What is the measure of nothingness?

Karen Barad, 2012. What is the measure of nothingness? infinity, virtuality, justice = Was ist das Maß des Nichts?: Unendlichkeit, Virtualität, Gerechtigkeit, 100 notes – 100 thoughts / 100 Notizen – 100 Gedanken. Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern.



Perhaps we should let the emptiness speak for itself.


Measurements, including practices such as zooming in or examining something with a probe, don’t just happen (in the abstract) – they require specific measurement apparatuses. Measurements are agential practices, which are not simply revelatory but performative: they help constitute and are a constitutive part of what is being measured.

Measurements are world-making: matter and meaning do not preexist, but rather are co-constituted via measurement intra-actions.

Notice that what we’re talking about here is not simply some object reacting differently to different probings but being differently. What is at issue is the very nature of nature.


A quantum ontology deconstructs the classical one: there are no pre-existing individual objects with determinate boundaries and properties that precede some interaction, nor are there any concepts with determinate meanings that could be used // to describe their behavior; rather, determinate boundaries and properties of objects-within phenomena, and determinate contingent meanings, are enacted through specific intra-actions, where phenomena are the ontological inseparability of intra-acting agencies.


Questions of the nature of measurement – or, more broadly, intra-actions – are at the core of quantum physics.


Virtual particles are not in the void but of the void. They are on the razor edge of non/being. The void is a lively tension, a desiring orientation toward being/becoming. The vacuum is flush with yearning, bursting with innumerable imaginings of what could be.

The quiet cacophony of different frequencies, pitches, tempos, melodies, noises, pentatonic scales, cries, blasts, sirens, sighs, syncopations, quarter tones, allegros, ragas, bebops, hiphops, whimpers, whines, screams, are threaded through the silence, ready to erupt, but simultaneously crosscut by a disruption, dissipating, dispersing the would-be sound into non/being, an indeterminate symphony of voices.

The blank page teeming with the desires of would be traces of every symbol, equation, word, book, library, punctuation mark, vowel, diagram, scribble, inscription, graphic, letter, inkblot, as they yearn toward expression. A jubilation of emptiness.


Phenomena – entanglements of matter/ing across spacetimes – are not in the world, but of the world.


So even the smallest bits of matter are an enormous multitude. Each “individual” is made up of all possible histories of virtual intra-actions with all Others.


Ontological indeterminacy, a radical openness, an infinity of possibilities, is at the core of mattering.

Nothingness is not absence, but the infinite plentitude of openness. Infinities are not mere mathematical idealizations, but incarnate marks of in/determinacy. Infinities are a constitutive part of all material “finities,” or perhaps more aptly, “af/finities” (affinities, from the Latin, “related to or bordering on; connection, relationship”).


The presumed lack of ability of the finite to hold the infinite in its finite manifestation seems empirically unfounded, and cuts short the infinite agential resources of undecidability/indeterminacy that are always already at play. Infinity and nothingness are not the termination points defining a line. Infinity and nothingness are infinitely threaded through one another so that every infinitesimal bit of one always already contains the other. The possibilities for justice-to-come reside in every morsel of finitude.