Professor Vicki Kirby

Professor
BA, Dip Ed, MA Hons Prelim. First Class (University of Sydney); PhD (University of California Santa Cruz)
School of Social Sciences

Contact

+61 (2) 9385 2408
+61 (2) 9385 1824
Room 148, Morven Brown
Kensington Campus
Fields: Philosophy not elsewhere classified, Other Studies in Human Society, Feminist Theory, Philosophy of Language, Poststructuralism
Tags: Social Ethics

Research

Vicki Kirby is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW. 

The motivating question behind Vicki’s research is the puzzle of the nature/culture, body/mind, body/technology division, because so many political and ethical decisions are configured in terms of this opposition. Vicki is also interested in ‘the language question’ - what is language, and how does the way we answer that question define the human and inaugurate the political?

Vicki’s fascination with origins and foundations, or what grounds an argument, has remained an enduring provocation in her work.  Drawing on a rich interdisciplinary tradition in Australian feminisms and critical theory more generally, she explores the sometimes hidden politics of everyday life.  Her particular interest is embodiment and matter, and she brings feminism and deconstruction into conversation in order to shift the terms of these inquiries.  We know that cultural meanings are biologically registered, producing symptoms and signs, but what ‘language’ enables these interior communications and how do they differ from a conventional notion of language? Can the nature/culture division be sustained if flesh is literate; if it calculates? Is the special status accorded the human considerably qualified if life’s animations are forms of reading and writing?

Investigating such questions, Vicki’s research explores the uncanny resonance between poststructural understandings of ‘the life of language’ and scientific evidence about ‘the language of life’. The international acclaim received by Telling Flesh: the substance of the corporeal (1997, Routledge), which explores the semiological capacities of flesh, is evidence of the unique and fertile provocations in this line of inquiry. Telling Flesh is a book of exceptional significance and merit… original… a brilliant philosophical critique” (Mutman: 1999). ‘Kirby takes herself and her readers on a trip where even Derrida only sometimes dares to go. As with all the best scholarship, or writing of any stripe… it keeps generating insights and wonders through multiple readings’ (Weinstone: 2000). Eleven reviews.

Judith Butler: Live Theory (2006, Continuum) explores the question of materiality, language and the discursive and offers a sustained criticism of one of the giants of contemporary feminist and political theory. The book illuminates how a surreptitious recuperation of the nature/culture division can inform work that actively eschews the opposition, and suggests how this division can be engaged differently. ‘Vicki Kirby’s presentation of Butler is… thoughtful and rigorous, generous yet insubordinate… The level of scholarship here is superior. The reader is witness to a stimulating dialogue between two talented scholars… Kirby offers many excellent criticisms of and questions about Butler’s ideas that warrant development elsewhere’ (Kachra: 2007). Five reviews.

(2011) Judith Butler: Pensamiento en Acción trans. Diego Luis Sanromán Peña, Barcelona, Edicions Bellaterra, pp. 208. 

Quantum Anthropologies: Life at Large (2011 Duke) consolidates the innovative trajectory of Kirby’s work.  How is scholarship in the humanities already substantively implicated in the sciences? What challenges do we confront if Derrida’s ‘no outside of text’ is read as ‘no outside of Nature’? The anonymous manuscript readers for Duke University Press confirm the book’s path-finding significance. Reader #1: ‘Vicki Kirby has developed a uniquely challenging and amplifying response to deconstruction as a means of offering new reflections on nature, embodiment, materialism, and science… There have been few Derrida commentators who have been able to combine an extreme intelligence about, attention and sensitivity to Derrida’s work, with this kind of extensive challenge to it’. Reader #2: ‘Kirby is one of the foremost intellectuals of our time. …a creative and original thinker who offers profound challenges to some of our most cherished beliefs. She is a scholar whose contributions are not only making a significant impact now, but promise to do so for some time to come’. 6 reviews.

 What if Culture was Nature all Along? Editor (2017 Edinburgh University Press)

What If Culture Was Nature All Along? is a collection of 11 essays curated by Vicki Kirby that proves that there is still something new to be said about feminist new materialisms and that there is value in facing this topic anew … Kirby's anthology not only adds to ongoing debates, but also puts feminist new materialisms into action, and by doing so she offers an insight into what feminist new materialisms can still do (and how)… The starting point for all the essays in this collection is an engaged and generous approach, full of curiosity and unable to be satisfied with shaky theoretical constructions. Thus, although essays engage in different topics and develop unique perspectives, the common attitude [is] of affirmative critique and genuine concern.- Monika Rogowska-Stangret, University of Warsaw, Hypatia

Vicki Kirby has already produced an impressive corpus on the relations among life, matter and inscription. This new volume takes her unique and formidable mode of argument to a new level. For Kirby, both our conceptions of nature/culture and our notion of ‘turns’ - back to reality, materialism or life - require a more complex and intellectually more generous approach to relations and mediations. Drawing powerfully from recent work in feminist and critical theory this book will redefine the ways in which we think about life, the human and the posthuman.- Claire Colebrook, Penn State University

Vicki has held many teaching and research positions across Europe, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and India, most recently, Erasmus Mundus Professor Utrecht University and Visiting Professor, Winter School, Institute of Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Bern University. Her work is being archived by Brown University “since your work has been crucial to developments in your field and to feminist theory in general.” She was Chief Investigator of an ARC Discovery Project Grant, ‘The Life of Language and the Language of Life’ (2006-2009) $120,000; guest edited a special issue of Australian Feminist Studies in 2008, and is currently working on a manuscript provisionally titled, Human Exceptionalism on the Line.

She has an international reputation in the fields of deconstruction, feminism and new materialism, and regularly receives invitations to keynote and teach masterclasses. Invitations over the last 5 years include: Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf; Utrecht University; Somatechnics Conference, Byron Bay; Ghent University; University of Turku Finland; Åbo Akademi University, Turku Finland; Maastricht University; La Trobe University; Institute of Art and Architecture, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna; Emory University; Duke University; Yale University; Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin; Europa Universität,Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder; Institute of Advanced Study in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, Bern University; Sydney University.

Vicki is currently a Founding Member of the Advisory Board Digital Semiotics Encyclopedia; Editorial Board, New Materialisms Series, Edinburgh University Press; Editorial Associate, Critical Posthumanisms; Advisory Board, Itineration: Cross-Disciplinary Studies in Rhetoric, Media, and Culture; Advisory Panel, Wasteflow Project, Oxford University Centre for the Environment; Science Advisory Committee, Semiotica, filosofi, arte, letteratura, Athanor Book Series, Milan; Editorial Board Member: New Critical Humanities; Editorial Board Member: “Experimental Practices” Series, Brill; International Advisory BoardCatalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience.

Publications

    Books

    Book Chapters

    • Kirby V, 2018, 'Quantum Anthropology', in Braidotti R; Hlavajova M (ed.), Posthuman Glossary, edn. Theory Series, pp. 374 - 375
    • Kirby V, 2018, 'Wielog?osy o nowych materializmach', in Cielem?cka O; Rogowska-Stangret M (ed.), Feminist new materialisms: situated cartographies/ Feministyczne nowe materializmy: usytuowane kartografie, edn. N/A, e-naukowiec, Lublin, Poland, pp. 258, 288 - 260, 290
    • Kirby V, 2018, 'Un/Limited Ecologies', in Fritsch M; Lynes P; Wood D (ed.), Eco-Deconstruction: Derrida and Environmental Philosophy, edn. 1st, Fordham University Press, New York, NY, pp. 121 - 140, https://www.fordhampress.com/9780823279500/eco-deconstruction/
    • Kirby V, 2017, 'Natural Convers(at)ions: Or, What if Culture Was Really Nature', in Queer Feminist Science Studies A Reader, edn. Feminist Technosciences, University of Washington Press, Washington, pp. 268 - 281
    • Kirby V, 2017, 'Embodiment', in Ivan Callus; Stefan Herbrechter; Manuela Rossini (ed.), Genealogy of The Posthuman, Critical Posthumanisms, e-site, pp. N/A - N/A, http://criticalposthumanism.net/genealogy/embodiment/
    • Kirby V, 2017, 'Foreword: Where to Begin?', in Kirby V (ed.), What If Culture Was Nature All Along?, edn. New Materialisms, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. viii - xii, https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-what-if-culture-was-nature-all-along.html
    • Kirby V, 2017, 'Matter out of Place: ‘New Materialism’ in Review', in Kirby V (ed.), What If Culture Was Nature All Along?, edn. New Materialisms, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, pp. 1 - 25, https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-what-if-culture-was-nature-all-along.html
    • Kirby V, 2012, 'Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity', in Newall DD; Poke G (ed.), Fifty Key Texts in Art History, edn. 1st, Routledge, Oxford, pp. 227 - 231, http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415497701/
    • Kirby V, 2010, 'Deconstruction', in Rossini M; Clarke B (ed.), Routledge companion to literature and science, edn. 1st ed., Routledge, London, pp. 287 - 297, http://www.amazon.com/Routledge-Companion-Literature-Science-Companions/dp/0415495253/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1306503264&sr=8-1#reader_0415495253
    • Kirby V, 2008, '(Con)founding `the Human` Incestuous Beginnings', in Giffney N; Hird MJ (ed.), Queering the Non/Human, edn. First, Ashgate, Aldershot, pp. 35 - 54
    • Kirby V, 2008, 'Natural Convers(at)ions: or, what if Culture was really Nature all along?', in Alaimo S; Hekman S (ed.), Material Feminisms, edn. Original, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, USA, pp. 214 - 236
    • Kirby V, 2006, '`Culpability and the Double-Cross: Irigaray with Merleau-Ponty`', in Olkowski D; Weiss G (ed.), Feminist Interpretations of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, edn. Original, Pennsylvania State University Press, Pennsylvania, USA, pp. 127 - 145
    • Kirby V, 2005, 'Out of Africa: `Our Bodies Ourselves?`', in Nnaemeka O (ed.), Female Circumcision and the Politics of Knowledge: African Women in Imperialist Discourses, edn. First and only, Praeger Publishers, Westport, USA, pp. 81 - 96
    • Kirby V, 2005, 'When All That Is Solid Melts Into Language: Judith Butler and the Question of Matter', in Breen MS; Blumenfeld WJ (ed.), Butler Matters: Judith Butler’s Impact on Feminist and Queer Studies, edn. 1st, Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Hampshire, England, pp. 41 - 56
    • Kirby V;Blumenfeld WJ;Breen MS;Baer S;Brookey RA;Hall L;Shail R;Wilson N, 2005, ''There Is A Person Here’: An Interview with Judith Butler”', in Breen MS; Blumenfeld WJ (ed.), Butler Matters: Judith Butler’s Impact on Feminist and Queer Studies, edn. 1st, Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Hampshire, England, pp. 9 - 25
    • Kirby V, 2001, 'Theory incorporated', in Advances in Gender Research, pp. 25 - 39
    • Kirby V, 2001, 'Quantum Anthropologies', in Simmons L; Worth H (ed.), Derrida Downunder, edn. Original, Dunmore Press, New Zealand, pp. 53 - 68
    • Kirby V, 1998, 'Value', in Encyclopaedia of Semiotics, edn. Original, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 624 - 627
    • Kirby V, 1998, 'Cultural difference', in Encyclopaedia of Semiotics, edn. Original, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 153 - 157
    • Kirby V, 1996, 'Kopma Noktasinda:Feminizm ve Kliteroris Sunneti', in Oryantalizm, Hegemonya ve Kulturel Fark Istanbul: Iletisim Yayinlari, edn. Original, Illetisim Yaymlari, Istanbul, Turkey

    Journal articles

    Other

    Edited Books

Teaching

Undergraduate Teaching: current classes - ARTS2875 Society and Desire; ARTS3871 Forensic Sociology; ARTS4267: Methodologies in the Social Sciences: Questions and Quandaries

Honours Students: 27 Honours students supervised: 22 received Hons Class 1; 9 received the Sol Encel Prize for the best thesis is Sociology; 5 received the University Medal.

Areas of Supervision: Animal studies and posthumanism; the Maori offender; the ethics of care in a palliative setting; system theories and bio-informatics; re-reading the interface between the biological and social through the immunological body; the politics of entanglement; feminism, post-structural theory, political theory; poststructural approaches to the question of spirit; investigating embodiment: feminisms/queer theory, biological discourses; embodied subjectivities and negotiations of purity, Foucault's ontology of power.

I currently supervise 3 PhD students, all with Postgraduate Awards.



Postgraduate Research Completions last 10 years

  • Rebecca Oxley “Attending to fathers with postnatal depression: lived embodiment and bio-graphical systematicity” (2x1s) Awarded PhD June 2015, Best Thesis Prize in Faculty of Social Sciences
  • Ashley Barnwell “Living Truth: a reading in social and sociological hermeneutics.” (2x1s) Awarded PhD November 2014. 
  • Will Johncock “Time and transcendence: the corporeal conditions of time and social synchronisation” (2x1s) Awarded PhD June 2014. 
  • Florence Chiew, "Perceptual plasticity: ecology and the social brain" (2x1s) Awarded PhD 2013, First Place in School of Social Sciences
  • Michelle Jamieson "An investigation of allergy which examines the interface between the biological and social" (3x1s) Awarded PhD 2012.
  • Tamara Popowski, "Transduction, Semiosis, Différance: defining life at the limit" Awarded PhD 2011.
  • Noela Davis, "Material subjectivity: the performative entanglement of biology within sociality" Awarded PhD 2010.
  • Demelza Marlin, "The kenotic structure of Max Weber's the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: an interdisciplinary approach to secularization" Awarded PhD 2010.
  • Belinda Clayton, "Truth, meaning and representation: Questioning modes of analysis in interpretations of women’s alcohol use" Awarded PhD 2008.
  • Peta Hinton “To see the world in a grain of sand…Thinking Universality and Specificity for a Feminist Politics of Difference” Awarded PhD December, 2007
  • Olivia Harvey “Posthumanism and the Question of Technology” Awarded PhD April, 2005

 

 

Professional contribution

Vicki was invited faculty at the Winter School: Institute of Advanced Study in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, Bern University in 2015, and an Erasmus Mundus Scholar at Utrecht University in 2013. She was Chief Investigator of an ARC Discovery Project Grant, ‘The Life of Language and the Language of Life’ (2006-2009) $120,000; guest edited a special issue of Australian Feminist Studies in 2008, and is currently working on a manuscript provisionally titled, Human Exceptionalism on the Line.  She has an international reputation in the fields of deconstruction, feminism and new materialism, and regularly receives invitations to keynote and take masterclasses.  Invitattions over the the last 5 years include: Ghent University; University of Turku Finland; Åbo Akademi University, Turku Finland; Maastricht University; Manchester University; Uppsala University, Sweden; La Trobe University; University of Copenhagen; Utrecht University; The University of Amsterdam; Yale University; Emory University; Duke University; Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Berlin; Europa Universität,Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder; Institute of Advanced Study in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, Bern University;  Institute of Art and Architecture, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna; Sydney University.   

 

Affiliations and membership

Current Editorial and Advisory Boards 

Vicki is currently a Founding Member of the Advisory Board Digital Semiotics Encyclopedia; Editorial Board, New Materialisms Series, Edinburgh University Press; Editorial Associate, Critical Posthumanisms; Advisory Board, Itineration: Cross-Disciplinary Studies in Rhetoric, Media, and Culture; Advisory Panel, Wasteflow Project, Oxford University Centre for the Environment; Science Advisory Committee, Semiotica, filosofi, arte, letteratura, Athanor Book Series, Milan; Editorial Board Member: New Critical Humanities; Editorial Board Member: “Experimental Practices” Series, Brill; International Advisory Board: Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience.