Thomas Lemke: An Alternative Model of Politics? Perspectives and Problems of Jane Bennett’s Vital Materialism
Thomas Lemke visits the Little Tools Project for a seminar on new materialism in social and political theory, discussing Jane Bennett's vitalist notion of 'enchanted materialism'.
Abstract for the talk
Recently, social and political theory has demonstrated a renewed theoretical interest in matter and materiality. The “new materialism”, as it is sometimes called encompasses a plurality of different approaches and disciplinary perspectives, ranging from science and technology studies via feminist theory and political philosophy to geography. The new materialist scholarship shares the conviction that the “linguistic turn” or primarily textual accounts are insufficient for an adequate understanding of the complex and dynamic interplay of meaning and matter.
One of the main strands in new materialist scholarship is explicitly vitalist. The political dimensions of this “vital materialism” are best spelled out in the writings of Jane Bennett, Professor of Political Theory at Johns Hopkins University. The talk will present Bennett’s concept of “thing-power” and her idea of a posthuman political theory. It will discuss conceptual ambiguities and unresolved tensions in this “enchanted materialism” (Bennett) The talk seeks to clarify these theoretical problems and argues for a relational account of agency and ontology that allows for a more materialist account of politics.
About the speaker
Thomas Lemke is Professor of Sociology with focus on biotechnologies, nature and society at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. He is the author of several books, including Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction (New York University Press, 2011).
Lemke will also participate in the workshop Versions of Biopolitics/Versions of Foucault, to be held at TIK on December 5. The workshop is organized by the Little Tools Project on the occasion of the new book "Humans, Animals and Biopolitics: The More-Than-Human Condition" (Routledge, 2016). More information about the workshop here.