Karen Barad (1956 – )
Karen Barad is Professor of Feminist Studies, Philosophy and History of Consciousness at the University of California Santa Cruz and co-director of the Science & Justice Graduate Training Program, funded by the National Science Foundation. As a feminist-physicist-philosopher her influence in the fields of new materialism, new material feminism, science studies, queer studies, and posthumanism has been profound. Barad’s PhD in theoretical particle physics was awarded by SUNY Stony Brook in 1984 with her thesis entitled ‘Fermions in Lattice Gauge Theories’. Her work has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Hughes Foundation, the Irvine Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2016, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in the Arts at Gothenburg University in 2016, and is on the faculty of the European Graduate School.
She is the originator of agential realism as a new and distinct, posthuman and performative approach to knowledge-making practices. Barad’s central thesis with agential realism is that post-structuralism and its theoretical predecessors have placed far too much emphasis on language and representationalism and not enough on the materiality of discourse and the role of matter in understandings of how the world is configured. From her doctoral thesis, through her early work on feminism and science pedagogies, and her subsequent development of agential realism, Barad has been instrumental in intellectual moves to put questions of how matter comes to matter centre stage. Agential realism, based on the insights that nothing exists in and of itself, that everything is always-already in relation, and that matter and discourse are co-constitutive, has been widely taken up as a paradigm-shifting analytical move which works through the challenges posed by quantum physics to Cartesian epistemology and the Humanist ontologies which underpin it. Barad’s lexicon – agencies, intra-action, entanglement, the cut, phenomena, apparatus, diffraction – deriving in part from the language of quantum physics, offers social science researchers a new range of conceptual resources for putting agential realism to work to investigate the world in new ways. Central to agential realism is the necessity of developing an ethico-onto-epistemological stance which entangles what Humanist approaches have illegitimately dis-entangled.
Reduction of developmental biology to self-referential cell-cell communication offers a portal for understanding fundamental mechanisms of physiology as derived from physics through quantum mechanics. It is argued that self-referential organization is implicit to the Big Bang and its further expression is a recoil reaction to that Singularity. When such a frame is considered, in combination with experimental evidence for the importance of epigenetic inheritance, the unicellular state can be reappraised as the primary object of selection. This framework provides a significant shift in understanding the relationship between physics and biology, providing novel insights to the nature and origin of consciousness.
Both the quantum physicist and the poet make prescient guides to living into the mystery, the unsettled, the unknown. Never simple abstraction, such exploration has material consequences for how we live and make the world; it opens new ways and doors to examine what it means to be a self and to work towards justice together. Reaching out to explore intimacy, interconnection, and intra-action, to feel the touch and hear the voice of the void, the quantum physicist feminist theorist Karen Barad writes from within and deeper into the quantum indeterminacy that is the space of all possibility. In this lecture, we will follow Barad into the inhuman and the infinite, finding the vastest of multitudes in the smallest particle, and spirited ghosts teetering in the void.
The principles which underpin physical law are at the heart of science. New ideas and new concepts are examined and evaluated in terms of how they lead to new insight into present paradigms. The lectures discuss methodology, important mathematical structures and various aspects of symmetry, how they lead to consistency, or otherwise, with present understanding, and how also they can facilitate quantitative analysis. Read More
A mathematical basis for spectrum of discrete Electromagnetic Field (EMF) frequencies, that were shown to affect health and disease , was elaborated and generalized . The particular EMF pattern was earlier revealed by us through a meta-analysis of more than 500 biomedical publications that reported life-sustaining as well as life-decaying EMF frequencies. The detected eigenfrequencies could be arithmetically scaled according to an adapted Pythagorean tuning. The particular semi-harmonic scale exhibits a core pattern of twelve eigenfrequency functions with adjacent self-similar patterns, according to octave hierarchy . The mathematical analysis shows that the derived arithmetical scale exhibits a sequence of unique products of integer powers of 2, 3 and a factor √2. These discrete eigenfrequency values can be related to supposed bio-resonance of solitons or polaron quasi-particles in life systems. Bio-solitons are conceived as self-reinforcing solitary waves, that are constituting local fields, being involved in intracellular geometric ordering and patterning, as well as in intra- and intercellular signaling. Additional literature search, revealed very similar frequency patterns in the color spectrum, for wave resonances of nucleotides in aqueous solution, for a candidate RNA-catalyst, as well as for sound-induced vibrations evoked in thin vibrating membranes as reported by Chladny. This collective evidence points at a generalized biophysical algorithm underlying complexity in nature, evidently manifest in both animate and non-animate modalities, coined by us the Generalized Musical (GM) principle. The particular semi-harmonic frequency spectrum may reflect a discrete pilot-wave structure that can be interpreted as a, so called, hidden variable in Bohm’s causal interpretation of quantum field theory and is mathematically expressed as follows:
Abstract This essay is an invitation to take up the nature and problematics of hospitality in its materiality. It begins and ends with the Marshall Islands, at the crossroads of two great destructive forces: nuclear colonialism and the climate crisis. In the after-math of sixty-seven US nuclear bomb “tests” visited upon the Marshall Islands, the concrete “dome” built on Runit Island by the US government was an act of erasure and a-void-ance — an attempt to contain and cover over plutonium remains and other material traces of the violence of colonial hospitality that live inside the Tomb (as the Marshallese call it). Taking the physicality of the hostility within hospitality seriously, and going into the core of the theory that produced the nuclear bomb, I argue that a radical hospitality — an infinity of possibilities for interrupting state sanctioned violence — is written into the structure of matter itself in its inseparability with the void.
Our notions of what is physically ‘real’ have long been based on the idea that the real is what is immediately apprehended, that is the local or observable, the physically tangible, though there has always been an alternative philosophical notion that the ‘real’ is some kind of ontological structure beyond immediate apprehension, and so inaccessible through physics. However, quantum mechanics, with its intrinsic nonlocal correlations, has seemingly left us with a dilemma by showing that fundamental physical theories cannot be both real and local. Reality cannot be reconstructed as a deterministic projection from physical observations. Many people think that the problem lies with quantum mechanics, but, in fact, it is more likely to be a result of unrealistic expectations. We have assumed that fundamental physics ought to be compatible with normal (macroscopic) experience. If, however, we go beyond our current high-level physical theories to the basic elements from which they are constructed, we see that a pattern emerges that gives us a very different and much more coherent understanding of what is meant by physical ‘reality’. Read More
Quantum Gravity Research Published on Mar 4, 2017 What if the very fabric of space and time isn’t made of one-dimensional strings or energy as we think of it, but instead was simply a code or a language made from a geometric projection? Quantum Gravity Research is a Los Angeles based team of mathematicians and… Read More
Theories organize knowledge and construct objectivity by framing observations and experiments. The elaboration of theoretical principles is examined in the light of the rich interactions between physics and mathematics. These two disciplines share common principles of construction of concepts and of the proper objects of inquiry. Theory construction in physics relies on mathematical symmetries that preserve the key invariants observed and proposed by such theory; these invariants buttress the idea that the objects of physics are generic and thus interchangeable and they move along specific trajectories which are uniquely determined, in classical and relativistic physics.
In contrast to physics, biology is a historical science that centers on the changes that organisms experience while undergoing ontogenesis and phylogenesis. Biological objects, namely organisms, are not generic but specific; they are individuals. The incessant changes they undergo represent the breaking of symmetries, and thus the opposite of symmetry conservation, a central component of physical theories. This instability corresponds to the changes of the environment and the phenotypes.
Inspired by Galileo’s principle of inertia, the “default state” of inert matter, we propose a “default state” for biological dynamics following Darwin’s first principle, “descent with modification” that we transform into “proliferation with variation and motility” as a property that spans life, including cells in an organism. These dissimilarities between theories of the inert and of biology also apply to causality: biological causality is to be understood in relation to the distinctive role that constraints assume in this discipline. Consequently, the notion of cause will be reframed in a context where constraints to activity are seen as the core component of biological analyses.
Finally, we assert that the radical materiality of life rules out distinctions such as “software vs. hardware.”
Keywords Default state; Mathematical symmetries; Phase space; Biological organization