Over the past twenty years, there has been a noticeable shift in “the changing materialist content of materialism,” as Raymond Williams once described it. Across the disciplines, scholars are asking how Marx’s notion of materiality—the economic infrastructures that determine our lives—overtook all of the other senses in which we speak about the material world. A renewed interest in matter as a process, negotiated on the smallest and largest of scales, from the microbiological to the cosmic, has prompted a return to the archive for alternative philosophies of materiality. This includes Jane Bennett’s vital materialism which is interested in the political relations between objects, object-oriented ontology (OOO) which insists on the non-human dimensions of objects, object-oriented feminism’s critique of OOO, queer theories of animacy, as well as Elizabeth Grosz’s new work on “speculative idealism.” This thread explores definitions of materials, materiality, and matter along the lines of thingliness, perception, and ontology. Here we take “materials” and “materiality” to exist on a continuum of scale - from the microscopic to macroscopic. We are interested in the legacies of materialism—historical, dialectical, scientific, vitalist—as well as its most recent forms: object oriented feminism, vital materialism, speculative realism. Keywords include: bodies, nature, cultural production, non-human, archival matters, cultural practices, ontology, the materiality of nature, and matter itself.
The people who headed this group in 2017 are Christian Haines, David McCarthy, Ellen McCallum, Grant Wythoff, John Grey, Mary McAlpin, Mathew Handelman, Natania Meeker, and Mark Sentesy.
The group image was gathered from here.
Below you will find an explore button that takes you to all of the group's research, featured items below.
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Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments
Perhaps the most canonical work of Marxist critical theory in the twentieth century, Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment investigates how the project of the Enlightenment transforms into a logic of domination and instrumentalization in the context of capitalist modernity. The book includes well-known interpretations of Homer's Odyssey, the prose of the Marquis de Sade, the "culture industry" of Hollywood, and the phenomenon of anti-semitism. It analyzes the way in which the valorization of reason becomes its own kind of myth and superstition: a blind faith in Man's ability to conquer nature, including human nature. Adorno and Horkheimer's critique of modernity nonetheless recuperates reason, suggesting that it is not reason as such that leads to domination but rather the separation of reason from social needs and the substitution of mathematical abstraction for thoughtful reflection.
Julien Offray de La Mettrie was one of the earliest French Enlightenment materialists. Exiled from France after publishing a book (A Natural History of the Soul) arguing that psychical phenomena could be explained by examining bodily processes, he wrote L'Homme Machine, the most radical thesis of biological mechanism produced by a French Enlightenment thinker at the time. Translated as Man A Machine or Machine Man, the book is both, following Descartes, a genuine attempt to explain bodily and mental processes on the model of machines and a deliberately provocative work, a polemic that closes, something like Lucretius' On the Nature of Things, by drawing ethical consequences from universal mechanism. The authority to discuss ethics or philosophical anthropology, he argues, belongs exclusively to physiologists.