For Whom the Real Turns – A Review of ‘After the Speculative Turn’ (2016)

A Review of “After the ‘Speculative Turn’: Realism, Philosophy, Feminism” (ed. Kolozova and Joy)

by Bogna M Konior

Moving back and forth, spinning around and adding more threads, the spider strengthens its web, creating a pattern. We are told that spiders are born with the knowledge of how to spin, that the turning of the web is encoded into the motion of their limbs rather than emerging from that dubious receptacle of will. In the last two decades, critical theory has had its fair share of turns: anthropologists, boldly marching into the territory of philosophy, speak of the ontological turn, instructing us that there are many worlds, rather than many worldviews. Rolling out on the waves of the worn out elan vital is the (new) materialist turn, supplementing the post-structuralist focus on language and discourse with an attentiveness to matter itself. The nonhuman turn, where the non is taken as a modifier of the “human” or a reaching beyond it, is the common thread underpinning the diverse interests of the Anglo-Saxon intellectual circles in the early 2000s.

With the publication of The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism (2011), which famously included only one female contributor, the focus on existence beyond the faulty correlation of ontology and epistemology asserted itself as the focal point of philosophical inquiry. When the spider spins its web, it weaves some of the lines from the center outward these are called radial. Threads that go around are called orb lines. To the speculative turn, feminism is not a radial line, something that extends from within the centre, but an orb. It is an act of enclosure as revealing: those who proclaimed speculation were too busy weaving their webs to see that they already lived inside an insect colony.

The apparent periodization of the title of Katerina Kolozova’s and Eileen A. Joy’s edited collection, After the ‘Speculative Turn’: Realism, Philosophy, Feminism (2016), might seeming confusing. This “after” has to be taken with a grain of salt, as the book soon demonstrates that the challenges of the post-Kantian speculative realism were already prefigured by feminist thought, which has been continually developing a “speculative turn” away from the spotlight. If we are to talk of a realist feminism, we should understand it alongside Kolozova’s own scholarly inclinations to move beyond the social-constructivist and culturalist approaches in gender and feminist theory. Its interlocutor is not chiefly the “speculative realist” and “object-oriented” thought, but rather the dominant strand of feminist theory today, particularly new materialism.


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