Gut Feminism is an instantiation of part of Karen Barad’s agential realism. It talks about different aspects of our relationship with melancholia by arguing that we should see our bodies, our feelings, antidepressants, placebos and more through the perspective of intra-action – a core concept in agential realism. Elizabeth Wilson stresses again and again in this book that the distinct lines, such as the difference between the positive effects and the negative side effects an antidepressant will carry, we tend to draw when we are thinking of and talking about melancholia are dubious and nonexistent. This adherence to intra-action throughout the book helps me understand the points Wilson tries to make, especially when the object of attention lies in the field of medicine, where individual entities, classifications, and differences offer the foundation of thinking and knowing and possibly changing (i.e. curing). In comparison, while Wilson also claims to learn from and apply Barad’s concept of entanglement in this book, this is less evident to me as a reader. What I feel less satisfied either is that I don’t remember Wilson ever clearly defines what she means by intra-action or entanglement in the context of this particular book. It would be helpful to do so for the reader when it is not too far into the book.
I also find, interestingly, that Gut Feminism seems to be less readable to me compared with Meeting the Universe Halfway. I have to admit that I spend quite a bit of time switching back and forth between the book and my dictionary, struggling to make sure that I don’t miss any hidden or implied meanings buried in the words I don’t know. Barad’s book is thus more accessible, not because I have my electronic engineering background, but more due to her effort of explaining elusive concepts/experiments/phenomena through simple language.
My other strong feeling towards this book is a weird familiarity of what she declares to be novel. Basically, I find myself nodding whenever she brings out intra-action – yeah, I’m thinking, but isn’t this something that has always been emphasized in certain Eastern philosophies? That there is no absolute right or wrong, good or bad, that, for instance, Yin and Yang are actually from a whole and neither of them can be separated from the other? Hence, I start wondering what is the novelty here (as I asked last time), if there is any? Maybe it is just because of my identity or knowing about Eastern thoughts that makes me think this way.