New materialism and women: An investigation into identity with diffractive reading

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Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Location:
P1 OPINNÄYTTEET D 2018 Bexell
Date
2018
Major/Subject
Mcode
Degree programme
Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education
NoVA
Language
en
Pages
87
Series
Abstract
This master’s thesis investigates the concept of identity through a framework of new materialism, asking the question: how does a new materialist framework affect the conceptualization of women’s bodies (and beyond)? Based on a personal interest in women’s identities, this thesis pursues a post-anthropocentric conceptualization of identity in the context of new materialism, motivated by an exploration into alternative conceptualizations of identity. New materialism in general is a concept that considers ontology and epistemology as already inseparable, implying that ways of knowing and ways of being are entangled and affecting each other. Karen Barad’s interpretation of new materialism is adopted throughout this investigation, with a particular focus on agential realism and how boundaries are broken down and created, in order to confront dualistic ideas of identity, such as human/animal, mind/body, or man/woman. As such, this thesis is able to experiment with a post-anthropocentric identity that consists of fluid boundaries, which takes into consideration the agency of matter and the role discursive practices have, in relation to new materialism. The data is based on field notes and observations deriving from meetings with radical feminist women, as well as embroidery through an arts based research process. The data is then analyzed using diffractive reading, which is a method connected to new materialism. Diffractive reading entails a reading and interpretation of different texts through each other, focusing on an entangled dialogue between them, as well as the collected data. In this case, the texts that will be diffractively read are sections from Meeting the Universe Halfway by Barad (2007) and Material Feminisms by Alaimo and Hekman (2008). As this method is relatively new and there are no concrete structures (as should be expected, from a method based on new materialism), this thesis also serves as an experimentation and demonstration of diffractive reading. The results of this investigation into identity reveal a way of being and knowing ourselves that goes beyond limiting constructs, such as the identities human, woman, and lesbian. With a new materialist framework, these identities become fluid boundaries that are temporarily constructed through material-discursive practices. That is, a new materialist post-anthropocentric identity in this context does not necessarily limit itself to dualistic ideas of identities, broadening the horizon and including non-human identities.
Description
Supervisor
Kallio-Tavin, Mira
Thesis advisor
Tavin, Kevin
Keywords
new materialism, women, diffractive reading, arts-based research
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