On what is usually a night full of spirited displays of fireworks, we will be considering the vibrancy of matter itself in the first chapter of Jane Bennett’s ‘Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things’. This session will be held on November 5th in Arts 119 at 3-5pm, a change from our usual venue of Westmere Lobby. Please note, that we will be returning to Westmere for our following session on November 19th.
I believe it is wrong to deny vitality to nonhuman bodies, forces and forms […] a careful course of anthropomorphization can help reveal that vitality, even though it resists full translation and exceeds my comprehensive grasp. I believe that encounters with lively matter can chasten my fantasies of human mastery, highlight the common materiality of all that is, expose a wider distribution of agency, and reshape the self and its interests.
Following her work as an early practitioner of New Materialism, Jane Bennett’s essay explores her own brand of Object-Oriented Ontology, a philosophy which de-centers the privileging of human thought in favour of understanding the qualities of things-in-themselves. Turning to the discredited philosophy of vitalism, Bennett aims to perceive of all matter as vital in what she terms a ‘vital materialism’, to contribute to her idea that things offer a way to think ‘outside of human experience’. Contributing to an ecocritical politics, Bennett’s essay adds a twist to this speculative field of thought that moves away from the unknowability of things-in-themselves, towards an exploration of assemblages of things. She does so with the knowledge that extending the political sphere beyond the human, explicitly how humans are perceived to interact with things, can generate new forms of political action.
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If you want to know more about the reading group before coming, you can also read about our past events on Alondra Nelson and AfroFuturism, and Ian Bogost and Video Games, courtesy of Liam Harrison and the Center for Contemporary Literature!
All PGTs, PGRs, and members of staff are welcome to the reading group, and we look forward to welcoming you!
Contemporary Theory Reading Group