Biocultural Creatures: Toward a New Theory of the Human
Samantha Frost is Associate Professor of Political Science and Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the coeditor of New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics, also published by Duke University Press, and the author of Lessons from a Materialist Thinker: Hobbesian Reflections on Ethics and Politics.
Chapter 2 reconsiders the nature of boundaries and the identities that are constituted through boundaries. It explains that the constraints on energy that make it take form as matter also compel matter’s arrangement into porous cell membranes that enable a rapid and constant flow of biochemical substances into and out of cells. The cross-membrane traffic effected by the permeability of cell membranes entails that we eschew thinking of these boundaries in terms of a topographical demarcation of the different substances that distinguish the inside and outside of a cell. The chapter proposes instead that we think about the boundaries effected by cell membranes as creating conditions for specific biochemical activities. In other words, the distinction between inside and outside established by cell membranes marks not different substances but different zones of activity. The chapter proposes that this theoretical formulation enables us to imagine how creatures might be embedded in and constituted by their habitats yet also identifiably distinct from them