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What if Culture was Nature all Along?

Edited by Vicki Kirby

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Gives you the tools to navigate towards a non-reductionist naturalism where matter is chameleon and agential

New materialisms argue for a more science friendly humanities, ventilating questions about methodology and subject matter and the importance of the non-human. However, these new sites of attention – climate, biology, affect, geology, animals and objects – tend to leverage their difference against language and the discursive. Similarly, questions about ontology have come to eclipse, and even eschew, those of epistemology.

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1 Matter out of Place: ‘New Materialism’ in Review
Vicki Kirby

2 Method Matters: The Ethics of Exclusion
Ashley Barnwell

3 Sensory Substitution: The Plasticity of the Eye/I
Florence Chiew

4 Allergy as the Puzzle of Causality
Michelle Jamieson

5 Pregnant Men: Paternal Postnatal Depression and a Culture of Hormones
Rebecca Oxley

6 Material Culture: Epigenetics and the Molecularisation of the Social
Noela Davis

7 Racialised Visual Encounters
Xin Liu

8 Microbiology as Sociology: The Strange Sociality of Slime
Jacqueline Dalziell

9 Nature Represents Itself: Bibliophilia in the Anthropocene
Astrida Neimanis

10 Climate Change, Socially Synchronised: Are We Really Running out of Time?
Will Johncock

11 A Sociality of Death: Towards a New Materialist Politics and Ethics of Life Itself
Peta Hinton

Notes on Contributors

About the Author

Vicki Kirby is Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, The University of New South Wales. The motivating question in her research is the riddle of the nature/culture division because so many political and ethical evaluations and decisions are configured in terms of this opposition. Books include Quantum Anthropologies: Life at Large (Duke 2011); Judith Butler: Live Theory (Continuum 2006) and Telling Flesh: The Substance of the Corporeal (1997).


What If Culture Was Nature All Along? is a collection of 11 essays curated by Vicki Kirby that proves that there is still something new to be said about feminist new materialisms and that there is value in facing this topic anew … Kirby's anthology not only adds to ongoing debates, but also puts feminist new materialisms into action, and by doing so she offers an insight into what feminist new materialisms can still do (and how)… The starting point for all the essays in this collection is an engaged and generous approach, full of curiosity and unable to be satisfied with shaky theoretical constructions. Thus, although essays engage in different topics and develop unique perspectives, the common attitude [is] of affirmative critique and genuine concern.

- Monika Rogowska-Stangret, University of Warsaw, Hypatia

What if Culture was Nature all Along? stands out as both a methodological and a theoretical volume. It succeeds in presenting and exploring the complexities and the co-implication of culture and nature, thought and matter, human and nonhuman, science and sociology, life and death, in action. It thus demonstrates that if nature is 'writing' all the way down, writing can be neither cultural nor natural, but remains – and this is one of Derrida's major lessons – entirely other.

- Stefan Herbrechter, Coventry University, Australian Humanities Review

Vicki Kirby has already produced an impressive corpus on the relations among life, matter and inscription. This new volume takes her unique and formidable mode of argument to a new level. For Kirby, both our conceptions of nature/culture and our notion of ‘turns’ - back to reality, materialism or life - require a more complex and intellectually more generous approach to relations and mediations. Drawing powerfully from recent work in feminist and critical theory this book will redefine the ways in which we think about life, the human and the posthuman.

- Claire Colebrook, Penn State University

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