Political Ontologies. Perspectives and Problems of New Materialist Scholarship

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Thomas LEMKE, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Recently, social and political theory has demonstrated a renewed theoretical interest in matter and materiality. The “new materialism”, as it is sometimes called encompasses a plurality of different approaches and disciplinary perspectives, ranging from science and technology studies via feminist theory and political philosophy to geography. The new materialist scholarship shares the conviction that the “linguistic turn” or primarily textual accounts are insufficient for an adequate understanding of the complex and dynamic interplay of meaning and matter.

The talk critically engages with the ontological underpinnings and the political perspectives of the new materialism. By focusing on Jane Bennett’s idea of “vibrant matter” and Karen Barad’s account of “agential realism”, I will discuss conceptual ambiguities and unresolved tensions in new materialist scholarship. The talk seeks to clarify these theoretical problems and argues for a relational account of agency and ontology that allows for a more materialist account of politics.