This paper provides a theoretical overview of dualisms which lie at the foundation of Western thought in an attempt to highlight the fundamental contribution that feminist new materialisms bring to sociological theory and practice and beyond. To delineate the oppressive patterns of thought generated by anthropocentric dualistic thinking, I will draw on the influential works of ecofeminist Val Plumwood, science studies scholar and feminist Donna Haraway, and feminist theorist Karen Barad within the material turn. The exploration begins with an analysis of the Cartesian subject-object dichotomy rejected by post-humanists and new materialists, a dichotomy which spawns many others, and continues with a mapping of the crisis of reason that Western thought is confronting. The crisis of reason is held in place by human attachment to binary conceptual pairs which serve to naturalize systems of domination. The materializing effects of this crisis include the marginalization, oppression, and exploitation of bodies human and nonhuman, justified through the uneven valorization of mind/spirit/masculine/culture over matter/body/feminine/nature, shaping the hazard-ridden epoch that we now call the Anthropocene. In this context, I then provide a brief outline of the material turn’s proposal for situated, embodied knowledges, which entails a consistent non-dualist philosophy, and its urgent relevance in the contemporary global context. Notions of responsibility (defined as the capacity for response), the nature of the epistemic subject and the generation of knowledges, embodiment, boundaries, and positioning, as well as the very mechanisms we use to conceptualize the world, are being reconfigured within the material turn. Across disciplines, scholars are proposing new frameworks that encourage non-typological, engaged, accountable positioning within the world on the part of the human subject. Finally, a parallel is drawn with the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, whose insights complement the epistemological work of feminist new materialisms and their call for situated, embodied knowledges, thus providing a fertile ground for exploration in the areas of exclusion between the disciplines of sociology and philosophy. The aim of this paper is to offer new avenues for critical interdisciplinary thinking meant to re-assess and reconfigure the underlying assumptions of Western systems of thought.

Author Biography

Ștefania Chihaia is a PhD student at the Interdisciplinary School of Doctoral Studies, University of Bucharest, Romania. She earned her BA in Media and Communications from the University of Sussex, UK, and her MA in Cognition and Communication from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She is currently studying the experiential dimension of human-nonhuman relations in her doctoral project using a phenomenological approach. Her main research areas are the material turn, ecofeminism, ecophilosophy and phenomenology. Email: stefania.chihaia@drd.unibuc.ro.