reading diffractively

“Diffraction does not produce ‘the same’ displaced, as reflection and refraction do. Diffraction is a mapping of interference, not of replication, reflection, or reproduction. A diffraction pattern does not map where differences appear, but rather maps where the effects of differences appear.”

Karen Barad, ‘Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together-Apart,’ 2014


2 March 2019. The past week, a library week. I prefer the places by the windows, looking out towards Fall Creek and the artificial Beebe Lake, the dam before the falls. Or from this position perhaps looking ‘inwards’, into a space of scattered bodies, faces, the gazes of which go in multiple directions.

In this boundary position, I feel privileged. I am allowed to engage in this practice known as reading. Several days in a row now, I have been able to roam through texts, confronting voices, making room for that kind of dialogue known as thinking. The stencil graffiti I pass by every morning is one of those texts; a material cry in the passage by Kennedy Hall. I’ll do my best.

The texts I am engaging with are all somehow related to my interest in friction as an environmental and relational notion, also somehow a materialising trope or thought figure that rather than focusing attention, has to do with the heated and tangled, evoking an unsettling and frustrated ‘rubbing’ of unlike opinions, worldviews and bodies against each other. I am looking for friction as a way to explore discontinuities, reverse flows and resistance values, but also the diffractional energy thus produced, the energy that radiates outwards, and so not only embodies but also spatializes thinking.

One late afternoon, on my way from the library, I notice a new imperative message beside the graffiti stencil. The Red Bears, the university’s women’s ice hockey team, have reached the quarter finals in the cup. Ithaca against Troy. A game sure to be as frictional as diffractional.


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