How did you first become interested in new materialism and posthumanism in relation to the field of education?
In one of my first classes at SFU, I was introduced to Bruno Latour’s book, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. I found it so interesting and rich. After reading his book, I began to explore social theory to understand what he was critiquing. Then, I began to read more about Actor-Network Theory (ANT), which asserts that we are all actors (human and non-human) in the fabric of society. For instance, the whole agentic arrangement of us, the computer and recording is now an event that creates an interview. It has a special setting and component that is creating something new. This interview is an actor in that sense.
Karen Barad is another scholar who has greatly influenced my thinking. She is a leading scholar in the area of new materialism. She has taken the notion of performativity further by conceptualizing the world in constant emergence, in constant becoming. Moving beyond notions of the structural society, new materialism and post humanism are process-oriented theories, and thus imagine social life as emergent. In other words, we never are, we only become.
How are you using new materialism and post-humanism theory in your educational research?
I would not say I am using the theories; my research is post-humanist research. It has been said before, that we might be in, or moving towards, a post-humanist condition. Post-humanism does not mean that the human is not important. Instead, it moves away from the Cartesian humanist project, which positions the human at the center and in separation from nature. Posthumanism decenters the human and highlights the materiality, relationality and state of becoming of social formations. For example, the (neo)liberal ideal that individuals can determine their future disregards the relationality of life. When you disregard relationality it is very easy to assign success to some and failure to others. When you account for relationality this idea shifts.
This notion of relational performativity and becoming provides the grounding for social justice, because it means that in every single turn of life we have the opportunity to make it better. It is not just about fighting against the structure, but it is about being accountable to all of your connections and how you are entangled. That is why for me new materialism and post-humanism hold so much social justice potential.