Peta Hinton is Honorary Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences (Sociology and Anthropology) at the University of New South Wales, Australia, where she received her Ph.D. She lectured in this programme from 2008-12 before commencing her postdoctoral studies and affiliation with the ICI Berlin in 2013. From 2014-16 she lectured in the Gender Studies program at Utrecht University, Netherlands, and was an invited Visiting Scholar in recent years at TEMA Genus, Linkoping University and Gender Studies at Karlstad University, Sweden, as well as receiving an Erasmus Mundus Third Country Scholar visiting scholarship with the Netherlands Research School of Gender Studies, Utrecht in Spring 2012. She researches in the fields of feminist politics, sexual difference feminisms and new materialisms, troubling conceptions of life itself, futurity, negativity, politics, and ethics. She has published in Hypatia, Somatechnics, Women: A Cultural Review, and Australian Feminist Studies, and her book chapter ‘A Sociality of Death: Towards a New Materialist Politics and Ethics of Life Itself’ appears in the volume What if Culture Was Nature All Along, ed. by Vicki Kirby, (Edinburgh University Press, 2017). She has co edited the journal special issues ‘Feminist Matters: The Politics of New Materialism’ (Women: A Cultural Review, 2014) and ‘Quantum Possibilities: The Work of Karen Barad’ (rhizomes, 2016) along with a volume in the AtGender ‘Teaching With Gender’ series, Teaching With Feminist Materialisms (2015).
Current projects include a critical analysis of the vitalist and affirmative commitments underscoring feminist political and ethical programs via new materialist provocations and permutations on the nature of death and nothingness (ICI Project – ‘A Sociality of Death’, 2013/16, continuing), and a collaborative exploration, ‘Abandonment’ (with Xin Liu, University of Tampere, Finland), that unites our gender and critical race studies expertise to investigate how the new materialisms in the mode of abandonment approach issues of race, difference, and social diversity in critical and methodological terms. Her participation in the COST Action 1307 ‘New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on ‘How Matter Comes to Matter” led to her co-organising and convening the Working Group 2 training school, ‘From Cosmos to Genes: New Materialist Methodologies Crossing the Humanities, Natural, and Technosciences’ that took place in Prague in August 2016. She will take up a four month visiting fellowship with the Marghareta von Brentano Center for Gender Studies at Freie Universität from November 2017.
Ontologies of Nothing:
Towards a Critical Feminist New Materialism
ICI Project 2013-15
A significant impact of recent and emerging discussions congregating under the umbrella of ‘new materialism’ arrives with the cognate claims made in this body of work for matter’s agentic and transformative capacities. Often conceived in terms of a systemic liveliness, new materialist configurings of matter disarticulate more established and binarized ways of viewing life and nature to shift the way the social is perceived and engaged. Their posthumanist and ecological commitments complicate species/specificity and disrupt the priority of the human within a dynamic and emergent socius. Nevertheless, it also appears that there is something of a neo-vitalist tenor that inflects these new materialist re-visionings of matter and, therefore, the forms of social change with which their analyses are concerned. In taking up with this possible reading of a new materialist neo-vitalism, in this project I ask how ‘the affirmative’ has been positioned alongside ‘life itself’; potentially invoking an ontology that privileges presence in affirmative terms that cannot account for death, failure, or absence in life’s constitutive and productive movements; a privileging that also orients and delimits the expectations and phrasing of new materialist politics and ethics in terms of their sought for directions, modes of transformation, and agendas for re-evaluating difference.
Putting negativity at the forefront of this analysis, I argue that matter’s talent for self immolation may be foundational to an affirmative politics, that the ethical gesture of feminist inquiry must account for the constitutive exclusions that shape the (material) specificity of its critique, and that death and nothingness, when placed at the centre of a new materialist analysis, profoundly reconceive our commitments to the (re)productive efforts of the socius. Here, also, negotiations with death might occasion a reassessment of the relational ontologies that accompany understandings of sexual difference, and open up for an inquiry into how a politics and ethics of sexual indifference im/materialize.