Localizing Feminist New Materialisms is a research project funded by the Academy of Finland (2017‒2021, no. 309007). The project expands feminist new materialisms through three key aims revolving round localization. First, it highlights the role of research methodologies, especially fieldwork methods, in new materialisms. Second, it brings a range of previously less noted topics into feminist new materialisms: children’s cultures, disability studies, performing arts, and sound. Third, the project advocates the localization of new materialisms within contemporary humanities. This is crucial both for assessing the theoretical and political relevance of these approaches, and for helping humanistic research grapple with today’s realities.
New materialisms are a growing transdisciplinary trend in twenty-first-century thought that also influences gender and feminist studies. Feminist new materialisms already form a multidisciplinary field with resonances in philosophy, cultural theory, science and technology studies, and the arts. Feminist scholars have recently produced powerful reconceptualization of matter’s significance and agency: of its liveliness and capacity to affect other f/actors. Yet this work remains mainly theoretical. Empirical adaptations have so far happened mostly in social sciences.
The research problems shared by the project’s three substudies are: What renewed methodological, analytical, and ontological approaches to gender, agency, and materiality do feminist new materialisms enable in ethnographic research? How do notions of sex and gender transform when analyzed in terms of co-determining relations between human embodied subjects, discourses, and non-human agentic materialities? How do new materialist approaches help feminist and gender studies produce adequate accounts of our current situated locations informed by co-constitutive relations between social, historical, and material factors?
The substudies refashion ethnographic methods by using and transforming key feminist new materialist concepts such as intra-action (Barad 2007), trans-corporeality (Alaimo 2008) and counterfactual narratives (Halberstam 2013). The concepts will, in turn, evoke novel ways of observing, relating, interviewing, and knowing. The project thus aims to transpose new materialist theorizations into active epistemic, political and ethical (capacity-enriching and difference-fostering) powers, both in fieldwork situations and in feminist research and activism.
Alaimo, S 2008. ‘Trans-corporeal Feminisms and the Ethical Space of Nature.’ In Material Feminisms, eds Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 237‒264.
Barad, K 2007. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press.
Halberstam, J 2013. ‘No Church in the Wild: Queer Anarchy and Gaga Feminism.’ Lecture at Portland State University, May 13, 2013.