Hello! Delighted to be here!


You can find my talk online at this website, which also works on a smart phone. There you can follow along with the slides if you want, and find handouts, bibliography and other resources for later use. So boot it up now or later, as you like!


There are paper handouts being passed around now too that record this url as well, and expand on some of the points I will be making as I talk. They too can be downloaded from my talksite.

Thank you so much for the invitation to gather with you all to care with and about Queer Method!


I admit that my way of doing queer stuff is often, well, rather odd. I once did a presentation on Queer Transdisciplinarities, talking about academic restructuring and distributed being at a time when that appeared to many to be beside the queer point! But even then I had gut feelings that at stake were the conditions for my continuing…. My queer-dar was kicking in.


Methods are companions here, companions in the middle of everything as it happens, in sensations at the edge of apprehension. In the midst of knowledge worlds restructuring.


Companions for one’s practices of noticing what is happening when it is happening.  


So what is it that’s queer here? What is the queer-dar doing? In my own life it has meant, more often than not, jumping into what doesn’t really make sense, sometimes too naïvely, other times too reactively, all because I am unclear just how careful it all needs to be, and differently for myself and others. Not at all sure just how dangerous and entangled in degree, or perhaps not at all, everything might be….


and also, actually, FUN!


Lots of double bind feelings, and I cannot always tell the difference between the kinds of double binds that are abusively dangerous, the kinds that are about initiation into new states of change, institutionalization, or awareness, and the kinds that are puzzles to solve in games and play honing our double consciousness. Such transcontextual confusions may be shifted by


companionships, in queer gatherings, in care as befriended.


So this is far from the only time I will have drawn upon friendship as method. Pairing me now with Eva Hayward is perfect, for Eva has companioned me among queer transdisciplinarities….


Eva shares her process ontologies of transing as many reembodied sensory arts in transgendered practices. TEXTURES INDEED. She and Bailey Kier got me looking around and indexing networked methodologies of trans knowledges in flexible, global cognitions….
As viral vectors, their transgenic materials are always carried now in my most underlying uses and understandings of trans….

and in my awareness that trans-disciplinary work requires great friendships, and delights in the minds, presence, and embodiments of companions and companion species, amid varying arts, relationalities, languages and revectored meanings. I loved it when Eva and I used to meet in the distant nearness of spacetime in the virtual world Second Life, as I researched my distributed animality for a project with her, my bit was training an artificial intelligence agent dog to heard sheep in this virtual world.


Many contexts, many worlds are inhabitations for feminisms.


From quantum anthropologies to object-oriented feminisms to racial matters and animacies to postcarbon futures to carceral geographies to economies of abandonment, measures of nothingness, and methodologies of the oppressed…. Some people, objects, methods, processes arise to facilitate “passages between worlds” as Gloria Anzaldúa had it.

Both local knowledges and also “cross-layering” coordinations are necessities in restructuring knowledge worlds. We find ourselves needing to work together, even mandated to collaborate, in workarounds where consensus is not always possible or even desirable, although sometimes it is a possibility still in process.


Thus, when a series of groups needs a shared something in order to work things out together, perhaps to revise concepts, methods, activities, protocols that seem to be missing that which is newly crucial, at that point, boundary objects open up.

These may jump around in meaning precisely to keep differences and boundaries from getting in the way of feminists working together. This usually happens without everyone being particularly aware of what is going on. These jumps of meaning allow groups to work cooperatively, thus boundary objects often do not make boundaries but rather keep boundaries from getting in the way.

(This is a screenshot from my class website on the day we discuss how the book Our Bodies Ourselves and its different translations become boundary objects, as they re-examine “individualism” for its divergent politics in different places: Bulgaria, Latin America, Mexico and the US. Kathy Davis’ book demonstrates the work the term does, the translations do, what the many versions of the book bring into being, as they come together in one and more boundary objects: books, words, collectives of people, processes of translation, and the politics of health in different economies.)

In other words, boundary objects open up
=as spaces for communication, in which collaborations without agreement together in levels of generality, can begin, in between the very knowledge worlds;
=where at the same time intensive negotiations are going on, perhaps over practice and terminologies, evidence and argument, activisms and social change processes, at closer grains of detail; and
=thus, between the spaces working at high levels of generality, and the knowledge worlds of detail and practice they coordinate and layer, any paradoxical mismatches are at this point tacit, perhaps unnoticed while altering.

<<YES, in my mind’s eye, this looks like a jellyfish! Must be Eva’s influence!>>


At first the local tailoring that each group does, like the translation collectives for Our Bodies Ourselves, perhaps needed to fill in the detail that allows them to use this shared something, this local tailoring tends to be tacit, sometimes even unconscious. Everyone assumes and instrumentalizes a degree of agreement and shared detail that is meaningful to them locally.

But as the boundary object goes through its ontological cycle of makings, the general elements and the specific ones tense up about mismatches more obvious now. Some of the participants and processes involved may work to standardize these originally enabling mismatches. Other times, this is a moment for problematizing a desire for standardization, or for looking to one’s own communities of practice for referential authority. And in the course of standardization processes what is now shared may very well throw off residual elements, those now outside a particular standardization. Then, new boundary objects are needed, and begin being made as alternative alliances and co-operations now emerge. This image is from Susan Leigh Star’s last essay, which jokes very seriously about this process in its title “This is not a boundary object”: especially meaningful because this very thing “boundary object” is still in the process of shifting in these ways now itself. That boundary objects may paradoxically refer to themselves multiply, with meanings jumping about, may goad some standardizations when all this begins to become frustratingly obvious. Star jokes too that just because she was an originator of this whole idea, she is not its owner: that is the whole point after all: it’s shared. A gathering.

Standardization is always double-edged and bound in spacetime. There just is never only one way of getting things right, and there are always reasons to keep generalizing from what next might look to work.


What are some of these boundary objects? Well, what is transdisciplinary is one, and one that will keep coming back in and out of focus as I talk. What the Director of Research at my university means by transdisciplinary is both similar to and subtly different from what one of the NTT scientists doing contract research means by it: the Director uses it at a grand scale to donors to get enthusiasm going at a time when economic restructuring generally demands that universities justify their use of public money by also attracting private investment; the research scientist is only too aware that what she does on contract, which makes the university look good, is at her professional expense, as she will get no academic credit for it.


What is transdisciplinary in my women’s studies department? as we begin a new search, now that the LGBTQ program at UMD is moving from under the umbrella of undergraduate studies, to merging with women’s studies, and we have to come up with a new way of institutionalizing the relationships between these fields, their histories and activisms, not to mention staff, procedures, and signature events, all this happens amid our local hopes for graduate training, which assume forms of membership and authority that are differently volatile across our, yes, transdisciplinary meanings. Lots of boundary objects are involved.


What is transdisciplinary is in process and change, entangled in large, even global economic systems, national debates on innovation, education reform and same sex politics, racial and economic disparities, specific sites for creating, sharing, demonstrating, storing, and teaching folks to use new knowledges.

And transdisciplinary is also a resource to those of us wondering how to work among many interacting agencies, such as those Eva has called “transxenoestrogenesis.” In a forthcoming essay she remarks:

"Neither utopic nor dystopic, transxenoestrogenesis opens the realization that bodies are lively and practical responses to environments and changing ecosystems, even when those same engines of change promise exposure to carcinogens, neurotoxins, asthmagens and mutagens, and possibilities of cancer, diabetes, immune system breakdown, and heart disease. And in the double binds of biochemistry, some phytoestrogens and mycoestrogens, both xenoestrogens, promote heart health and cancer prevention. Another double bind for transgender studies: is there a way to reevaluate ecological resilience—such as the sex-changing response—and meet the future organisms that we are all becoming?" (Hayward “Transxenoestrogenesis,” Transgender Quarterly 1:1: forthcoming)

One of the most confusing elements of boundary objects is how utterly self-referential they tend to be and how interacting are their names as words, their referentialities as plural and enfoldings, their slipperiness as neither simply representation or object of representation. They track as words and names, and are lively agencies as such, and yet that is never all that they are.

Here is a google ngram, a small experience of big data sharing with us one slice into the entanglements among boundary objects named transcontextual, transdisciplinary, and transgender. Now we start to feel out the confusions and enfoldings that object-ness offers us as among agencies for caring with queer method….

Once we really take boundary objects as companions in queer method, befriending and being befriended, feelings for complexity get stronger, take up more room, participate in activities of cross-layering coordinations….

From the languages of complex systems analysis and cybernetics, in which as an undergrad I was offered one knowledge worlding home, I take as companion some of what the term stigmergy enlivens…. You may know it as the sort of indirect coordinations some insects depend upon and that flash mobs arise from. Its being-ness enfolds singularity and multiplicity, and I recognize it as an affect, not just a mechanism, as not a gods-eye-view analytic, but as how to feel it all happening WITH




Stigmergy and boundary objects are friends. They google here with big data.


Big data is an environment in which we need our feeling with stigmergy, which befriends us in its environment whether we like that or not. Our embodiments are altered here among the ngrams as they are among the estrogens. Transxenoestrogenesis and object-oriented feminisms, the bigger and the closer newly in flux and play.


It gets queerer still. All this touching oneself, these recursions that we try to keep straight, the enfoldings we cannot figure out where the insides and outsides are, these queer intimacies are transdisciplinary: and they mix knowledge worlds in ways that can feel only too …delicate.


For example, I learned the term “experimental metaphysics” only recently, in the context of completing an article on the work of feminist physicist Karen Barad. I started to credit her with this term, where indeed it originates for me, but on google I discover its boundary-object-ness in one slice across enfoldings:

Its dance begins in the early 19th c. An early 20th c. back and forth between “ontological turn” and “experimental metaphysics” is then joined in the 30s by “experimental epistemology” when “ontological turn” virtually disappears until the 60s when it comes in to dance again in non-stop activity that overtook the other two in couples completely in the 90s.


And it all needs scoping and scaling, moving in and among the systems big data only gives us a glimpse into, altho that glimpse can shift our sensory and cognitive attachments, the very edges of embodiments. Our queer-dar may jump around, transing….

Once I got going on these ngrams, I couldn’t help noticing how different they look if you graph something by itself, and with companions. Notice how nearly invisible the posthumanities are drawn next to that uncomfortable post human….


How counter-intuitively historically lengthy the hot boundary objects are. But then it is important to notice that an ngram is another and genuinely new standardization: there are knowledge worlds short changed in this ngram, because there is not just one past, but many. What systems folks call hysteresis requires an awareness that many states are present simultaneously as complex systems entangle, and each one’s temporal enfoldings are not simply linear, however dependent on pasts they may be. In practice that means that new is not a misnomer, but another knot of connectedness across worlds that may genuinely effect unique emergences.

Responding to all this reality touching itself, these queer intimacies, a desire to get outside, to get to clarity in the midst of confusion and frustration, finds us creating gaps for these knowings. Gaps manage the paradoxes of self-referentiality and enfolding, work apart to part so we know which are the objects to look at, and which are the god’s eye languages to analyze them.

But that gap of representation has a big price tag: its control is illusory and very much gets in the way of participations among the very complex systems we do actually companion and enfold among and as.

Clarity can be overvalued.

The background picture for this slide comes from an artist Eva introduced me to, Erica Rutherford. There is a link to more of and about her work on the talksite.

So this is my last meditation on queer method, on feminist boundary-object oriented ontologies or boundary object-oriented feminisms. When are we also boundary objects and why might we happily care with queer method this way? How might we trade in mirroring realities for inhabiting them, for gathering together WITH?

Thank you!

King, K. 2013. “toward a feminist boundary object-oriented ontology...or should it be a boundary object-oriented feminism? these are both queer methods.” For Queer Method, University of Pennsylvania, 31 October 2013; at: