Michael saved in Pocket: ‘New Materialism: Phenomena – Agential Realism’


The concept of the phenomena has been subject to a wide array of philosophical writings. Here I unfold on phenomena, as methodological apparatus in Karen Barad’s Agential Realism (2007).

In an agential realist sense, the smallest units of analysis are phenomena:

A phenomenon is a specific intra-action of an ‘object’; and the ‘measuring agencies’; the object and the measuring agencies emerge from, rather than precede, the intra-action that produces them.” (Barad, 2007, p. 128).

The central idea is that “the thing” “we” research, is enacted in entanglement with “the way” we research it. This is an onto-epistemological offset:

“Practices of knowing and being are not isolable; they are mutually implicated. We don’t obtain knowledge by standing outside the world; we know because we are of the world. We are part of the world in its differential becoming. The separation of epistemology from ontology is a reverberation of a metaphysics that assumes an inherent difference between human and nonhuman, subject and object, mind and body, matter and discourse.” (Barad, 2007, p. 185)

There is in this sense no privileged position from which knowledges can be produced, as the researcher is of the world. Researching phenomena, then, is a methodological practice of continuously questioning the effects of the way we research, on the knowledges we produce. This unfolds itself as an ethico-onto-epistemology of knowing in being. Ethics is about being response-able to the way we make the world, and to consider the effects our knowledge-making processes have on the world (Barad, 2007, p. 381).

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