A primal scream emanates from a cave,
wherein the smell of sweat, tears, blood, shit,
animal and genesis hang heavy in the air.
Minerals become tooth and claw
shells begin growing on the inside.
Later, the smell of death, decay, decomposition
and later still soil and new growth;
reaching out to turn solar energy into material order
for a time
Thinking with Henri Bergson through Gilles Deleuze (1966) and Elizabeth Grosz (2004), Vitalism is the tendency of Life to move towards greater complexity, that is, to move towards maximizing pure difference. Differing occurs not only between things that already are but also includes things that can be. As Grosz urges in her treatise The Nick of Time: Evolution and the Untimely, we must learn to think about what will have been possible (2004). This type of thinking is especially important for those who are interested in radical politics. Vital materialism reaches for the future and encompasses potentiality, that is, vitality encompasses more than what is actually, currently living. Both actualized and virtual life are vital. This allows for a consideration of justice that accounts for future generations. In Queer Vitalism, Claire Colebrook states, “This vitality is therefore essentially queer. The task of thinking is not to see bodies in their general recognizable form, as this or that ongoing and unified entity, but to approach the world as the unfolding of events” (2009: 83).
New materialist vitalism is closely connected to emergence and sympoesis. The properties of life cannot be fully described in terms of the properties of the associated material constituents. Life can not be reduced to a mechanistic process. Materialist vitalism does not construct a special kind of substance which is added to matter to produce life. Rather, vitality emerges from within and between matter. Grosz develops Darwin's “account of the real that is an open and generative force of self organization and growing complexity. A dynamic real that has features of its own which, rather than simply exhibit stasis, [...] are more readily understood as active vectors of change” (2004: 19). In The Posthuman Rosi Braidotti also describes matter as intelligent and self organizing. There is nothing outside the world that makes the world. The world world's itself. By stressing the self-organizing vitality of all living systems it is possible to decenter the anthropos, replacing species hierarchy with decentralized immanence. Braidotti codes the vital force of Life as Zoe, that which imbues all living matter impersonally. Braidotti insists:
“Zoe-centred egalitarianism is, for me, the core of the post-anthropocentric critical turn: it is a materialist, secular, grounded and unsentimental response to the opportunistic trans-species commodification of Life that is the logic of advanced capitalism.The key notion is embodiment on the basis of neo-materialist understandings of the body, drawn from the neo-Spinozist philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, but re-worked with feminist and postcolonial theories. Embracing their version of vital bodily materialism, while rejecting the dialectical idea of negative difference, this theoretical approach changes the frame of reference” (2013: 22).
Vitalism is more than a flavor of new materialism, it is an essential concept with important implications for developing new epistemologies, ontologies and ethics. Vitality is what is hidden when life is reduced to ‘biodiversity’; a pool of resources to be managed and exploited.
SYNONYMS: Zoe, Deluezean élan vital, sympoeisis, Life force, forces of composition
ANTONYMS: biological reductionism, automata (Descartes), anthropocentrism, divinity
HYPERNYMS: magic, defiance, joy, desire, animate
Braidotti, Rosi (2013). The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity.
Colebrook, Claire (autumn, 2009). Queer Vitalism. New Formations, #60: Deleuzian Politics?. Retrieved on 6/16/17 from: https://www.lwbooks.co.uk/new-formations/68/queer-vitalism
Deleuze, Gilles (1966). Bergsonism. Boston, MA: Zone Books.
Grosz, Elizabeth (2004). The Nick of Time: Evolution and the Untimely. Durham NC: Duke University Press.
COST Action IS1307 New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on 'How Matter Comes to Matter'.
Here you will find background material, current activities, calls for papers, working group information, and project outputs.
With the changing of societies on local, national and international scales owing to economic, ecological, political and technological developments and crises, a reorganized academic landscape can be observed to be emerging. Scholarship strives to become increasingly interdisciplinary in order to grasp and examine the unfolding complexity of ongoing ecological, socio-cultural and politico-economic changes. Additionally, academics forge... Read more or find out Who's Who
Information relating to activities undertaken, including conferences, training schools, short-term scientific missions, and annual meetings, are archived here.
Working Groups focus on four key areas of research
Working Group One
Genealogies of New Materialisms; examines and intervenes in canonization processes by compiling a web-based bibliography, coordinating the OST 068/13 8 EN... Read more
Working Group Two
New Materialisms on the Crossroads of the Natural and Human Sciences; seeks to develop new materialisms at the boundaries of the human and natural sciences. The group focuses on how European new materialisms can rework the ‘Two Cultures' gap... Read more
Working Group Three
New Materialisms Embracing the Creative Arts; brings together European researchers, artists, museum professionals, and other activists with a keen interest in the material... Read more
Working Group Four
New Materialisms Tackling Economical and Identity – Political Crises and Organizational Experiments... Read more
The Almanac comprises contributions from members of working groups, and participants in related activities, delineating key terms, more esoteric neologisms, and short provocations. Read more
New Materialism —
Networking European Scholarship on 'How matter comes to matter’
Website by Second Cousins