Most popular and academic reviews mostly by those in softer sciences rather than physics seem uncomfortably favorable toward the book, and while I appreciate it greatly, I feel her work, for due to all its apparent or self-declared nuances, requires a more nuanced interrogation. I give it 3. But it did not quite live up to my expectations. Barad gets points enough to bump her up.
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In this volume, Karen Barad, theoretical physicist and feminist theorist, elaborates her theory of agential realism. Offering an account of the world as a whole rather than as composed of separate natural and social realms, agential realism is at once a new epistemology, ontology, and ethics.
In the process, she significantly reworks understandings of space, time, matter, causality, agency, subjectivity, and objectivity.
Intra-activity is an inexhaustible dynamism that configures and reconfigures relations of space-time-matter.
In explaining intra-activity, Barad reveals questions about how nature and culture interact and change over time to be fundamentally misguided. Finally, Barad uses agential realism to produce a new interpretation of quantum physics, demonstrating that agential realism is more than a means of reflecting on science; it can be used to actually do science.
One of the most impressive things about this book is her facility in each of these disciplinary modes of inquiry. She provides an excellent overview of science studies. Barad writes. The book is a provocative, generative, contribution to our attempts to provide effective tools to describe and understand the rapidly changing world we are part of.
It deserves wide analysis and discussion. My intent here is to argue that it merits the serious attention of historians, philosophers, sociologists of science, and science studies and STS scholars.
In this book Karen Barad puts her expertise in feminist studies and quantum physics to superb use, offering agential realism as an important alternative to representationalism. Karen Barad provides an original and satisfying response to a perennial problem in philosophy and cultural theory: how to grasp matter and meaning or causality and discourse together, without either erasing one of them or introducing an unbridgeable dualism. Her methodological lessons from the diffraction of light and her convincing interpretations of familiar puzzles and recent experimental results in quantum physics also display how science and science studies can genuinely learn from one another.
This is an important, ambitious, readable, risk-taking, and very smart book, one to savor and grow with. Reality is not independent of our explorations of it; and reality is not a matter of opinion, but of the material consequences of some cuts and not others made in the fabric of the world. As Barad reminds us, identities are always formed in intra-action.
Ethical practices and consequences are intrinsic to the web.
Review: Karen Barad’s “Meeting the Universe Halfway”
Meeting the Universe Halfway