‘Binary and absolute differences’ are ‘exploitative’
A feminist academic affiliated with the University of Arizona has invented a new theory of “intersectional quantum physics,” and told the world about it in a journal published by Duke University Press.
Whitney Stark argues in support of “combining intersectionality and quantum physics” to better understand “marginalized people” and to create “safer spaces” for them, in the latest issue of The Minnesota Review.
Because traditional quantum physics theory has influenced humanity’s understanding of the world, it has also helped lend credence to the ongoing regime of racism, sexism and classism that hurts minorities, Stark writes in “Assembled Bodies: Reconfiguring Quantum Identities.”
A researcher in culture and gender studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, Stark also holds an appointment in women’s and gender studies at the University of Arizona through its Institute for LGBT Studies.
She is a member of the Somatechnics Research Network, hosted by UA, whose scholars “reflect on the mutual inextricability of embodiment and technology.”
Stark identifies Newtonian physics as one of the main culprits behind oppression. “Newtonian physics,” she writes, has “separated beings” based on their “binary and absolute differences.”
“This structural thinking of individualized separatism with binary and absolute differences as the basis for how the universe works is embedded in many structures of classification,” according to Stark.
These structures of classification, such as male/female, or living/non-living, are “hierarchical and exploitative” and are thusly “part of the apparatus that enables oppression.”
Therefore, Stark argues in favor of combining intersectionality and quantum physics theory to fight against the imperative to classify people based on hierarchical categories.
‘I, being white, should not be in all spaces’
Stark also argues that the tendency to categorize people has historically hurt activism efforts by small minority groups, since their efforts are often subsumed or overshadowed by dominant identity groups.
The problems that arise when small minority groups are overshadowed by larger identity groups can be seen clearly when considering black feminist history.
“For instance, in many ‘official’ feminist histories of the United States, black/African American women’s organizing and writing are completely unaccounted for before the 1973 creation of the middle-class, professional National Black Feminist Organization,” Stark writes.
This happened because of “the frequent subsuming of intersectional identities under supposedly encompassing meta-identities,” namely, the tendency for black feminist resistance efforts to be subsumed under the broader category of feminism.
Therefore, the efforts of black feminists were often denied legitimacy within the popular press — all due to black women’s classification within binary hierarchies that privileged white women and whiteness, and therefore negated black women’s existence and efforts.
Stark also argues that by “deprioritizing” privileged people, “safer spaces” could be created for minorities. She gives the example of “deprioritizing” herself.
“For instance, I, being white, should not be in all spaces, positions of authority, or meetings,” she said, because her presence could “stall” movements towards progress.
Stark concludes her paper by hoping that the “apparatus that enables oppression” – buoyed by Newtonian physics – shifts towards “less oppressive” power dynamics.
“Hopefully, this alliance can enact ways of valuing [people] differently.”
The article was published in the “Critical Special Focus” section of the journal, which in this issue is devoted to “New Materialist Genealogies.” The Minnesota Review, which is managed out of Virginia Tech, also has a creative-writing section. The editors did not immediately respond to a request for comment on their decision to accept the article for publication.
Stark did not respond to multiple email and Facebook requests for comment from The College Fix. While she does not have any academic training in physics or quantum physics, she did complete a master’s degree in “Cyborg and Post Colonial Theory” at the University of Utrecht.