Open to advanced undergraduates with permission of the instructor (firstname.lastname@example.org).
How does matter—generally thought of as the inert stuff of nature, acted upon or animated by humans—come to matter in the social, political, and ecological senses of the word? This seminar explores recent approaches to materiality across art, anthropology, feminist theory, and political ecology, an interdisciplinary constellation of scholarship often called the “new materialism.” Proceeding from political theorist Jane Bennett’s rendering of vibrancy as a thingly agency bound up with social justice, this course is an invitation to work critically with this formation in a transcultural way. We will interrogate the “newness” of the new materialism, situating its histories and genealogies in earlier phenomenological approaches to matter, while exploring its alternative lineages and contestations. Students will apply the new materialism’s diverse methodological tools for theorizing things and networks to their own practices and projects. Emphasizing graduate-level reading skills, our discussions will be based primarily on several recent book-length texts, which we will work to situate within the new materialism and within their authors’ own disciplinary lineages. In addition to Bennett’s Vibrant Matter , these texts may include Bill Brown’s Other Things, Natasha Myers’ Rendering Life Molecular , Spyros Papapetros’s On the Animation of the Inorganic , and Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom at the End of the World .