scholarly and in artistic research, and in art”. — Iris van der Tuin, Women's Studies International Forum

“New materialisms offer democratic theory an important opportunity to
regard its own parameters and function – what can be hoped for and why.
And Coole and Frost’s volume offers a new view of the human (and the
thing) that are well worth regarding. . . .” — Andrew Poe, Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy

“Overall, the volume makes a convincing case for the renewal of materialism, in terms of both its theoretical purchase and its radical political potential. It shows, in ways that are often exemplary, that there are rich, and sometimes surprising, resources in the philosophical tradition for renewing materialisms.” — Keith Ansell Pearson, Radical Philosophy

“The essays collected here—authored by leading political theorists and feminist and cultural critics—examine the ‘choreographies of becoming’ and move beyond constructivism and humanism to track processes of de- and re-materialization. The effect is to scramble habitual categories of thought—active versus passive, inert versus animate, political versus ontological, causality versus spontaneity—and force us to think materiality. As the editors put it, ‘materiality is always something more than “mere” matter: an excess, force, vitality, relationality, or difference that renders matter active, self-creative, productive, unpredictable.’” — Bonnie Honig, author of Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy

“This is a strong and timely collection, one that could very well direct future discussions of the ‘new materialisms’ toward an experimental, process-oriented, and politically-engaged ‘new ontology.’” — Ellen Rooney, Brown University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Diana Coole is Professor of Political and Social Theory at Birkbeck College, University of London, England. She is the author, most recently, of Merleau-Ponty and Modern Politics after Anti-Humanism. She is a Leverhulme Research Fellow, 2010–13.

Samantha Frost is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, the Gender and Women’s Studies Program, and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Lessons from a Materialist Thinker: Hobbesian Reflections on Ethics and Politics.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introducing the New Materialisms / Diana Coole and Samantha Frost 1

The Force of Materiality

A Vitalist Stopover on the Way to a New Materialism / Jane Bennett 47

Nondialectical Materialism / Pheng Cheah 70

The Inertia of Matter and the Generativity of Flesh / Diana Coole 92

Impersonal Matter / Melissa A. Orlie 116

Political Matters

Feminism, Materialism, and Freedom / Elizabeth Grosz 139

Fear and the Illusion of Autonomy / Samantha Frost 158

Materialities of Experience / William E. Connolly 178

The Politics of "Life Itself" and New Ways of Dying / Rosi Braidotti 201

Economies of Disruption

The Elusive Material: What the Dog Doesn't Understand / Rey Chow 221

Orientations Matter / Sara Ahmed 234

Simon de Beauvoir: Engaging Discrepant Materialisms / Sonia Kruks 258

The Materialism of Historical Materialism / Jason Edwards 281

Bibliography 299

Contributors 319

Index 323
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4772-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4753-8
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