Peta Hinton received her Ph.D. in Sociology through the University of New South Wales, Australia, and lectured in this program before commencing her postdoctoral studies with the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry in 2013. She received an Erasmus Mundus Third Country Scholar visiting scholarship with the Netherlands Research School of Gender Studies, Utrecht, in Spring 2012 and in recent years has been a visiting scholar at TEMA Genus, Linkoping University and Gender Studies at Karlstad University, Sweden, and Honorary Lecturer in Sociology at the University of New South Wales from 2014-17. From 2014-16 she lectured in the Gender Studies program at Utrecht University, Netherlands, and she continues to work as a sessional lecturer with the Institute for Media and Cultural Studies, Heinrich-Heine-Universität, in Düsseldorf, teaching into the gender studies stream. 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. Vicki Kirby, 2017, Edinburgh University Press).

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). She is active in the COST Action IS1307 ‘New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on ‘How Matter Comes to Matter” (2014-2018). Participating in the activities of Working Group 2: ‘New Materialisms on the Crossroads of the Natural and Human Sciences’, she co-organised the successful 2016 training school hosted by Charles University in Prague, ‘From Cosmos to Genes: New Materialist Methodologies Crossing the Humanities, Natural and Technosciences’, with a colleague from this institution, and she is now preparing a co-edited volume on new materialisms and methodologies arising from the discussions commenced there. As a visiting fellow with the Margherita von Brentano Center for Gender Studies at Freie Universität Berlin currently, she is researching diversity issues and the shape of new materialist politics via the collaborative project, ‘Abandonmnent’ (with Xin Liu, Åbo Akademi, Finland).

Ontologies of Nothing:
Towards a Critical Feminist New Materialism

ICI Affiliate Project 2017-18

Questions of diversity and difference stand at the forefront of my inquiry as these have been engaged in Continental and feminist social thought and continue to animate contemporary critical analysis that gathers under the banner of the ‘new materialisms’. Following the interventions of sexual difference theory and the feminist materialisms it inspired, difference constitutes both ‘object(s)’ of analysis as well as a methodology through which this analysis takes shape. Here, epistemologies cannot be separated from the matters they seek to engage and critical practice, political participation, ethical relation and avenues for social justice take on surprising configurations. By following a less conventional route – one that considers how the nature of incorporeality, death, absence and failure have been established and problematized in feminist and new feminist materialist approaches to knowledge production, political organisation, and ethical possibility – I ask how these same approaches challenge normative iterations of ‘the political’, ‘the ethical’, and ‘the future’ that underscore the way we analyse and understand social difference and propose interventions for social justice and change.

To consider how our (feminist, new materialist) political and ethical ontologies might be differently conceived and broadened, my research draws upon examples and materials that accede to less familiar legislations of presence, consumption, production, relation, and life. Quantum experimentation, cannibalistic intimacies, suicidal ecologies, dark matter, blindness, sexual and ethical indifference, silence and epistemic violence all provide particular instances that disclose and trouble the affirmative vitalism innervating much of contemporary materialist analysis, notions of the socius and prerogatives of social transformation, to ask what value a politics of negativity might have for current feminist (and) new materialist projects.

A Sociality of Death:
Affirmative Futures and New Materialist Approaches to ‘Life Itself’

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.