New Materialism and Difference


PhD students in the fields of educational sciences, disability studies, gender studies, cultural studies and applied philosophy.

Organizing Committee

Prof. Dr. Geert Van Hove    Vakgroepvoorzitter    FPPW (corresponding supervisor)
Dr. Elisabeth De Schauwer    UGent  FPPW  
Dr. Katrien De Graeve    UGent   Talen en Culturen    

Scientific Committee

Prof. Dr. Bronwyn Davies    Independent scholar and Professorial   Fellow, U of Melbourne    
Prof. Dr. Rozita Dimova    UGent    Talen en Culturen    
Prof. Dr. Anneleen Masschelein    KU Leuven    Algemene Literatuurwetenschap en Culturele Studies    
Prof. Dr. Katarzyna Ruchel-Stockmans    VUB    Art History    


The course on new materialism and difference will give young researchers an intensive immersion in the concepts and practices of new materialism as they impact on thinking about, and relating to, research that is focused on difference. The students will bring their own research to the table, exploring how it might evolve in light of the new thinking they are exposed to over the four days of the course.
There has been extensive critique recently, by scholars such as Elizabeth St Pierre and Pathy Lather in the U.S., of the ways in which qualitative research has become enmeshed in formalized, methods-driven practices. Lather and St Pierre have argued that we need to develop post-qualitative methodologies, where old habits, and assumptions about the nature of reality, of humanity, of relationality, agency and ethics, can be thought afresh, inspired by new materialist philosophers such as Karen Barad and Gilles Deleuze. Through an engagement with these ideas, research methodologies (both theory and practice) can move beyond old genres that set out to represent a pre-existing world; rather than represent the world new materialism explores diffractive, emergent movement, which includes the apparatuses of the research itself. Language, human and non-human agents, and history, it suggests, affect each other, and produce each other, not in a linear causal fashion, but as never-ending spacetime entanglements.
In this course we will explore the question: What concepts and what methodologies might we develop to carry out research inspired by the possibilities opened up in new materialist writing?
New materialism does not separate ethics from ontology and epistemology, but sees them as intricately entangled. The researcher and the participants, and the spacetime they mutually inhabit, affect what it is possible to do and to think and to feel. There is an affective, ongoing movement between human and non-human agents; it is that movement that new materialist concepts can open up.
The opportunity to participate in this course will give students a chance to engage with cutting-edge theories and practices in a range of disciplines where new materialist thought is being taken up, globally. Those disciplines include, for example, educational studies, cultural studies, art history, literary studies, disability studies, social science, philosophy and epigenetics.The participants will have the opportunity to extend their own research thinking and practice in workshops that are specifically focused on their own ongoing research. The four days will give them a chance to form a strong supportive network with each other though which they can continue to explore the ideas opened up, and extended, throughout the course.


Each instruction day will consist of:

  • Theoretical instruction and discussion each morning
  • Connection with the participants’ own work each afternoon (presentations)

Central guest is Prof. Dr. Bronwyn Davies. She will lead the first day, and be an active participant in each of the following three days, in particular in the group discussions and feedback each afternoon.
On each of the other three days, convenors will present the morning sessions: Dr. Elisabeth De Schauwer, Prof. Dr. Rozita Dimova, Prof. Dr. Anneleen Masschelein, Prof Dr. Katarzyna Ruchel-Stockmans
For each morning session, the convenor/s connect to the framework of new materialism and work from that perspective with specific texts and concepts.
Each day would begin with a discussion – led by the convenors - of the readings set for that day (2 hours from 10-12 am), followed by a one-hour round table discussion among the participants about how the readings impact on their thinking and research topics.
Each afternoon (from 2-4 pm) the doctoral students would present a paper – in line with new materialism – for discussion about how their reading for the doctoral course opens up possibilities, For instance, in any of the following ways:
The research question(s) being asked; the mode of data collection; the concepts being called on to analyse the data; the mode of writing taken up in presenting their doctoral work.
Any of these can be addressed in anticipation or in contemplation of the work already completed. Each participant will be allocated one hour for presentation and discussion of their research. All participants will be actively involved in responding to the presentations.


  • April 23-26th, 2018 (Monday till Thursday) from 10:00h to 16:00h, with a 1h break at noon

Venue: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of Ghent University

  • DAY 1: Monday 23 April 2018, 10:00-16:00, Room: FPPW, Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Gent, lokaal 4.2 (4th fl)

Framework of new materialism - Prof. Dr. Davies
The focus in this section will be on the location of individual agents inside complex networks of material and epistemological forces. New concepts will be introduced for analysing the entanglement of being, and the diffractive processes through which everyday lives emerge, and are brought to life.
Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant Matter. A Political Ecology of things. Durham NC: Duke University Press.
Davies, B. (2008). “Re-thinking ‘behaviour’ in terms of positioning and the ethics of responsibility.” In A. M. Phelan & J. Sumsion (Eds.) Critical Readings in Teacher Education. Provoking Absences (pp. 173-186) Amsterdam: Sense Publishers.
Davies, B., Gannon, S. (2013). “Collective biography and the entangled enlivening of being.” International Review of Qualitative Research. 5(4): 357-376.
Davies, B. (2016). “Ethics and the new materialism. A brief genealogy of the ‘post’ philosophies in the social sciences.” Discourse Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education.
Prof. Bronwyn Davies
Bronwyn Davies is an independent scholar, a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne and an Emeritus Professor at Western Sydney University. She is a writer, scholar and teacher and has been a visiting professor in the last few years in the US, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Finland and the UK. She is well known for her work using collective biography, her work on gender, literacy and pedagogy, and for her critique of neoliberalism as it impacts on university work. Her most recent books are: Listening to Children: being and becoming, and her first work of fiction for children, a new version of Pixie O’Harris’s classic story The Fairy who Wouldn’t Fly. She is currently writing a three volume book called Remember me... tracing the web of family, which looks at the early colonization of New South Wales. More details of her work can be found on her website at

  • DAY 2: Tuesday 24 April 2018, 10:00-16:00, Room PEV-lokaal Psychoanalyse 1st fl (in front of elevator), Dunant 2 FPPW, Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Gent

Collaboration and creativity in finding new knowledge in different disciplines - Prof. Dr. Masschelein
During this session, we will look at the importance of collaboration and creativity in finding new knowledge in different disciplines: philosophy, pedagogy, cultural studies etc. One symptom of this is the emergence of new genres and media to transmit theory, e.g., the interview, blog, theoretical fiction, autoethnography, memoir and autofiction, film essay etc. These hybrid genres and media coincide with a different type of knowledge and a different subject positions as well as different ways of approaching and meeting an object. They aim to do or perform something that goes beyond description or analysis. This panel may interest a wide, interdisciplinary audience.
Denzin N. (2001). “The reflexive interview and a performative social science.” Qualitative Research. 1(1): 23-46.
Lennon, B. (2008). “The Essay, In Theory.” Diacritics. 38(3): 71-92.
Masschelein, A., Meurée, C. Martens, D., Vanasten, S. (2014). “The Literary Interview: Towards a Poetics of a Hybrid Genre.” Poetics Today. 35(1-2):1-49.
Davies, B., Gannon, S. (2006). “The Practice of Doing Collective Biography.” In B. Davies, S. Gannon (Eds.) Doing Collective Biography (pp.1-15) NY: Open University.
Prof. Dr. Anneleen Masschelein
Anneleen Masschelein is professor of Literary and Cultural studies at the University of Leuven, Belgium. In The Unconcept (SUNY Press, 2011), she studied the history of the concept of ‘the uncanny’ in the late twentieth century. Her current research focuses on literary advice culture and on contemporary cultural practices such as the literary interview and the stylisation of death in contemporary media society.

  • DAY 3: Wednesday 25 April 2018, 10:00-16:00, Room 4.3 (4th fl): FPPW, Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Gent

10.00 – 12:00 am: From image performativity to swarm intelligence - Prof. Dr. Katarzyna Ruchel-Stockmans
Recent developments in mobile technology turn every user in a potential image maker and distributor. Instant dissemination of audiovisual material on the internet allows for an exchange of content outside of and independently from the mainstream media. In the aftermath of the protest movements of 2011 it also became clear that these technological extensions of human bodies offer new ways towards collective authorship and crowd intelligence. In this session, we will analyze new cinematic formats emerging from the so-called citizen journalism and online activism. Theoretical debates on embodied agency and camera performativity will help us situate a new approach to media in which insects, technology and humans reconnect.

Azoulay, A. (2012). “What is photography?” in: Civil imagination. Political ontology of photography (11-27) London: Verso.
Barad, K. (2008). “Posthumanist performativity: Towards an understanding of how matter comes to matter” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.  28, 3 (2003): 801-831.
Jenkins, H. (2013) Twitter Revolutions? In
Parikka, J.  (2012). “New Materialism as Media Theory: Medianatures and Dirty Matter” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 9(1): 95-100.
Ruchel-Stockmans, K. (2017). "Towards a Poor Cinema: The Performativity of Mobile Cameras in New Image Wars" in Visualizing War: Media, Image and Emotion, Kathrin Maurer and Anders Engberg-Pedersen (eds.) London (Routledge): 110-127.
Prof. Dr. Katarzyna Ruchel-Stockmans
Katarzyna Ruchel-Stockmans teaches contemporary art, photography and new media at the Free University of Brussels. She is also guest lecturer at KASK School of Arts, Gent. She graduated from philosophy and art history in Cracow, Poland, and subsequently obtained a doctorate in art history at the University of Leuven, Belgium, where she was fellow of the Lieven Gevaert Research Centre for Photography. She has served as a visiting professor at the University of Warsaw, Poland (2012/2013). Her research interests include media studies, art and photography theory, East European cultures. Her book Images Performing History appeared in 2015 in Leuven University Press.

  • DAY 4: Thursday 26 April 2018, 10:00-16:00, Room 3.1 (3rd fl): FPPW, Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Gent

9:30 – 11:00 am: The State between Monumentalism and Expenditure: Political Agency of Public Space - Prof. Dr. Rozita Dimova
The new buildings and monuments that have inhabited central Skopje since 2010, reveal an unintended effect of the monumental presence of the new landscape. What used (and was meant to be) an embodiment of the state and the seemingly timeless relevance of its power, has gradually turned into a testimony of wasteful expenditure. The buildings and monuments have testified about the spending of the government that reigned the country from 2006-2017. How do grandeur and size shape politics and people’s perceptions outside of the intention of those who had erected them? Dimova’s lecture will address the issue of agency embodied in architecture and landscape by underlining the radical political dimension of the current material manifestation of the state in many post-socialist countries.
Buchli, Victor (2016). An Archeology of the Immaterial. London: Routledge.
Coole, Diana and Samantha Frost eds. (2010). New materialisms: Ontology, agency, and politics. Durham: Duke University Press (Introduction, pp. 1-46).
Dimova, Rozita (2014). Ethno-Baroque: Materiality, aesthetics and conflict in modern-day Macedonia. Oxford, New York: Berghahn Publishers (Chapter 5: The Baroque Effect, pp. 115-143).
Prof. Dr Rozita  Dimova
Rozita Dimova has worked on issues of materiality, aesthetics, affect and politics since her doctoral thesis (Stanford University, Anthropology, 2004). From 2004-2006 Dimova was Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Germany), where she worked on a project devoted to issues of home and displacement among refugees from Former Yugoslavia in Berlin, Germany. During her subsequent appointments at the Free University in Berlin (2006-2009) and Humboldt University-Berlin (2010-2014), Dimova examined the role of nation-building and construction of borders in Southeast Europe. Since 2013 Dimova has been Associate Professor in Southeast European Studies at Ghent University. Her book Ethno-Baroque (2014) examines how materiality, aesthetics and ethno-nationalism in Macedonia produce spatial and temporal realities while politics articulate people’s relationships to each other and to the landscape that surrounds them. She is the author of numerous publications devoted to the topics of materialisms, subjectivity/identity, aesthetics, ethno-nationalism, borders, gender and displacement (for more details see

11:30-13:00: Difference/disability and New Materialism -  Dr. Elisabeth De Schauwer
We will analyze the ambivalent processes through which difference is othered and abjected as monstrous. We question usual habits of categorizing that keep the boundary between the so-called normal, or normative, subject and the disabled subject in place. Together with colleagues, De Schauwer worked on several occasions with the methodology of collective biography to explore the space-in-between normativity and difference/ disability. Working with the memories of the participants, collective biography explores the processes of subjectification through which individuals are made social, and through which they are discursively and intracorporeally constituted. This methodology opens the possibility of thinking differently about disability, and of seeing all human beings, notwithstanding the processes of categorization, as multiple and intra-active, and as always becoming in intra-action with others.
De Schauwer, E., Van de Putte, I., Claes, L., Verstichele, M., & Davies, B. (2016). Shildrick’s monster: exploring a new approach to difference/disability through collective biography. Disability & Society, 31(8), 1098-1111.
De Schauwer, E., Van de Putte, I., & Davies, B. (2017). Collective biography: using memory work to explore the space-in-between normativity and difference/disability. Qualitative Inquiry.
Davies, B. (2014). Listening to children: Being and becoming. Routledge. Chapter 2 &3: p. 21-45.
Elisabeth De Schauwer is a doctoral assistant at the Department of Special Needs Education at Ghent University. She is working in the field of disability studies. Her PhD was around the inclusion processes of children with severe communicative difficulties. She works closely together with children, parents, and schools in the praxis of inclusive education. For her, activism, research, and teaching go hand in hand.

Registration and information

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Registration fee

Free of charge for PhD students of the Doctoral School of Social and Behavioural Sciences of Ghent University.


Maximum 12 participants


Reading list will be sent in advance to participants.

Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

Presence and active participation during all sessions: