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Karen Barad's posthumanist relational ontology: An intra-active approach to theorising and studying family practices

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Natasha Mauthner



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Policy Press, 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Over the past two decades sociology, including the sociology of family and personal life, has seen a ‘relational turn’ with a growing body of work seeking to explain the ‘social’ by taking social relations as the primary object of sociological analyses. Relational sociologies theorise relations in social terms as either inter-actions or trans-actions. Inter-actions are relations that bring separate entities together, while trans-actions posit a relation of interdependence between entities. This article introduces a third way of conceptualising relationality as intra-actions drawing on the posthumanist relational ontology proposed by feminist philosopher and physicist Karen Barad. Intra-actions are understood as social-natural or material- discursive relations of ontological inseparability and mutual constitution. Using illustrative examples from the author’s research, the article suggests that Barad’s relational ontology offers a fruitful and distinctive ontological underpinning for relational sociology and for relational approaches to theorising and studying family practices.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mauthner N

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Families, Relationships and Societies

Year: 2021

Volume: 10

Issue: 1

Pages: 33-49

Online publication date: 11/02/2021

Acceptance date: 17/12/2020

Date deposited: 16/01/2021

ISSN (print): 2046-7435

ISSN (electronic): 2046-7443

Publisher: Policy Press


DOI: 10.1332/204674321X16111601839112


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Funder referenceFunder name
EPSRC (EP/K025392/1)