Quantum Anthropologies

Life at Large

Quantum Anthropologies

Book Pages: 184 Illustrations: Published: August 2011

Author: Vicki Kirby

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Science and Technology Studies > Feminist Science Studies

In Quantum Anthropologies, the renowned feminist theorist Vicki Kirby contends that some of the most provocative aspects of deconstruction have yet to be explored. Deconstruction’s implications have been curtailed by the assumption that issues of textuality and representation are specific to the domain of culture. Revisiting Derrida’s claim that there is “no outside of text,” Kirby argues that theories of cultural construction developed since the linguistic turn have inadvertently reproduced the very binaries they intended to question, such as those between nature and culture, matter and ideation, and fact and value. Through new readings of Derrida, Husserl, Saussure, Butler, Irigaray, and Merleau-Ponty, Kirby exposes the limitations of theories that regard culture as a second-order system that cannot access—much less be—nature, body, and materiality. She suggests ways of reconceiving language and culture to enable a more materially implicated outcome, one that keeps alive the more counterintuitive and challenging aspects of poststructural criticism. By demonstrating how fields, including cybernetics, biology, forensics, mathematics, and physics, can be conceptualized in deconstructive terms, Kirby fundamentally rethinks deconstruction and its relevance to nature, embodiment, materialism, and science.


“Vicki Kirby’s Quantum Anthropologies: Life at Large has the capacity to influence a wide range of contemporary scholars ranging from the humanities to the natural sciences and back again. Its elegant yet complex title reveals a lot of what the book has to say.” — Iris van der Tuin, Somatechnics

“To read Vicki Kirby’s work is to encounter feminist theory as if for the first time—the urgency, impact, and sheer pleasure of feminist politics are being written anew. Quantum Anthropologies deliberates on our most elemental questions (What is the body? What is nature?) and argues brilliantly for ontologies that are systemic patternments of textuality and humanicity. This is a fearless book that will deepen and intensify the kinds of feminist questions that can be asked in the generation ahead.” — Elizabeth A. Wilson, author of Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body

“Vicki Kirby is a leading theorist of new materialist approaches to feminism, and Quantum Anthropologies is a work of great significance. It is a theoretically sound and robust challenge to our most deeply held ideas about nature versus culture. Provocative, smart, and invigorating, it is a book to think with, one with far-reaching implications for science studies, cultural studies, and poststructuralist, feminist, queer, political, and social theory.” — Karen Barad, author of Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Vicki Kirby is Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of New South Wales. She is the author of Judith Butler: Live Theory and Telling Flesh: The Substance of the Corporeal.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: The Question of Supplementarity - A Quantum Problematic vii

Acknowledgments xiii

1. Anthropology Diffracted: Originary Humanicity 1

2. Just Figures?: Forensic Clairvoyance, Mathematics, and the Language Question 22

3. Enumerating Language: "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics" 49

4. Natural Convers(at)ions: Or, What if Culture Was Really Nature All Along? 68

5. (Con)founding "the Human": Rethinking the Incest taboo 89

6. Culpability and the Double-Cross: Irigaray with Merleau-Ponty 111

Notes 137

Works Cited 155

Index 163
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5073-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5055-2
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