Karen Barad: Game Changer

Carol Taylor, Fairchild Nikki

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


Karen Barad (b. 1956) is a professor of feminist studies, philosophy, and history of consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and codirector of the Science & Justice Graduate Training Program, funded by the National Science Foundation. As a feminist-physicist-philosopher, her influence in the fields of new materialism, new material feminism, science studies, queer studies, and posthumanism has been profound. Barad’s PhD in theoretical particle physics was awarded by the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1984 with her thesis titled, “Fermions in Lattice Gauge Theories.” Her work has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Hughes Foundation, the Irvine Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2016, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in the arts at Gothenburg University, and is on the faculty of the European Graduate School. Barad is the originator of agential realism as a new and distinct, posthuman and performative approach to knowledge-making practices. Barad’s central thesis with agential realism is that poststructuralism and its theoretical predecessors have placed far too much emphasis on language and representationalism and not enough on the materiality of discourse and the role of matter in understandings of how the world is configured. From her doctoral thesis, through her early work on feminism and science pedagogies, and her subsequent development of agential realism, Barad has been instrumental in intellectual moves to put questions of how matter comes to matter centre stage. Agential realism, based on the insights that nothing exists in and of itself, that everything is always already in relation, and that matter and discourse are coconstitutive, has been widely taken up as a paradigm-shifting analytical move that works through the challenges posed by quantum physics to Cartesian epistemology and the humanist ontologies that underpin it. Barad’s lexicon—agencies, intra-action, entanglement, the cut, phenomena, apparatus, diffraction—deriving in part from the language of quantum physics, offers social science researchers a new range of conceptual resources for putting agential realism to work to investigate the world in new ways. Central to agential realism is the necessity of developing an ethico-onto- epistemological stance that entangles what humanist approaches have illegitimately disentangled.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFoundations
Subtitle of host publicationSAGE Research Methods
EditorsPaul Atkinson, Sara Delamont, Alexandru Cernat, Joseph W. Sakshaug, Richard A. Williams
PublisherSage Publications
ISBN (Electronic)9781526421036
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2019

Publication series

NameSage Research Methods Foundations
PublisherSage Publications


  • Gender difference
  • realism
  • Feminism


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