According to classical physics, diffraction is a physical phenomenon that comes into being when a multitude of waves encounter an obstacle upon their path, and/or when these waves themselves overlap. In contemporary feminist theory, diffraction is often employed to denote a more critical and difference-attentive mode of consciousness and thought. For Dona Haraway diffraction is a ‘more subtle vision’ than the traditional reflective scientific forms of optics and thinking that actually spotlights ‘where the effects of difference appear’ (‘The Promise of Monsters’, 70). Diffraction is thus contrasted with “[r]eflexivity.’ Such a practice ‘only displaces the same elsewhere’, according to Haraway, and creates oppositional distinctions between the real and the figural, whereas diffraction – now reformulated as seeing and thinking diffractively – is all about making ‘a difference in the world’ by paying attention to ‘the interference patterns on the recording films of our lives and bodies’ (ibid., 16). Seeing and thinking diffractively therefore implies a self-accountable, critical, and responsible engagement with the world.


It is exactly this aspect of diffraction that has been picked up by Karen Barad in Meeting the Universe Halfway. For Barad, reading (and theorizing) diffractively expresses a mode of intellectual critique and textual engagement wherein rather than organized hierarchically and or against each other texts and intellectual traditions are read dialogically ‘through one another’ to engender creative, and unexpected outcomes (MUH, 30). And that all while acknowledging and respecting the contextual and theoretical differences between the readings in question. Blurring the boundaries between different disciplines and theories to provoke new thoughts and theories, this methodology examines how and why boundaries between disciplines and strands of thought have been made and how they can be (re)made.


In presenting the theoretical underpinnings of my analytics, I have reflected upon my past and current practices but more importantly I have read diffractively between different philosophical and theoretical traditions, criss-crossing their boundaries without erasing or neglecting their differences, but rather focusing on the differences that these differences make in understanding the Real and conceptualizing the subject of feminism.


Please reference as: Maria Tamboukou (2018) ‘Diffractions, https://mariatamboukou.org/revisiting-the-nomadic-subject-2/archives/concepts/diffractions