Karen Barad and the Unresolved Challenge of Collectivity

A Case for New Materialisms


  • Thomas Telios University of St. Gallen




New Materialisms, Feminism, Karen Barad, Collective Agency, Collective Actions, Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Action, Practical Philosophy, Critical Theory, Science and Technology Studies, Materialism, Social Ontology


In this paper, I start by pointing out that despite their differences, Slavoj Žižek and Karen Barad share an understanding of the notions of relationality, processuality, and immanence as central tenets of materialist philosophy. As I argue, however, it is collectivity that acts in both Žižek’s and Barad’s works as a safety valve that lends immanence, processuality, and relationality their materialist quality. To support this argument, I demonstrate that certain forms of collectivity underlie the passage from Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty to Niels Bohr’s indeterminacy in Barad’s interpretation of Bohr’s ‘philosophy-physics’. I call those forms of collectivity "collectivity as ontological necessity" and "collectivity as methodological necessity" respectively. However, I claim that there is a further form of collectivity, which I call ‘collectivity as inclusive and holistic overdetermination’, that Barad overlooks and that conditions the indeterminability of indeterminacy. As I argue, the latter also has implications for political agency. I conclude by briefly sketching out how these forms of collectivity can determine the production of subjectivity and, as a consequence, shape the subject’s collective action.




How to Cite

Telios, Thomas. 2023. “Karen Barad and the Unresolved Challenge of Collectivity: A Case for New Materialisms”. Technophany, A Journal for Philosophy and Technology 2 (1):1-21. https://doi.org/10.54195/technophany.13879.



Techne and Feminism: Articles (edited by Vera Bühlmann and Katarina Kolozova)
Received 2023-03-27
Accepted 2023-08-07
Published 2023-08-22