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(2012) Dialogues with contemporary political theorists, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Vital materiality and non-human agency

an interview with Jane Bennett

Gulshan Ara Khan

pp. 42-57

Jane Bennett, Professor of Political Theory at the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, published her awaited book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things in 2010. Her distinctive notion of "vibrant matter" invokes a new and different political imaginary outside the Hegelian and psychoanalytic framework of the subject and object/other relation. Bennett demonstrates that both human and nonhuman entities (including inorganic matter) are composed of "vibrant matter". In Bennett's view, matter that we consider "dead" such as fossils and stones is not actually dead but very much alive and is constituted by a lively and energetic play of forces. Following a long tradition of thinkers who have sought to decentre "the human" (e.g. Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault), Bennett's emphasis on non-human matter challenges the ontological privileging of "the human". However, her notion of "distributive agency" creatively affirms the necessity of human embodiment, understood as one site of agency within and across a multiplicity of other material bodies and formations.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1057/9781137271297_3

Full citation:

Ara Khan, G. (2012)., Vital materiality and non-human agency: an interview with Jane Bennett, in G. Browning, R. Prokhovnik & M. Dimova-Cookson (eds.), Dialogues with contemporary political theorists, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 42-57.

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