Agential Cut

Whitney Stark

Objects or beings aren’t exactly the separate, objectified, bordered, continuous-through-timespace bodies that we so constantly refer to. There are constant exchanges and transformations happening; forces shift, electrons jump, particles are entangled with particles in other spaces without any currently measurable link or force through space. This movement is agency. In order to understand the world, what ‘we’ understand to be a phenomenologically operational body, for instance ‘me’ or ‘you,’ operates itself as an apparatus (a structure through which an outcome can be measured - for instance, a definition) and makes a cut in these agencies, these forces, to identify what will seem close and consistent enough to be imagined within that apparatus-construction as an object/body/being and what, within this, will be other.

This differs from a Cartesian cut in that it does not attempt to “disentangle” the phenomena, or fetishize, but “what the agential cut does provide is a contingent resolution of the ontological inseparability within the phenomenon hence the conditions for... description: that is, it enables an... account of marks on bodies, but only within the particular phenomenon” (Barad, 2007, 348) so as to be able to discuss difference with less positivism and essentialism, things key in enabling oppression. These bodies are forces, gatherings, still always already gathering and connecting with multiplicities. These bodies are perceived nodes in spacetime, congealing together through forces intra-acting, of intersecting; phenomena.

synonym: understanding, objectifying, tangibility, strategic essentialism, choice, difference, description
antonym: difference, objectivity, essentialism, strict categories, binary, positivism
hypernym: ephemerality, phenomenology
hyponym: object, thing, body, definition, family

Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.

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’

An intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology
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