According to a feminist academic working with the University of Arizona, Newtonian physics is oppressive, and physics needs a new theory to combat it — the theory of “intersectional quantum physics.” In a journal published by Duke University Press, she used academic jargon to deconstruct not just physics but basic logic — in the service of fighting “oppression.”
“The idea of the body (whether biological, social, or of work) is not stagnant, and new materialist feminisms help to recognize how multiple phenomena work together to behave in what can become legible at any given moment as a body,” wrote Whitney Stark, a researcher in culture and gender studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands with ties to U.S. colleges.
Newtonian physics is fundamentally oppressive because it defines what the word “body” means. No joke: In her paper, Stark identified “Newtonian physics” as a culprit behind oppression, because it has “separated beings” based on their “binary and absolute differences.”
In her paper “Assembled Bodies: Reconfiguring Quantum Identities,” published in the latest issue of The Minnesota Review, Stark argued that thinkers need to combine “intersectionality and quantum physics” to understand “marginalized people” and to create “safer spaces” for them. But the way in which she argued this spoke volumes.
“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,” the researcher wrote. Such “structures of classification,” such as male or female, living or non-living, are “hierarchical and exploitative” and therefore “part of the apparatus that enables oppression.”
But the basic ability to determine male from female, living from non-living, and other simple binary identities, and to make arguments and conclusions based on these differences, is also called “logic.” It enables human beings to understand the world around them, and it is the basic foundation of all science, physics included.
There is nothing unique to Newtonian physics about this simple logic, but Stark attacks it as a vehicle for oppression. To be clear, it is a vehicle for understanding the world and using knowledge. People can use knowledge for good or for ill, for freedom or oppression. The very same logic which allows someone to distinguish a human being from an animal, and to free an enslaved person but not a chained pet, also allows someone to distinguish between a man and a woman, and to treat one better than the other.
Logical categories enable discrimination, but they also enable justice, knowledge, all kinds of relations — even love.
But quantum physics blurs the lines between logical binaries, allowing for particles to be in two states at the same time. Even this mind-bending relies on logical and scientific study of physics, starting at easier levels and proceeding toward the more difficult.
For Stark, however, quantum physics is an excuse to use feminist theory to remake knowledge itself. “I approach how understandings of quantum physics and cyborgian bodies can (or always already do) ally with feminist anti-oppression practices,” the researcher wrote in the abstract (the summary) of her paper.
Here’s the problem: Stark has no formal training in physics. She carries a bachelor of arts in “Communications/Media Arts/Theory” from Antioch College and a master’s in “Gender and Ethnicity” from Utrecht University. Other education from LinkedIn includes training in “Undoing Racism and Community Organizing”
In addition to her research position at Utrecht University, Stark holds an appointment in women’s and gender studies at the University of Arizona (UA) through its Institute for LGBT Studies, and is a member of the UA-hosted Somatechnics Research Network, whose scholars “reflect on the mutual inextricability of embodiment and technology.”
How did Stark use her feminist and “cyborgian” studies to remove the “oppression” in physics? By attacking categorization itself, which she argued has historically hurt activism on behalf of small minority groups, since their efforts are often overshadowed by dominant identity groups.
“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,” she wrote. This happened because black feminist organization was subsumed under the broader category of feminism, rather than considered separately.
Stark lamented this “frequent subsuming of intersectional identities under supposedly encompassing meta-identities.” The argument goes that because the efforts of black feminists were denied legitimacy in the popular press and in the history books, the idea of classification itself must be questioned. Since black women were classified within “binary hierarchies that privileged white women and whiteness,” the legitimacy of all such “binary hierarchies” must be re-examined.
Everything must be politicized along the lines of race, class, and gender, so that the “apparatus that enables oppression” shifts toward “less oppressive” power dynamics. Stark advocated for “deprioritizing” privileged people, to create “safer spaces” for minorities.
“For instance, I, being white, should not be in all spaces, positions of authority, or meetings,” Shark wrote, because her presence could “stall” social justice.
The article, which has very little to do with physics, was published in the “Critical Special Focus” section of The Minnesota Review, which is published by Duke University Press and managed out of Virginia Tech. In this issue, that section is devoted to “New Materialist Geneologies.”
While it is ironic that Stark’s suggestion for removing “oppression” from physics is her own exclusion from positions of power, her paper continues a disturbing trend in academia against knowledge and reason in favor of identity politics.
A student in South Africa rejected science in favor of witchcraft. Yale University students petitioned the school to drop courses required for English majors on the “Major English Poets” like Shakespeare. Thanks to an overemphasis on the evils of American slavery, many college students cannot name another country that had slavery. George Washington University, a college literally named after America’s first president, dropped a U.S. history requirement for history majors!
This kind of identity politics has become a threat to learning itself. English, history, physics, and other branches of learning are being assaulted by “intersectionality” theory in ways that damage students’ ability to learn, their ability to think outside the box, and their ability to actually study things like logic itself.
If the very process of categorizing things is in jeopardy — as Stark suggests it should be — learning itself is under threat. Intersectionality has already been compared to a religion. Religions like Christianity have been unfairly attacked for stifling learning, but this ideology foots that bill. The entire edifice of modern progress — and the history and logic it relies upon — could crumble in the face of Progressive ideology. How’s that for ironic?