CHAPTER 2 | Theoretical Framework
2.3 The Formatting Potential of Glitter
2.3.2 Glitter, Time, and Temporality
organises and governs social behaviour in constituting specific (affective) realities for us.
we do subscribe to the same foundational queer understandings of the world, which I elaborate on in the Methodology. Consequently, their theories continued to linger in the thesis even after their concepts, terminology, and name were removed, and I had to make the effort to translate Barad’s STEM-related language in a way that usefully opened their theories to me. Thus, I may not have fallen for Barad at first sight, but my love has slowly deepened, and by now Barad and I are probably destined to be together, if not for life, then for my career in academia.
Arriving in feminist and queer studies from quantum physics and mechanics, Barad has a take on the social world that is largely inspired by the STEM world this thesis explores (Barad, 2007, p. 25). Barad (2007, 2013) looks to STEM’s many natural laws to analyse social behaviour, finding, for example, similarities between the behaviour of atoms, protons, time, and temporality and that of subjects. Barad (2007) thus aims to deconstruct – or queer – any hierarchical relations between time, space, matter, and sociality, arguingthat all phenomena, material as well as social, exist on the basis of intra-actions between different (im)material matters. By intra-action, Barad means that nothing exists as an independent entity; everything exists as part of an entanglement with something else. As such, matters do not interact as autonomously existing entities, but rather intra-act, existing only and being only able to exist as part of a larger entanglement of matters (Barad, 2007, 2017).
Being inspired by Barad’s theories, I subscribe to the idea that times exist diffractively. Barad (1996) largely defines diffraction as the ‘entangled nature of differences’ (Barad, 1996, p. 381), thus seeing different times as existing in and through each other. Past, present, and future times have no singular or independent existence, they all exist because of each other. In asking one to ‘imagine … possibilities for new imaginaries of time’ (p. 17), Barad (2013) defines diffractively existing times as follows:
This ‘beginning’, like all beginnings, is always already threaded through with anticipation of where it is going but will never simply reach and of a past that has yet to come. It is not merely that the future and the past are not ‘there’
and never sit still, but that the present is not simple here-now. Multiple heterogenous iterations all: past, present, and future, not in relation of linear unfolding, but threaded through one another in a nonlinear unfolding of spacetimemattering, a topology that defies any suggestion of a smooth continuous manifold. (p. 18)
With this statement, Barad (2013) argues that times cannot simply be differentiated or hierarchised. One time exists because of, and only because of, other times: without the past no present or future, without the present no past or future, and without the future no past or present. Accordingly, in the above Barad further deconstructs the idea of time as operating linearly and thus as moving us from past to present to future times. They illustrate how anticipations of future times thread present times, while past times are also constituted in present and future times.
To illustrate the nonlinear, non-hierarchical intra-action of time, Barad (2017) invokes the example of Hiroshima and the atomic bombing of the city in World War II. Barad (2017) describes how the past exists in the present disabled bodies of Hiroshima, which carry cancer in their cells, still poisoned by existing radiation from the past bombing. Moreover, Barad explains, future also unequivocally exists in these disabled bodies, as their cancer-ridden cells point to premature death rather than prolonged life. Thus, these bodies evidence how past, present, and future times are hard to disentangle, their all bringing existence to each other in the materiality of a disabled body.
Barad’s example of the disabled bodies of Hiroshima points to a theory of time exceptionally relevant for thinking about time in relation to glitter. Indeed, Barad’s theory on time also focuses on materiality – note their reluctance to differentiate and hierarchise between different matters – as well as explains time as something materialised. Times exist because of their relation to materiality and vice versa, for which reason the partial materiality of my material/discursive glitter concept is in fact time: glitter does not just communicate new, better, and more desirable gendered futures, the material part of glitter is those futures. Hence, time and temporality are not simply abstract, invisible structures commonly agreed on to organise social life, they are also materiality and thus readable from materiality.
The temporal dimension ascribed to glitter becomes troubled when one deconstructs time as something that operates within ordered categories and moves us from past to present to future times. Indeed, glitter produces the positive future gendered time it is theorised to, but such time is destined to be threaded by past, present, and alternative future times. Thus, when glitter produces new, better, and, more desirable gendered futures, it brings along a plethora of other unintended times. Past struggles that we trusted were long gone and overcome can very well remain a forceful part of glittery, better, and more desirable futures. Similarly, alternative futures will unavoidably be part of the glittery, better, and more desirable futures. In other words, glitter might not produce the unique and specific organising and governing effects it is intended to, instead producing a further range of other and further effects.
The theories on time and temporality presented above emphasise the unruly, uncontrollable, and unpredictable character of glitter, to which the sticky quality of glitter already points. Moreover, the theories arguably alert one to the danger of glitter’s blinding character, as when the better and more desirable gendered futures sparkle and shine, they also allure our sight and attract us, maybe leading us to
overlook the (potentially dimmer) past, present, and alternative future times that inevitably linger, lying concealed within them. However, such (potentially dimmer) past, present, and alternative future times are not necessarily meant to disturb these glitterier futures, we may simply fail to notice that they are there able to do so. Therefore, theories on time and temporality underline that glitter should be sprinkled with caution, its being a substance and communication we cannot simply control or figure out.
2.3.3 My New Material/Discursive Concept of Glitter | Inspired by the