Affirmative Difference

Devyn Remme

Abandon fixed identities and static points of reference, all who enter here.

“Your effort to remain what you are is what limits you.” (Ghost in the Shell, 1995)

Mutative and unpredictable difference is the generative force of the world. Difference is the fundamental and ongoing condition of life. Nothing remains static in a dynamic system. Fixed categories and essential characteristics are deceptive constructs - change is constant. If there were no differences unfolding in the materiality of the world then would time stand still? What do we mean by time standing still other than an absence of change? Or does time somehow make difference? The causal relationship, if there is one, is unclear yet we can observe material difference directly, which is more than we can say of time. This constant differing moves in the direction of increased complexity not only between what is now but also between what was, is and will be. Thus even if most of earth’s life supporting systems collapse and there are only a few forms of life left, the simplicity of that arrangement adds to the complexity of the whole. Elizabeth Grosz's writes, 'biology dictates that to the degree that sexually dimorphic beings emerge, their sexual differences diverge more over time' (2004, p. 259). I would argue, thinking with Deleuze and the rhizome, that biology is queerer than that. There could come a time of sexual convergence as well, who knows what cyborg sexuality will look like.

New materialism traverses the dualisms of modernity, which are structured by a negative relation between terms. We are learning how to think difference structured through an affirmative relation. A difference structured by affirmation does not work with predefined categories, for example between mind and body or nature and culture, nor does it involve a hierarchy between terms. Affirmative difference does not presuppose that the original ontological difference is between that which is and that which is not. Life does not proceed by lack but by mobilization of positive difference along internal lines of divergence where all categories are such by virtue of their relating, not negating. This way of thinking opens up attention to previously sterilized category deviants. Pure difference is both an ontological and an ethical concept.

Grosz, Elizabeth, (2004). The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely. London: Duke University Press
Mamoru Oshii (director), (1995). Ghost in the Shell (Film). Japan: Production I.G.

COST Action IS1307 New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on 'How Matter Comes to Matter'.

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With the changing of societies on local, national and international scales owing to economic, ecological, political and technological developments and crises, a reorganized academic landscape can be observed to be emerging. Scholarship strives to become increasingly interdisciplinary in order to grasp and examine the unfolding complexity of ongoing ecological, socio-cultural and politico-economic changes. Additionally, academics forge... Read more or find out Who's Who

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Working Groups focus on four key areas of research

Working Group One

Genealogies of New Materialisms; examines and intervenes in canonization processes by compiling a web-based bibliography, coordinating the OST 068/13 8 EN... Read more

Working Group Two

New Materialisms on the Crossroads of the Natural and Human Sciences; seeks to develop new materialisms at the boundaries of the human and natural sciences. The group focuses on how European new materialisms can rework the ‘Two Cultures' gap... Read more

Working Group Three

New Materialisms Embracing the Creative Arts; brings together European researchers, artists, museum professionals, and other activists with a keen interest in the material... Read more

Working Group Four

New Materialisms Tackling Economical and Identity – Political Crises and Organizational Experiments... Read more


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COST Action IS1307

New Materialism —
Networking European Scholarship on 'How matter comes to matter’

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