New Chapter: Materiality, New Materialisms

Materiality, New Materialisms

Peter J Forman

[This is a pre-print version of Forman (2020) ‘Materiality, New Materialisms’ In: Kobayashi, A. (Ed.) International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography (Second Edition) Available online:]

Featured Image: A ‘chemical garden’, made from cobalt. Curtesy of Stephane Querbes –

1. Materiality

Materiality is the quality of being material, or of being constituted by materials. It is often thought of in terms of the manners in which matter presses upon human bodies and senses; in terms of the wetness, hardness, coldness, transparency or odour of materials, as well as the ways in which they may have varied affects – from catching the attention by glinting in the sunlight, to offending the senses through their visceral pungency. More abstractly, materiality may also be understood in terms of the broader affects of elements such as water or air; in the ways that their perceived materialities conjure a myriad of emotions, sensations and meanings through their embeddedness in wider frameworks of discourse and experience.

Yet materialities do not only influence human senses, but are important for understanding how materials also press upon one another. Attending to materiality enables us to appreciate how the hardness of diamond permits it to cut steel, or how oxygen, methane and heat can mix and interact – sometimes to explosive effect. Many of these qualities may exist beyond the limits of human perception and comprehension. However, attempting to attune ourselves to them provides us with one means through which to attend to the material; a way of exploring how the social world is constituted through complex relations between bodies and ‘things’.

In recent years, materiality has become a key focus within human geography and the wider social sciences. This has been strongly influenced by what is now commonly referred to as ‘new materialisms’: a body of scholarship in which the ‘vibrant’ or ‘vital’ materialities of things has been emphasised, primarily in response to the prioritisation of discourse during the cultural turn. Recently, geographers have also sought to expand this work, reframing materiality in a variety of ways in order to communicate the excessiveness of materials and their refusals to submit to human control.

2. New Materialisms

The term ‘new materialism’ describes a plurality of approaches that each share a sympathy, orientation, or sensitivity towards the social significance of matter and materiality. Whilst most commonly associated with research that draws upon actor-network theory, concepts of assemblage and post-humanism, this broad body of thought prescribes no singular ontology, epistemology, or set of methodologies and consequently contains contributions from a diverse range of theoretical perspectives, including those of Marxists, post-structuralists, feminists and post-colonial scholars. As such, it is more appropriate to speak of multiple new materialisms than it is to speak of a single coherent body of thought[1]. Uniting these approaches is a shared (but often varying degree of) concern for the performative role of materials in the constitution of social life and an appreciation of the ‘liveliness’ or ‘agency’ of matter – the understanding that materials can act independently of human action and that these actions may have bearing upon worldly phenomena.

Over the last thirty years, new materialist accounts have coalesced into a broad literary movement that has had significant traction within and beyond the social sciences. In particular, they have generated a series of influential interdisciplinary debates around the constitution of the human and its positioning in wider socio-material ecologies, for instance: refocussing feminist critiques around the performed materialities of bodies and the ways in which their different co-constitutive socio-material relations variously enable and constrain them; drawing attention to the dispersal of political responsibility and accountability across socio-material networks, extending them beyond purely human domains; and highlighting the ecological implications of the anthropocentrism, narcissism and assumed human exceptionalism that currently holds significant traction within public, political and academic discourse. Much of the work concerning this latter point has focused on the politics of the environmental crises that characterize the Anthropocene.

2.1 Contention I: Materialism(s)

‘Materialism’ is often taken to imply – if not an exclusive interest in, then a prioritization of – material ‘things’ in researchers’ analyses of social life. This has been perceived by some critics as indicating an erroneous departure from studies of human society; one that often involves the fetishization of more-or-less useless and politically disinteresting ‘stuff’. Such critiques are typically underpinned by an assumption that materials are distinct from, or other to, that which ‘counts’ for meaningful social analysis: the human.

However, new materialists are rarely exclusively interested in materials per se. Firstly, most new materialists remain highly concerned both with life and with bodily materialities (whether human, animal, or plant-based). Indeed, a large quantity of new materialist work is explicitly focused on (human) bodies: on their fleshy materialities and their diverse co-constitutive relationships with other bodies and things. Moreover, for the majority of new materialists, the human and the material are extremely difficult to separate. A key claim in this work has been to avoid (re)deploying the reductive binaries of society/nature, body/material, subject/object, human/nonhuman: an argument that is perhaps most visible in the feminist and post-humanist contributions around monsters, hybrids and cyborgs, through which the ontological limits of what constitutes the human has been radically troubled.

Secondly, signs, sayings and texts – forms of understanding and communication that are often taken to be uniquely and exclusively human – are also not excluded from new materialist accounts. As will be discussed in more detail shortly, new materialisms emerged out of a series of frustrations with social research that prioritised the analysis of discourse and it is consequently sometimes read as being oppositional to the study of signs, sayings and texts. Instead, new materialists typically point towards the ways in which these representational components are materially performed. At a simple level, this often involves looking at their materialities; at the ways in which they are mediated by different materials such as human bodies and vocal chords, computer screens and speakers, vinyl players and books. Accounts in this vein might, for instance, emphasise the similarities and differences between printed and digital images and their varying capacities to travel, persist, and to have effects. At a more complex level however, many new materialists would also point toward the ways in which the meanings behind these elements are constructed through a variety of material-discursive practices. As with linguistic-based accounts, discourse is seen as being that which defines what can and cannot be said and done. However, here it is not limited to signs and signification but instead describes practices of reconfiguring the socio-material world in ways that constrain thought and action. In this way, new materialists have sought to replace linguistic notions of discourse with a more radical form of material semiotics.

Thirdly and finally, the recent increase in attention to the politics of affect has also led to an expansion of materialist interest in the affective materialities of ‘things’ beyond the ‘simply’ material. Studying affects involves attending to the social significance of a plurality of immaterials and ‘not-quite-entities’– ‘things’ that are real in the sense that they exist and exert force upon other entities in the world, but which are also often intangible, ethereal, and which may have indeterminable points of origin. As Ben Anderson (2014: 77) explains, intangible entities such as love, hope, boredom, and affective atmospheres “are as real as the infrastructures, classes, Gods and other social factors and forces that populate life” – they exist and press upon other entities in socially significant, but potentially indeterminable, ways.

As such, any accusations of new materialist accounts being disinterested with the human and only being concerned with brute, ‘simple’, or ‘grounded’ matter (matter that is fundamentally distinct from human bodies) are inaccurate. Indeed, it is because of new materialisms’ broader, ‘more-than-material’ interests that the word ‘material’ is often replaced in this work with alternative expressions such as ‘actants’, ‘nonhumans’, and ‘more-than-humans’. These phrases are employed in various attempts to describe a plethora of ‘things’ that may exceed the category of the purely ‘material’ and to demonstrate a troubling of established notions of what constitutes the ‘human’.

Yet such articulations also introduce a problem with new materialist research. As numerous scholars have noted, despite their deployment within post-humanist critiques, such terms work to discursively reassert humanist notions of artificial human/material distinctions. Indeed, the same is true of the labels, ‘materials’ and ‘materialisms’. While new materialists have critiqued these distinctions, they are simultaneously reproduced through these discursive labels. This consequently prompts the question: Why have new materialists held on to the term, ‘materialism’?

2.2 The Persistence of Materialism

The persistence of materialism is connected to the way that it indicates a departure from social research that focuses primarily on culture and discourse. ‘Materialism’ emphasizes how (im)materials matter for political agency and for the performance of everyday life. It conveys an ongoing allegiance to a broadly realist ontological perspective, whereby a real, (im)material world is seen to precede, facilitate and constrain (human) conscious thought. Provocatively, human and nonhuman action are consequently seen to stem from “embodied and environmental affordances, dispositions and habits” (Anderson and Harrison, 2010: 7), rather than being predicated upon (human) willpower or intent. It is for this reason that ‘materialism’ has value, it working to advocate for making this controversial and radical leap – a leap that has significant implications for understandings of human exceptionalism, ethics and politics. Under a materialist perspective, human thought and action are seen as unexceptional: they are the performed products of complex webs of socio-material relations[2].

This effective ‘flattening’ of the ontological and agential differences between humans and nonhumans has – perhaps unsurprisingly – been a primary target of new materialisms’ critics. Yet some of the tension surrounding this claim also stems from a fundamental misconception. New materialism is often considered to assert that material agency is equally important to – if not more important than – the agency of humans. However, while there is variation in the degree to which nonhuman vitalism is emphasised across the spectrum of new materialist accounts, few new materialists would likely argue that the ‘human’ does not frequently play a significant – if not key – role in the unfolding of social and political phenomena. Indeed, humans and materials are not seen as being necessarily equally consequential in this work. Rather, new materialists would generally assert that:

  • We cannot possibly know which entities (human or otherwise) are going to be consequential in a given situation, prior to observing them. To make premature assumptions about the significance of human agency would be to blind our analyses to other key agents and processes that may influence the unfolding of social phenomena.
  • Human bodies and their diverse forms of agency must be seen as being socio-materially constituted; as being constantly performed and socially-contingent products that emerge through their positionings within complex webs of socio-material relations. Human agency is therefore not inherent or ‘natural’. To understand it properly, we need to look beyond the human and examine how it is relationally (re)produced.

As such, the term materialism is both productive and controversial. On the one hand, it is unhelpful in that it implies an exclusive interest in matter and materiality, despite its advocates remaining interested in life, bodies, knowledge, systems of meaning, and affects. On the other, it usefully signifies a radical and provocative departure from idealism, emphasising the importance of socio-material relations for the emergence of social phenomena. It is through this latter move that new materialists also advocate for finding alternatives to social research that is based on a bedrock of assumed human exceptionalism.

2.3 Contention II: ‘New’

A second source of contention has concerned the term, ‘new’.  Indeed, studies of the significance of matter are anything but new: there have been, and continue to be, a wide variety of approaches that, in different ways, insist upon the significance of materials and materialities for the constitution of social life. Notably, these accounts have included the socially-detached metaphysical materialism of Epicurious and the historical and dialectical materialisms of Marx and Engels. Such approaches have similarly received sustained scholarly attention and continue to have contemporary advocates. Calling new materialism ‘new’ is therefore inaccurate and potentially violent. At best, it commits alternative perspectives to a perceived antiquatedness, and at worst, it denies the existence of their plurality. Moreover, its ubiquity is such that it has become difficult for these alternative approaches to avoid themselves being labelled as ‘new materialist’. In this sense, new materialisms are inherently colonial.

In order to understand why new materialisms are referred to as ‘new’, it is helpful to reflect on the recent history of materialism in the social sciences. This again is dangerous, for what is referred to as ‘new materialism’ is not singular, nor does it have one given point of genesis[3]. To reduce this work to a more-or-less linear narrative of causality that leads up to its emergence is therefore also an act of epistemic violence, and any scholar seeking to learn about materiality and new materialisms would be well-advised to look beyond the oft-recited meta-narrative that follows.

The narrative begins in a Western context, with the historical materialism of Marx and Engels. Here, attention is paid to the historic development of the social and political conditions that constitute capitalist societies. Matter and material practices are seen to be necessary for maintaining relations of production and as simultaneously having the potential to constrain these relations. Material practices are thus both constitutive of Capitalist modes of existence and are key to emancipating labour from exploitation. The promise of this approach is that, by re-ordering the material practices that underpin Capitalism, other more egalitarian forms of social and political organization can be brought into existence.

Until the 1970s, historical materialist approaches enjoyed widespread influence in the social sciences. Their emphasis on matter complemented the then-dominant realist ontologies of the time that insisted upon the existence of a real, physical, world that was independent of human minds and action. They also complemented the prevailing positivist epistemologies which insisted upon this physical world being able to be more-or-less objectively measured and known, typically through quantitative methods.

From the 1970s onwards, the social sciences underwent a widespread shift away from these realist ontologies and positivist epistemologies. Commonly referred to as the ‘cultural turn’, this shift was characterised instead by a movement towards idealist ontologies and constructivist epistemologies. To differing degrees, these new perspectives took the broadly phenomenological approach that, if a real world did exist at all, it was impossible to ever know of its existence with any certainty or objectivity. The primary focus of analysis consequently turned towards examining the formation and effects of meanings, discourses, language and shared systems of meaning (cultures), rather than exploring the formation of materially-constituted social environments. Analysis therefore moved from a focus on the physical to the representational, from the natural to the cultural, and from matter and materiality to meaning and discursive effects.

It is difficult to overemphasise the benefits that the cultural turn had for social research. Most notably, it involved recognising the social construction of knowledge, including coming to terms with the existence of a plurality of knowledges and the multiplicity of their modes and sites of production. In the process, culture went from being something that was taken to naturally exist to something that was seen as constantly performed. This also brought about a dramatic increase in attention to the ways in which knowledges and systems of meaning are structured through power, with emphasis being placed upon how particular thoughts, ideas and ways of seeing could become prevalent and subjugate others.

During the cultural turn however, matter became side-lined. As Keith Woodward, John Paul Jones and Sallie Marston (2009) have reflected, this period brought with it nearly “two decades of celebration of epistemological inquiry and a near total rejection of metaphysics and ontology” (p. 272, citing Dixon et al., 2009). Whilst this is not to detract from the ways that matter and materiality received (limited) attention during the cultural turn[4], these aspects of social life certainly became increasingly backgrounded in social analyses over this period.

2.4 Materialist (Re)turns

New Materialisms’ gradual and disparate emergence stemmed from a series of widespread frustrations with this totalising emphasis on knowledge and representation, combined with lingering feelings that the material world still had something to offer for understandings of social organisation[5]. In no small part galvanised by the 1987 publication of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, these accounts began to cumulatively describe forms of materialism that resurrected the realist ontological leanings of earlier materialisms, but which reworked them through the concepts of performativity, relationality and discourse that had become influential during the cultural turn.

As Sarah Whatmore has argued, the ‘new’ in ‘new materialism’ is therefore perhaps better understood as indicating a return towards matter and materiality, rather than as marking a departure from previous forms of materialist research. Instead of describing the creation of a singular, coherent conceptual framework, new materialism was meant to describe the broad variety of materialist accounts that emerged/persisted following this turn. As a result, it has been used to represent a wide variety of recent materialist work, despite the fact that many of the authors associated with the term would not refer to themselves as ‘new materialists’.

Two distinctions set this broad collection of materialist work apart from earlier forms of materialism, however. First, in order to avoid perpetuating the ‘naïve realisms’ of earlier accounts, many so-called ‘new materialists’ began to draw upon broadly phenomenological perspectives to question the extent to which the material world could be humanly known and engaged with. For many scholars, a real material world was now seen to exist, but human perceptions and interactions with it could only ever be partial and mediated.

Second, these new materialists began to challenge the human exceptionalism that underpinned previous materialist approaches. Influenced by Enlightenment thinking, earlier forms of materialism had tended to present the material world as being a potential tool for human progress that could be made subservient to human will and mastery. To challenge this, new materialists instead began to emphasise the vitalism of materials and their forceful materialities, highlighting their capacities to act independently of human agency/intent and influence social and political phenomena. In the process, materials came to be seen as textured political agents rather than as impartial ‘stuff’ that could be wilfully and easily manipulated. This claim has become perhaps the most recognisable characteristic of what is now referred to as ‘new materialism’, albeit one that not all ‘new’ materialists prescribe to with the same degree of enthusiasm.

2. Geography, Materiality and New Materialisms

As Sarah Whatmore has also observed, one of the most central and enduring concerns in human geography has been to explore the complex relationships between human life and the material world. From the performativity of gendered urban landscapes to the political ecologies of resource extraction or the social implications of ‘natural’ hazards, human geographers have held a longstanding interest in documenting the social significance of materials – an interest that far precedes the recent influence of new materialisms. As such, while the cultural turn involved productive geographical scholarship around the topics of discourse, culture and knowledge politics, it is perhaps unsurprising that geographers have been widely receptive to new materialist arguments.

The earliest explicit geographical engagements with new materialisms can be traced back to the mid-late 1990s, shortly following the rapid growth in interest in relational approaches to space and place. These new, radically disruptive, perspectives reframed space and place as the performed products of complex relationships between flows of people, objects, ideas and meanings. Their emphasis on performative relations enabled geographers to better understand how physically-dispersed entities and institutions could e/affect one another in socially important ways and therein provided a means to overcome the so-called ‘tyranny of distance’. More radically however, and in no small way thanks to the work of Doreen Massey, they also promoted a progressive understanding of space and place through which notions of fixed and essentialised spaces, places and spatial identities could be challenged.

New materialism was seen to broadly complement these approaches. Its primary vectors of disciplinary entry were through the plural theoretical channels of feminism and posthumanism (Rosi Braidotti, Karen Barad), Actor-Network Theory (Bruno Latour, Michel Callon, Annemarie Mol, John Law), and concepts of assemblage (Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Manuel DeLanda). Each of these approaches emphasises the importance of seeing the world as being contingently performed through the complex, unstable relationships between bodies, things, words and ideas, and of attending to these relations within academic analyses. Significantly for new materialisms, these approaches also all emphasise the importance of matter and materiality for understanding the formation of social phenomena.

In the context of the uptake of new materialisms within human geography, these approaches provided a crucial link for pushing beyond the dominant focus on representation that had come to characterize human geography during the cultural turn[6], offering a series of conceptual and methodological frameworks for joining up ideas around discourse, representation and knowledge production with a renewed attention to matter, materiality and the material world. Indeed, so extensive has their influence been that many concepts from this work, including those of performance and performativity; emergence and becoming; materiality and material vitality; naturalisation and translation; and contingency and failure, have become central to a large number of contemporary geographical debates. Moreover, despite the continued existence of a plurality of other materialist conceptual approaches within human geography, it is these conceptual frameworks that new materialism remains most closely associated with in the discipline today.

Few areas of human geography remain untouched by this reinvigorated interest in materials and materialities. Geographers have, for instance, explored the leaky, (dis)abled, gendered and racialized materialities of human bodies and the capacities of materials to exert force upon them in ways that produce different kinds of benefit, value, harm, emotion and affect. They have examined the materialities of landscapes, urban spaces and built environments; the ways in which these materialities perform particular kinds of gendered, racialised, (dis)able, (im)mobile, or (in)secure subjects; how they give rise to certain kinds of politics and opportunities for political resistance; and how their various obstinacies and vulnerabilities can impede transformations or necessitate ongoing maintenance. Geographical attention has also been paid to the ecological, cultural, economic and political significance of the transformation, decay, persistence and (im)mobilities of different materials, examining these in wide-ranging contexts, from the circulation of foodstuffs to the disposal of waste and the securing of digital content. Moreover, substantial interest has recently been expressed around examining the role of matter and materialities in the political ecologies of life within and beyond the Anthropocene.

Geographers have significantly contributed to materialist thought primarily by expanding understandings of materiality. Perhaps most influentially, this has included their extensive theorization of material affects, whereby attention has not only been paid to the different ways in which matter can variously press upon, enchant, disturb, amuse, intrigue, harm, bore or motivate different bodies, but also to how its finiteness, absence and immaterialities may haunt bodies and spaces and provoke affects such as loss, mourning and fear[7]. In these accounts, materiality is not seen as necessarily being a quality of physicality, presence, solidity or groundedness, but can instead be far more ethereal, intangible and hard to locate.

Recent work on elemental geographies has also influentially expanded accounts of materiality. Here, researchers have again tried to avoid reproducing accounts that reassert the obstinacy and groundedness of matter, and have instead focused on the ways in which elements such as rock, fire, air, water, ice, fogs and winds can exceed their physical compositions and qualities to include metaphorical and poetic expressions (which are seen to constitute further dimensions of materiality). The full materialities of matter and its manifold capacities to press upon and affect human subjects are consequently regarded as often being ungraspable.

Research on elements has also been part of a series of wider efforts to explore the voluminous and mobile qualities of materials. For example, scholarship around maritime geographies has described how the materialities of water include its three-dimensional liquidity. Ocean waves have depth and angles and move in undulating ways that can have manifold consequences for seafaring mobilities. Volume and movement must consequently be seen as forms of materiality. A considerable amount of research has begun to take up this idea in alternative contexts, for example looking at the social implications of concrete’s volumetric qualities and the ways it is variously used to tunnel, bunker and protect human life, or examining the consequences of Arctic ice’s dynamic and mobile materialities and the ways in which its melting can trouble territorial distinctions. Again, these studies are united in their attention to the excessiveness of the material and their refusal to reduce its materialities to those of obstinacy and inertia.

Another sizeable body of geographical work has begun to examine materiality through the lens of the molecular. Here, focus is placed on the way that molecules travel, interact and have e/affects – from the movement of airborne particulates to the genetic makeup of bodies and the global circulation of pathogens. This is not a simple scalar framing of materiality however; molecular materialities cannot be equated with the micro. Rather, the molecular provides a way of acknowledging a form of particulate materiality; one that describes connections between different atomised parts. In this manner, it once again articulates the excessiveness of matter, emphasising how these materialities may exceed ‘normal’ human registers. Molecules can move in indeterminable, difficult to trace ways – at speeds and in directions that are different to those with which humans are typically familiar. Moreover, they provide a way of thinking beyond particular stabilizations of matter to explore the affective afterlives of materials (once such stabilizations have broken down), or the ways in which they can permeate and travel between stabilizations. For instance, electronic components may decay, break down and leak, discarding molecular structures that travel beyond their previous forms and permeate soils, watercourses and organic bodies. In this sense, the molecular provides a tool for getting at the interconnectedness of bodies and their environments.

A different focal point for materialist research has been around the concept of atmospheres. In this work, geographers have attempted to describe another form of material excessiveness that cannot be fully comprehended by humans. Atmospheres are voluminous, ambient, difficult to trace the boundaries of, hard to precisely attribute the e/affects of, and are characterised by their uncertain presences/absences. Studying atmospheres consequently provides a less concrete or grounded representation of materiality, with the atmospheric providing a means to deal with the often ambiguous, forceful relationships between bodies and things.

Other researchers have returned to the materialities of the ground. Here the aim has been to draw attention to matter’s excessiveness by focusing on slow processes of geological (de)formation and the heating and folding of materials across geologic timescales. Such accounts are often framed in the context of the Anthropocene, with researchers working to decentre the human and attend to processes and timescales that challenge the discourses and political imaginaries through which ‘nature’ and the ‘natural’ world are typically engaged with.

Finally, geographers have also explored planetary materialities. This work has similarly been primarily concerned with documenting materialities in relation to the Anthropocene, with emphasis being placed upon understanding processes that affect the health and well-being of the planet (including its possible ‘death’). This work has been characterised by accounts of materiality that span across a range of planetary domains, including the hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and geosphere, with such formations being examined in relation to a variety of pressing material challenges, such as planetary urbanization, pandemics, atmospheric pollution and global carbon emissions.

In these different ways, materiality therefore remains at the forefront of geographical thought and geographers continue to make valuable contributions to wider materialist scholarship. Indeed, these diverse reflections on materialities have each shared an important progressive agenda. Uniting them is an interest in finding new ways to engage with the excessiveness of materiality and push beyond accounts that frame matter as inert, obstinate, flat or grounded. It is by engaging with this excessiveness, whether by turning to (im)material affects, elemental resonances, volumetric, mobile, molecular, atmospheric, geological or planetary materialities, that geographers have attempted to push back against earlier accounts of materiality that have portrayed materials as passive subjects of human control. Finding vocabularies such as these – vocabularies that work to challenge the positioning of the human and it’s abilities to comprehend and overpower the material; languages which force us to recognize our situatedness within complex planetary and extra-planetary ecologies of unfolding socio-material relations – is a crucial strategy, not only for ensuring that humans and nonhumans alike survive the Anthropocene, but for enabling people to live more ethically in-and-with the world in the future.

3. Further Reading

Adey, P. (2015). Air’s affinities: Geopolitics, chemical affect and the force of the elemental. Dialogues in Human Geography, 5(1), 54–75.

Anderson, B. (2009). Affective atmospheres. Emotion, Space and Society, 2(2), 77–81.

Anderson, B. (2014). Affective Life. In Encountering Affect: Capacities, Apparatuses, Conditions. Farnham: Ashgate.

Anderson, B., & Wylie, J. (2009). On geography and materiality. Environment and Planning A, 41(2), 318–335.

Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham & London: Duke University Press.

Bennett, J. (2009). Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press. Retrieved from

Clark, N. (2013). Geoengineering and geologic politics. Environment and Planning A, 45(12), 2825–2832.

Coole, D., Frost, S., Bennett, J., Cheah, P., Orlie, M. A., & Grosz, E. (2010). New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. Duke University Press. Retrieved from

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Haraway, D. (1991). Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory (Vol. 7). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McCormack, D. (2007). Molecular affects in human geographies. Environment and Planning A, 39(2), 359–377.

Steinberg, P., & Peters, K. (2015). Wet ontologies, fluid spaces: giving depth to volume through oceanic thinking. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 0(0), 0–0.

Whatmore, S. (2006). Materialist returns: practising cultural geography in and for a more-than-human world. Cultural Geographies, 13(4), 600–609.

Yusoff, K. (2016). Anthropogenesis: Origins and Endings in the Anthropocene. Theory, Culture & Society, 33(2), 3–28.

4. Notes

[1] Authors associated with this work may also not explicitly adhere to the label ‘new materialism’, for reasons that will be discussed in the following sections.

[2] There are exceptions to this position. Nigel Thrift, for example, has described forms of materialism that desire to retain a degree of minimal humanism.

[3] New materialisms have emerged from a series of frustrations across a wide variety of fields, including, but not limited to: post-colonialism, feminism, landscape studies, urban studies, legal studies, performance studies, and science studies.

[4] Ben Anderson & Divia Tolia-Kelly (2004) point toward the work on the extensive cultural materialist work on landscape as an example.

[5] Many of these contributions are also part of a wider body of work that is commonly, but similarly controversially, referred to as ‘non-representational theory’. This literature consists of a diverse set of conceptual approaches that aim to supplement representation-focused accounts of society, without necessarily explicitly attending to matter and materiality.

[6] This dominance can tend to be over-emphasised, as highlighted in footnote 3.

[7] Different bodies and materials are also seen to be more or less sensitive to these affects.

Published by peterjamesforman

Peter Forman is a Senior Research Associate at Lancaster University. His work covers contemporary energy politics, political ecology and materialisms.

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