Invertebrate Visions: Diffractions of the Brittlestar

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by Karen Barad

The brittlestar is an animal without a brain. It does not suffer the Cartesian doubts of an alleged mind/body split. Knowing is entangled with its mode of being.

Brittlestars don’t have eyes. They are eyes. That is, it is not merely the case that its visual system is embodied. Its very being is a visualizing apparatus. Its morphology – its intertwined skeletal and diffuse nervous systems, its very structure and form – forms a visualizing system. 

Brittlestars are not pure bits of nature or blank slates for the imprinting of culture. They are not mere resources or tools for human interventions. They are not simply superior optical engineers or natural inspirations for the enterprising ingenuity of humans.

Brittlestars are agentive beings, lively configurations of the world, with more entanglements than arms.   Brittlestars not only already know how to do nanotechnology, they live it.

Read Chapter Six: Invertebrate Visions: Diffractions of the Brittlestar on Google Books.

Karen Barad is a professor of feminist studies, philosophy, and history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her Ph.D. is in theoretical particle physics and quantum field theory. She held a tenured appointment in a physics department before moving into more interdisciplinary spaces. Barad is a feminist theorist best known for her theory of agential realism. She is the author of Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Duke University Press, 2007), What is the Measure of Nothingness? Infinity, Virtuality, Justice (dOCUMENTA, 2012), and numerous articles drawing from the fields of physics, philosophy, science studies, poststructuralist theory, deconstruction, and feminist and queer theory. Slime molds and social amoebas feature in her recent article “Nature’s Queer Performativity” (Kvinder, Køn og Forskning, 2012).

Karen Barad: UC Santa Cruz profile
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a companion to the book