I saw this:


As someone who likes computer programming, I am intrigued by new ideas for computer programming languages. This claim seem to go with an idea to bring "feminist philosophy" to bear on the construction of a programming language, and I'm curious about that. They say:

The idea came about while discussing normative and feminist subject object theory. I realized that object oriented programmed [sic] reifies normative subject object theory. This led me to wonder what a feminist programming language would look like, one that might allow you to create entanglements (Karen Barad Posthumanist Performativity).

(highlight mine)

Can anyone give a good and accessible description of what this notion of "entanglement" is, exactly? The author cites some feminist philosopher "Karen Barad"'s work on the subject. I tried to read that paper but it was extremely opaque and loaded with jargon terms I was not able to decipher. I also found some other papers by the same author that looked like they might be about it but found them similarly opaque. Now that doesn't mean it's false, just because I don't understand it. But I'd like to. Is it possible to give a more accessible description of this concept?

I want to point out that despite the mention of programming languages, this IS a philosophy question, since I am asking about the philosophical concept(s) mentioned, not about any possible application to programming languages.

(I used the tags I used just because I couldn't think of anything more appropriate that would cover "feminism", but they could be all wrong. I just needed to add tags to get it to post -- I really could not decide on which ones to use. Feel free to change them if you need to.)

  • Hey @mike3, thanks for the question and welcome to Philosophy! The Exploit seems possibly worth mentioning here as it does include concrete notes towards a programming language in the context of radical theory
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 2:34
  • I don't know the thinker in question, but my best guess as to what an "entanglement" might mean in this context is as a concept opposed to say separate objects or discrete operators. The very idea behind this project seems to be to not draw such rigid distinctions. I don't really get it myself (having done some work in continental philosophy, worked as a programmer for a couple years, and having done a PhD in modern philosophy.
    – virmaior
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 15:10
  • 3
    Reminds me of feminist philosopher Sandra Harding, who referred to Newton's Principia as a "rape manual." I can't believe anyone takes this kind of thing seriously, except for the True Believers. gnxp.com/blog/2005/09/know-thy-enemy-newtons-rape-manual.php en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandra_Harding
    – user4894
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 17:56
  • @virmator: The way Arielle is suggesting, though, it seems like these are supposed to be a specific language construct: "allow you to create entanglements" -- which suggests they don't exist automatically, but the programmer must instantiate them when they need them. So what I want to do is get the philosophy part down so I could also explore the idea of what such a thing may look like. Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 21:53
  • 2
    @mike3 Yes, if there are objects then there are subjects. And the object-subject dichotomy is all about the penis and the patriarchy. Now that's the logic. In other words there is no logic, there is not a shred of rationality in this enterprise. In fact logic and rationality themselves are male, therefore to be opposed. It's a bad joke that evidently gets people tenure these days. You should Google around. But if you want to get to the heart of this kind of thinking -- if you call it thinking -- try Luce Irigary. iep.utm.edu/irigaray
    – user4894
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 23:51

2 Answers 2


OK, after wading through some of Karen Barad's work I'll give this a shot. I'll put a disclaimer right here that this is largely educated guesswork. As the OP says, Karen's writing style is very opaque, especially when she leaves off a direct discussion of her field of expertise (quantum physics) and starts trying to apply physics to sociology.

Barad proposes a theory she calls Agential Realism in which the world is made up of Phenomena which are (I think) the Entanglements you are asking about. They are the inseperability of agencies (subjects and objects) in an interaction. In Barads view, the universe can be thought of, not as a continuous flow of causality, but as an infinite series of 'snapshots' or 'slices of time' each of which is preceeded by the various factors led to that exact state of affairs and is followed by an infinity of possible universes that resolves into one determined future when a descision is made.

Example: I pick up a coffee cup. Under Agential Realism Theory the moment at which I pick up the coffee cup is not just preceeded by my descision to take a drink. It is also preceeded by my descision to make coffee instead of tea, my choice of cup, the fact that I came to work this morning instead of staying in bed etc. It is proceeded by a variety of possibilities inculing my spilling the coffee on myself, taking a drink or dropping the coffee on my computer and dying in an electrical fire.

In this model the entanglements are the connections between past, future and the agents involved in the interaction (in the example, me and the coffee cup).

To utilise this in a programming language the entanglements would be the commands you write to the object model with the agencies involved being the Object Model and the Compiler. I would imaging that such a programming language would look somehting like the self-learning code that the google-brain and other neutral nets use to teach themselves based on external input. They aren't based on a traditional Object Model but instead rewrite their own command sets on the fly as new information is presented.


I put the question to an acquaintance, who replied as follows...

'Feminist entanglements happen all the time. Have you not read Jane Austen? Her poor heroines only have to start a conversation with a man to suddenly find he has interpreted her words as a sign of deep emotional attachment. And then what is a girl supposed to do? Of course, if they had just stuck to their embroidery and conversations with other ladies, they wouldn't have got into the mess in the first place.'

Needless to say, she is somewhat conservative in her views.

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