The cognitive nonconscious and the new materialisms

Book Section

© 2017 Selection and editorial matter, Sarah Ellenzweig and John H. Zammito. Among the promising developments for reassessing the traditional humanist subject are the new materialisms. Their diversity notwithstanding, the theoretical frameworks proceeding under this banner generally argue for a similar set of propositions. Chief among these is decentering the human subject, along with the characteristics that have long been identified with human exceptionalism, including language, rationality, and higher consciousness. Also prominent is the idea that matter, rather than being passive and inert, is “lively” and “vibrant” (Bennett 2010). In some versions of the new materialisms, a strong emphasis on ontology emerges (Barad 2007, Parisi 2004, Braidotti 2006 and 2013), accompanied by a reframing of ontological premises, often along Deleuzian lines emphasizing metastabilities, dynamic processes, and assemblages (Grosz 2002 and 2011, Parikka 2010, Bennett 2010). In general, these approaches tend to locate the human on a continuum with nonhuman life and material processes rather than as a privileged special category (Braidotti 2006, Grosz 2002 and 2011). Finally, they emphasize transformative potentials, often linking these with the capacity for new kinds of political actions (Grosz 2002 and 2011, Braidotti 2006). After the baroque intricacies of the linguistic turn, these approaches arrive like bursts of oxygen to a fatigued brain. Focusing on the grittiness of actual material processes, they introduce materiality, along with its complex interactions, into humanities discourses that for too long and too often have been oblivious to the fact that all higher consciousness and linguistic acts, no matter how sophisticated and abstract, must in the first instance emerge from underlying material processes.1.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hayles, NK

Published Date

  • January 1, 2017

Book Title

  • The New Politics of Materialism: History, Philosophy, Science

Start / End Page

  • 181 - 199

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781351976152

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.4324/9781315268477

Citation Source

  • Scopus