Okay, here’s a paper that appeared recently in The Minnesota Review, published out of Duke University. Is it a hoax or not a hoax? I’ll show the title (click on screenshot to go to the paper; the full reference and free link os at bottom), and then give some excerpts.
First, I read this paper as best I could, but my eyes glazed over at the absolutely horrible postmodern writing, and it was hard to make out the paper’s thesis. Here’s part of the introduction:
I invest in Donna Haraway’s claim that “what counts as an object is precisely what world history turns out to be about” (quoted in Barad 2007, 42); that is, politics are about the hierarchies of what connections, or closenesses, are prioritized as bodily. All bodies are political gatherings, as what is understood as closely related, kin, the measured, congealing intersections of phenomena (social identity, histories, water, particles) considered legible/intelligible/singularized is always a political configuration, with systems and apparatuses (e.g., colonial sciences or clarity fetishism) set up to recognize these prioritized configurations/separations (a “cut together/apart” in Barad’s words [2010, 240]) naturalizing insidious assumptions and hierarchies of value. And so “connect[ing] what’s been dangerously disconnected” (Rich 1987, 214) is directly political. Re/cognizing the connective/constellatory bodies typically not understood as connected (e.g., across disciplines) allows for embellishing alliances not following rules of typically understood closeness or kinship (space, time, social category, eugenic lineage) while also not discounting differing mattering realities (steeped categorizations). And, possibly, deprioritizing particularly naturalized, fetishizing borders has potentials for destabilizing structures that enable hierarchical othering (which justifies sociopolitical oppression and material-discursive violence).
Her thesis seems to be that there is a kind of “quantum feminism” that overcomes the political hegemony of Newtionian physics, which itself is somehow ideologically unpalatable because it emphasizes the “binary” and thus creates “othering”, sexism, and similar us/them distinctions:
One of the most prominent and guiding sciences of that time was classical Newtonian physics, which identifies separated beings and absolute differences between particles and waves, space and time. This structural thinking of individualized separatism with binary and absolute differences as the basis for how the universe works seeped into/poured over/ is embedded in many structures of classification, which understand similarity and difference in the world, imposed in many hierarchical and exploitative organizational structures, whether through gender, life/nonlife, national borders, and so on.
Throughout the paper she uses quantum metaphors as well as the word “linearity”, applying them improperly to her view on gender politics. But somehow quantum mechanics is the key to unlocking oppression:
I refer to these allying strategies as a constellatory body called “quantum feminisms.” Hopefully, this locating-as-body can enflame some political closenesses that help shift apparatuses, allowing for energy, time, love, concentration to disperse and gather differently. That is, serve as a decent coalition, a relevant apparatus enabling conditions possible for thinking/mattering innovative transformative antioppression practices and helpful semantic/teleological tools and for checking the political salience of structures in work toward accountable, anti-oppressive transformation. I hope to unpack and highlight connectivities in which these quantum feminist posthuman tools can be explicitly relevant to anti-oppression struggles.
Look at this horrible writing! How can anybody stand to read it?
This is where the threat within feminist new materialisms gathers, as it works specifically to obstruct the abstract/material binary through (re)cognizing that which is considered metaphysical as also having mat(t)er(ial), agential intra-action. In operating away from ideas of abstraction and into materialization, teleological/metaphysical bodies/structures/phenomena/forces are acknowledged/intelligible as matter(ing), as spatializing materiality, systems, gatherings, technologies, prostheses, conglomerates becoming and holding space in/with/ through/among bodies a re-cognition I signify as metaphysicality.
I could go on and on. A few more bits should give you the bitter flavor of this piece, though perhaps not the meaning. Here she throws in “epigenetics,” a biological term:
It is not that a quantum understanding is opposed to identity politics but that it exactly operates with these differences, these concentrations. That is, metaphysical bodies are and can be recognized as differing constellations of closeness, alliance, and energy formation (agential cuts), and with this they are in mattering, diffractive, intraactive relations with the biopolitics of understood-as human bodies, racializations, affectivities. Identity works on a quantum level, it is not immaterial; neither are the spatializing bodies of history, stigma, economics, microphilia, and epigenetics.
And one more with a science-y flavor. I WANT YOU TO READ THESE!
In quantum understanding, these [strategies “need to end all forms of violence”] take familiar forms. These intersubjective, less hierarchical organizing structures are “a performance of spacetime (re)configurings . . . more akin to how electrons experience the world than any journey narrated through rhetorical forms that presume actors move along trajectories across a stage of spacetime” (Barad 2010, 240). They are intra-connective assemblages of gathering and degathering, diffracting, quantum (leaping) political constellations; quantum alliances. And the power in that is exactly what would threaten Western, Cartesian scientific systems of legitimacy and value (binary thinking, taxonomy, what have you). These intentional quantum-style political strategies that emerge, gather, and disperse, in which energy/people are in multiple movements/moments at once, exchange, have wavelike properties, simultaneously embed themselves as illegible to traditionalized subject-based understandings. And thus they are not legible in these understandings’ systems of authentification.
What is this annoying playing with words, with hyphening and neologizing? Is this the postmodernist “jouer” (playing) with words? Whatever it is, it’s damn annoying, and makes Stark’s paper very difficult to read. The science stuff, of course, is bullpucky, just a misuse of physics terms that Alan Sokal has decried so loudly.
I suspect her entire thesis could have been put into a single paragraph, but then it wouldn’t have been a whole paper. The point is so buried in garbage that I’m not sure there is a point. And that leads me to ask you:
IS THIS A HOAX PAPER OR NOT?
Answer below the fold (click on “read more”)
Stark, W. 2017. Assembled bodies: reconfiguring quantum identities“. The Minnesota Review 2017 (88): 69-82. doi: 10.1215/00265667-3787402
This paper appears to be real. Whitney Stark, is at the Institute for LGB Studies at the University of Arizona (link on screenshot):
And has a link at University of Utrecht, as well as a link on academia.edu, where you can find some of her other writings. She photographed a Voices of Women media event, and I’m pretty sure this is her Twitter feed, which mentions Utrecht and has the following photo, suggesting she’s a real person:
It’s curious that after ten pages of absolutely dreadful, mind-extinguishing prose, Stark says this in a footnote (my emphasis):
2. Theory is often conceived as inaccessible, thus for small, privileged audiences. I agree vehemently with critiques of inaccessibility, banal depoliticization, and academic elitism. I also believe this inaccessibility critique can get employed in detrimental ways, denying tools created for anti-oppression struggles through elitist demarcation of “the masses,” nonacademics, people of differing abilities or perceived statuses as not able to access, understand, or use tools/language/strategies made to dismantle this kind of hierarchical assignment. I have seen how critical language, tools, and critiques are avoided in youth work (genealogically understood in “the mass”) by academically trained employees. Frantz Fanon ( 1965) writes: “The masses are quick to seize every shade of meaning and to learn all the tricks of the trade. . . . It has been decided to consider the masses as uninitiated . . . and leave them out of things . . . the much greater business of plunder” (25).
And yet Stark has done her best to make her thesis inaccessible except to privileged gender-studies and postmodernist scholars. It is about as elitist as you can get.
There is no amount of mockery that is too much for a paper like this. Now, you can criticize the journal as a bad one—I know nothing about it—but somebody thought this was worth publishing, and Stark thought is was worth writing. How many of these must I present and “deconstruct” before people are convinced that the field of “culture and gender studies” is afflicted with a metastasizing cancer of the intellect?
Of course, maybe it is a hoax, but that would be just as damning.