Materiality, New Materialisms

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Materiality is the quality of being material, or of being constituted by materials. Put simply, it describes the ways in which materials variously exert force upon human bodies and other forms of matter. In recent years, materiality has become a major focus in geographical and social scientific scholarship, as researchers have attempted to better attend to the embeddedness of humans in a world that is constantly performed through complex sociomaterial relations.

This article explores the causes behind this increase in academic interest in materiality. It describes its relationships to “new materialisms” and summarizes the key contributions and limitations of this literature. In its latter sections, it turns to document how geographers have adopted materiality as an analytical lens and explores the ways in which they have taken up and significantly expanded ideas of materiality in attempts to communicate matter's excessiveness and its plural refusals to submit to human control. In doing so, it demonstrates how geographers have sought to challenge notions of human exceptionalism, adjusting prominent discursive imaginaries to reflect the ways in which humans live in and with a world that is in its emergent becoming.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Human Geography
Subtitle of host publicationSecond Edition
EditorsAudrey Kobayashi
Place of PublicationAmsterdam, Oxford and Cambridge
Number of pages455
ISBN (Print)978-0-08-102296-2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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