New Materialism, Technophilia and Emancipation
Keywords:new materialism, emancipation, historical materialism, flat ontology, agency
The aim of this paper is to reflect on psychological, ethical and political implications of new materialisms (Barad, Bennett, Coole, Frost) in the context of expanded and accelerated regimes of measurement as part of a technological governance of the human. As new materialists are committed to both epistemic and political emancipation, I first analyse theoretical, in particular epistemological, foundations of new materialism. The new materialism has achieved liberating epistemic effects in criticizing self-referential discursive and socio-constructionist agendas. It argued instead for a return to material and somatic realities. However, I examine whether its flat ontology, its epistemology of de-differentiation of the human and non-human, even non-living agencies and commitments into a principle of immanence, provide appropriate means to critically assess ethical and political implications of entanglements of humans with the historically- produced technologies and social worlds in general. The next question to be discussed is whether a return (nevertheless a discursive one) to material and somatic realities can in itself protect those very vulnerable realities. As horizontal ontology invokes a horizontal normativity which cannot serve as a foundation for emancipatory projects, it follows that normativity needs other sources beyond the new materialism paradigm. Thus, I argue that such a weak or insecure position of normativity within the new materialisms affects any concept of human subject, regardless of its entanglements, and any project of emancipation. I conclude these critical analyses by claiming that the new materialism’s epistemological and political emancipatory promises cannot be fulfilled by means provided by the new materialism itself.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Gordana Jovanović
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