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Inventive Feminisms, Vital(ist) Matters and Political Concerns

The CEU Campus
Thursday, March 9, 2017, 5:30 pm

The Department of Gender Studies 2016-2017 Public Lecture Series


Inventive Feminisms, Vital(ist) Matters and Political Concerns: New Materialisms and Old Questions

Peta Hinton 

5.30 pm, March 9, 2017, CEU, Nador 9, Popper 

The new materialisms are marked by an expansive ontology that significantly challenges humanist parameters for social inquiry and proposals for social change. With analysis of political and ethical relations extended to more-than- and non-human agency, an emphasis on matter’s dynamic and effective participation in social meanings and processes, and an understanding of time that compromises familiar notions of progress and epoch, new materialist approaches promise to complicate the socius and to open up for question how it is that politics and ethics constitutes and who or what participates. Nevertheless, critiques of this field continue to ask whether it is a sufficient apparatus through which political concerns may be mobilized and addressed – a suspicion often tied to its particular claims regarding matter’s transformative capacities, which are generally thought to sidestep questions of specificity or to be inadequate to the task of providing real agendas for social change. It is precisely in its provocations concerning materiality that the limits of new materialist intervention are pronounced; a claim that bears out in the neo-vitalist tenor of many of its contributions as this shapes and contains its political and ethical imperatives.

Rather than trying to redress these tensions, it is the foreclosures and exclusions we find in the critical encounter with new materialist politics that animates this lecture and helps me to develop a different line of intervention that may be relevant for new materialist inquiry and contemporary feminist projects. Taking up with Rosi Braidotti’s and Donna Haraway’s recent engagements with the Anthropocene, I ask what happens when we figure death, failure, and impotence into accounts of eco-systemic malleability, material vitality, and future possibility? How might we conceive of feminist horizons if they are to grapple with stagnation, indifference, and extinction as real possibilities? And, following Claire Colebrook, what might this do to reveal and put into question the normative political and ethical aspirations of feminist engagement and activism and contribute towards an inventive feminist politics of negativity?


Peta Hinton is Honorary Lecturer in the Social Sciences (Sociology and Anthropology) at the University of New South Wales, Australia. She has recently held positions of fellow with the ICI Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin (2013-2016) and lecturer in Gender Studies at Utrecht University, Netherlands (2014-2016). She researches in the fields of feminist politics, sexual difference feminisms and new materialism, troubling conceptions of life itself, futurity, negativity, and ethics. Her work is published in Hypatia, Somatechnics, and Australian Feminist Studies, and she is co-editor of and has published essays in Teaching With Feminist Materialisms (a volume in the AtGender ‘Teaching With’ series, 2015), “Feminist Matters: The Politics of New Materialism” (Women: A Cultural Review special issue, 2014) and “Quantum Possibilities: The Work of Karen Barad” (rhizomes special issue, 2016).