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Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  313 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Meeting the Universe Halfway is an ambitious book with far-reaching implications for numerous fields in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. In this volume, Karen Barad, theoretical physicist and feminist theorist, elaborates her theory of agential realism. Offering an account of the world as a whole rather than as composed of separate natural and social realms, ...more
Paperback, 524 pages
Published June 20th 2007 by Duke University Press (first published 2006)
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 ·  313 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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This was definitely one of the best books on my feminist theory reading list. Barad's attention to detail is convincing and her conclusions are compelling and fascinating. Plus, despite being about quantum physics, this is one of the clearest works of feminist theory I've read lately.
Apr 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the greatest philosophical books I have ever read. Karen Barad draws on figures such as Judith Bulter, Donna Haraway, and Michel Foucault to investigate the ontological implications of the insights in quantum physics of Niels Bohr. She argues for a completely new way of looking at the world, which she calls "agential realism," where the relationship preexists and constitutes the relata. Subject and object (or rather, the "agencies of observation" and the "object of observation") a ...more
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Philosophy. Science studies. Feminist theory. Race theory. Postcolonial theory. Post-Marxist theory. Poststructuralist theory. And Quantum mechanics. Ugh.

Probably the most gruelling book I have ever read on the topics. You'll need a tremendously tough mind and exceedingly tender heart to read it--and finish it.
May 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. I really wanted to love this book, as someone with a background and aspiration in physics, philosophy, and moral cosmologies. But it did not quite live up to my expectations. Barad gets points (enough to bump her up .5 from 3 stars) for engaging seriously and passionately with quantum physics, ethics, and philosophy in (close to) equal measure, in particular with her premise of the fascinating Heisenberg/Bohr correspondence and much later in the book with her 100-odd page chapter (chp ...more
Natalie Kilber
Jan 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
The quantum physics are not the reason making this a difficult read, it is solely due to the absence of coherent arguments with no development of her "exclusive" hypothesis revoling around Agential Realism.

She was able to get this literary entity past editorial staff - which deserves kudos...
However, this book merely comprises of fashionable concoctions of feminist jargon that miraculously crop up with her main buzzword Agential Realism so often and so iteratively as a deux ex machi
One of the most important books of the 21st century. Known as a competent feminist critical theorist she is also an excellent quantum physicist. She reforms Bohr then offers a posthuman performativity that diffractively interferes with quantum mechanics yielding far-reaching impacts upon poststructuralism and a profoundly authentic new materialism. I highly recommend this book.

If you love math and aren't afraid of following her formalisms you'll be amply rewarded with a new understan
Vinayak Suley
Jul 06, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm not a scholarly reader and this book's language is making for a very tough and slow read. Those are two facts about my experience, I think they may be related - but can't say for sure. I really do want to read this book since I've heard so much praise for it, but it's turning into a major chore. I have no doubts that the author has a brilliant mind, but I don't find her style very inviting; in fact I'd go far as to say that this has replaced "Principles of Color Technology" as the hardest-to ...more
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: prospectus-exam
I did not actually finish this book, but I read about 200 pages of it and that felt like enough to justify rating it. Barad is really good and very exciting (diffractive reading! I am so here for that!), but this book is WAYYY long and so ambitious it makes my head hurt just thinking about it. It's like, a 500+ page reimagining of every major concept in western philosophy, as articulated through the lens of quantum physics. Yes. Because why not. I feel like this is what Liz Cullingford would (so ...more
Bringing together ontology, epstemology, and ethics, Barad starts with quantum physics and reaches for ways for us to consider our responsibility in "intra-actions" with others (and their coincident response-ability with "us"). Barad has to be included in any discussion of posthumanist / new materialist / feminist critical theory (and should be a part of responsible, reflective science (studies)).
Dec 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Feminist quantum physics. Kinda went over my head along with Haraway's book "Modest Witness" but made a lot more sense when our professor clarified it in my feminist theory class. Basically deconstructs assumptions in quantum physics that dilineates matter/meaning, subject/object, etc.
Holly Fling
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a life-changing book. I'll never again perceive anything the way I did before reading Barad.
Tomás Narvaja
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
A little repetitive after the first 3-4 chapters, I wish she would've taken her theory as far with feminist studies as she did with physics, but it was still useful and it has been taken up by various feminist scholars, supplementing her work. I don't fault her for that. She is pretty clear, but clarity does require a slow and careful reading. It is very easy to get lost if you're not reading carefully, slowly, and intentionally.
Ben Platt
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"I propose 'agential realism' as an epistemological-ontological-ethical framework that provides an understanding of the role of human AND nonhuman, material AND discursive, and natural AND cultural factors in scientific and other social-material practices, thereby moving such considerations beyond the well-worn debates that pit constructivism against realism, agency against structure, and idealism against materialism. Indeed, the new philosophical framework that I propose entails a rethinking of ...more
Ewa Justka
Dec 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Alex Lee
Nov 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Barad presents an account of reality she calls agential realism. While intuitively we understand this in pop explanations as "point of view" she radicalizes this account by extending it into the formal fields of post-structural philosophy and quantum physics.

Taking the writings of the great physicist Neil Bohr, Barad dehumanizes his writing by removing what Meillasoux calls "Ptolomey's Revenge" in which the sciences (and philosophy) take the human account of things to be the end poin
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's hard to overestimate the tremble of excitement that attended the publication of Karen Barad's Meeting The Universe Halfway when it first came out nearly ten years ago. Here was the work of a physicist-cum-philosopher conversant in the 'high-theory' of post-structuralism no less than the intricacies of quantum theory, a writer of exceptional clarity at home in the fields of feminist theory no less than the philosophy and practice of science. A work, moreover, that promised to rethink and reconceptu ...more
Joseph Mccaleb
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barad’s ambitious endeavor is indicated in these lines: “I call my proposed ontoepistemological framework ‘agential realism.’ Importantly, agential realism rejects the notion of a correspondence relation between words and things and offers in its stead a causal explanation of how discursive practices are related to material phenomena. It does so by shifting the focus from the nature of representations (scientific and other) to the nature of discursive practices (including technoscientific ones), ...more
Andrei Ștefănucă
May 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Meeting the Universe Halfway is a complete account of quantum physics viewed from a diffractive perspective and with an agential realist focus in mind. The background, historical and theoretical notions that this book is based on underline and structure the field's most important questions and Karen Barad analyzes and dissects them from an epistemological, ontological and ethical point of view. Still, one critique to answer to is that although the author states that this book is understandable b ...more
Daniel Sparwath
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Barad offers an interesting and stimulating perspective on the classical problem of ontology and subject-object relations within philosophy. Not being satisfied with either deconstructivism or the correlationism this yields a way to talk about how matter affects without succumbing to essentialisms.

So far, she's managed to describe some of the insights of quantum physics in a relatively comprehendable manner and even made it relevant and exciting to relate to a general and social onto
I had to return this ebook to amazon because the formatting was so wonky (entire chapters in italics, misplaced hyphens, terrible tables, etc.). Am now waiting on the paperback because this book seems extraordinary and Barad intelligently talks about so many of my enthusiasms: theoretical physics, feminism, social theory, philosophy in a way that incorporates so many theories in a way that escapes the binary of ontology/epistemology, theory/praxis that bogs down so much academic writing.
Scott Neigh
I read some of this for a course last term plus a bit more than that, but I haven't come close to finishing it. I intend to return to it at some's very important work, I think, but also very, very hard work to read, and it will be at least next fall before I can think about picking it up again...
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you're a scientist, or someone with a scientific background, who wants to understand Feminism from a physicist feminist, this is the book for you! Barad uses scientific ideas to clarify important axioms in social science and feminism. The opening section of the book is especially interesting for those of the quantum physics persuasion!!
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Taking too much time for a self-trained in physics like me. But it's actually a good and very engaging book to read, especially for those interested in STS. I've read her article "Meeting the Universe Halfway" and found that it covers the main theme of this book and her "agential realism" as well. I think it's very helpful to start from it.
Laura Hellsten
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: phd
Yes, it is mind-boggling and YES it has great implications for epistemology and ontology in any subject area. Absolutely worth reading.
Though I do agree that she is a bit too repeatetive and leaves some very important questions still open and undefined.
Leila Breene
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Earth shattering. A new paradigm. Am trying to absorb.
Oct 16, 2015 added it
Shelves: nonfiction, academic
beautiful. strenuous.
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating (and rigorous) account of quantum physics' and its consequences for questions of epistemology, ethics and ontology. And it's well written, too!
Tero Nauha
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
It is one of the books that we need to read in posthumanist theory.
Apr 06, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: philosophy
Feminist propaganda mixed with possible misextrapolations from physics sounds worse than water torture, but this book comes highly recommended from John Kowalko, so I may give it a chance.
Jun 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Agential realism is the way of the future. And the present.
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Karen Michelle Barad (born 29 April 1956), is an American feminist theorist, known particularly for her theory of Agential Realism. She is currently Professor of Feminist Studies, Philosophy, and History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Her research topics include fem ...more
“The very nature of materiality is an entanglement. Matter itself is always already open to, or rather entangled with, the "Other." The intra-actively emergent "parts" of phenomena are coconstituted. Not only subjects but also objects are permeated through and through with their entangled kin; the other is not just in one's skin, but in one's bones, in one's belly, in one's heart, in one's nucleus, in one's past and future. This is as true for electrons as it is for brittlestars as it is for the differentially constituted human . . . What is on the other side of the agential cut is not separate from us--agential separability is not individuation. Ethics is therefore not about right response to a radically exterior/ized other, but about responsibility and accountability for the lively relationalities of becoming of which we are a part.” 5 likes
“This book is about entanglements. To be entangled is not simply to be intertwined with another, as in the joining of separate entities, but to lack an independent, self-contained existence. Existence is not an individual affair. Individuals do not preexist their interactions; rather, individuals emerge through and as pare of their entangled intra-relating . Which is not to say that emergence happens once and for all, as an event or as a process that takes place according to some external measure of space and of time, but rather that time and space, like matter and meaning, come into existence, are iteratively recon figured through each intra-action, there by making it impossible to differentiate in any absolute sense between creation and renewal, beginning and returning, continuity and discontinuity, here and there, past and future.” 5 likes
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