Karen Barad: Undoing the Future

The indeterminacy of time-being at the core of quantum theory troubles the scalar distinction between the world of subatomic particles and that of social phenomena such as colonialism, capitalism, militarism, racism, nationalism and environmental destruction – all of which are entangled with nuclear and particle physics research. Quantum physics is a material-discursive practice with direct ties to the military-industrial complex, and while it gave birth to the atomic age, quantum physics disrupts classical Newtonian physics (which has its own troubled legacy in the service of war, colonialism, capitalist expansion, and empire building), including its foundational notions of space, time, and matter. In the annual Roslyn Silver ’27 Science Lecture, Karen Barad takes up quantum physics’ immanent deconstructive dynamics, consider ways in which quantum physics troubles modernist conceptions of time, and ask whether quantum temporalities might offer radical political imaginaries for cohabiting this planet more justly by undoing the future.

Karen Barad is Professor of Feminist Studies, Philosophy, and History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. There, she co-directs the Science & Justice Graduate Training Program, funded by the National Science Foundation, which “trains science and engineering students alongside social science and humanities students to identify and respond to moments where research requires attentiveness to questions of policy, ethics, and justice.” She has a doctorate in theoretical partical physics and is the author of author of Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning.

Recorded on March 19, 2018 at Barnard College in NYC.

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