(Feminist) New Materialist Pedagogies

Beatriz Revelles Benavente & Olga Cielemecka

New materialism offers a way to re-think academic practices of research and pedagogy through, as John & Jill Schostak put it, “raising questions that make the powerful feel uncomfortable, even threatened […]” and regaining “this political dimension [which] suggests the possible overthrow of a previously stable or at least dominant order of ways of knowing, thinking, believing, acting.” (2008, p.1). New materialist pedagogies involve raising questions that dismantle hierarchies of power that dominate the way we know, think and act. That is to say, new materialist teaching is according to Schostaks a “radical teaching.” Thus, one of the essential aspects of this pedagogical approach is disrupting the hierarchy between teachers and students, in order to co-create knowledge and learn from each other (as explained in eds. Hinton & Treusch, 2015). Teaching becomes an intra-active material process in which multiple political possibilities are co-created with/out the classroom. Focusing on a plethora of embodied and embedded subjectivities and (non/human) agencies, multiple ways of knowing and doing, on affects and relationalities, from the vantage point of new materialist pedagogies the educational experience operates in a mode of an encounter, both political and material, and knowledge is always co-created rather than passed down.

This way of teaching does not only plea for a horizontal approach to the relation between students and teachers, but it also applies to the curriculum established and the socio-material conditions that involve the act of teaching. Firstly, a disruption of the traditional approach to matter unhinges the androcentric canon of knowledge creation. The disruption of the canon involves paying close attention to the constraints imposed through classifications (or classifixations, as Iris van der Tuin calls them, see: van der Tuin, 2015), constructed and fixed by the notion of (feminist) generations and hegemonic geographies. New materialist pedagogies focus on the making of knowledge, with a special emphasis put on its collective and processual character, as much as on the unmaking of knowledge: on unlearning the dominant ways of thinking, troubling the structures which condition academic knowledge production and dissemination, questioning institutions and authority.

Secondly, the question of situated knowledges (see: Haraway, 1988) is an intrinsic part of new materialist pedagogies providing a tool to criticise power and privilege positions, including our own, undertake intersectional analyses (see: Lykke, 2010), and to create dialogues, coalitions and alliances. Intersectionality is understood as the possibility of relating different identities in movement and not through their categorical and teleological properties. This is possible by embedding and embodying subjectivities, instead of fixing identities in classifications. Intersectionality enables these material and discursive dialogues that promote particular alliances in a specific spatio-material context.

Thirdly, a new materialist approach to pedagogies entails re-working of knowledge creation and dissemination processes by focusing on possibilities instead of results. It is a permanent experimental approach in which right or wrong become part of the pedagogical experience and a teaching/learning process insofar as everything implies a critical and creative re-thinking. This permanent and open-ended process of re-thinking involves a strong exercise of reflection in order to “queer causal approaches” (Barad, 2010) to teaching. Out of this process, emerges a dynamic move that is always already relational and processual, a multitude of differences that produce differing patterns,diverging from the norm. These patterns become political approaches to engage with contemporary society, which is to return to what we outlined at the beginning: radical teaching. A new materialist pedagogy is an entangled creation of knowledge that “breaks through” (as in Dolphijn and van der Tuin, 2012) pre-established notions of non/human agencies in order to produce encounters in which political and material intra-act to be “part of that nature that we seek to understand” (Barad, 2007, p. 26).

Keywords: feminism, pedagogies, radical pedagogies
Genealogies: bell hooks, revolutionary feminist pedagogy, situated knowledges, intersectionality, Nina Lykke
Hypernyms: radical pedagogies, feminist pedagogy

Barad, Karen. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.
Barad, Karen. (2010). “Quantum Entanglements and Hauntological Relations of Inheritance: Dis/continuities, SpaceTime Enfoldings, and Justice-to-Come,” Derrida Today, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 240-268.
Dolphijn, Rick and Iris van der Tuin. (2012). New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies. Ann Arbor: an imprint of MPublishing, University of Michigan Library.
Haraway, Donna. (1988). “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 575-599.
Hinton, Peta and Pat Treusch (eds.). (2015). Teaching with Feminist Materialisms: Teaching with Gender. European Women's Studies in International and Interdisciplinary Classrooms. Utrecht: ATGENDER.
Lykke, Nina. (2010). Feminist Studies: A Guide to Intersectional Theory, Methodology and Writing. New York: Routledge.
Schostak, Jill and John Schostak. (2008). Radical Research. Designing, developing and writing research to make a difference. London & New York: Routledge.
Tuin, Iris van der. (2015). Generational Feminism. New Materialist Introduction to Generative Approach. Lanham, Boulder, New York and London: Lexington Books.

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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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

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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

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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

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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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