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Chapter 1 stages an encounter between on the one hand contemporary theoretical fascination with materialization, corporealization, animation, and vitality and on the other hand what we know about the nature of matter in our nontheoretical, daily-engaged-with-the-world kinds of ways. That is, the chapter explores how theorists might think about the nature of matter and materiality if we acknowledge that matter is “really” energy. Drawing on quantum physics and organic chemistry, the chapter proposes the formulation that energy takes form as matter through its constrained self-relation. The chapter extrapolates that insight to explain why carbon is the matter that is the basis of life. It also suggests that the idea that matter is energy-under-constraint is helpful in beginning to think about humans as biocultural creatures.

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