A cyborg manifesto: science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century

Haraway, D 1991, ‘A cyborg manifesto: science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century ‘, in Simians, cyborgs, and women: the reinvention of nature Free Association Books, London, pp. 149-81.

Defines ‘cyborg’ as ‘a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.’  149

Defines ‘social reality’ as ‘lived social relations, our most importance political construction, a world-changing fiction.’ 149

Gives examples of modern cyborgs: medical, science fiction, a-sexual replication, warfare.

Argues that ‘the cyborg as [is] a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality and as an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful couplings.

  • We are all cyborgs (i.e. using tools to extend and enhance our existence)
  • Scope of the article is feminist views of the cyborg, production of images, reproduction and manipulation and imagination, allied to ‘pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and responsibility in their construction.’ 150
  • Cyborg is post-gender –
  • Has no real history ‘no origin in the Western sense’ 152
  • A negative issue with cyborgs is their position as patriarchal capitalistic and militaristic ‘offspring’ 150  (but says that , despite this, they are free to be’ unfaithful to their origins.’
  • Blurring of barrier between animal and man – there is no longer a hierarchy where the natural world is inferior and set in place to serve humanity.  152  (aside that ‘teaching modern Christian creationism should be fought as a form of child abuse’) 152
  • Blurring of the barrier between the physical and non-physical world – with quantum physics and electronics – with ever smaller, more powerful devices.  Uses this as an analogy to say that cyborgs, too, are insubstantial ‘Cyborgs are ether, quintessence.’ 153
  • ‘One of my premises is that most American socialists and feminists see deepened dualisms of mind and body, animal and machine, idealism and materialism in the social practices, symbolic formulations, and physical artefacts associated with ‘high technology’ and scientific culture.’  154
  • Cites the dichotomy that a cyborg world may be both ‘a final imposition of a grid of control on the planet’ (e.g. Google) or ‘about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines, not afraid of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints.’  154

Fractured Identities

  • Fragmentation of feminists – women’s dominations of each other.
  • Example that there is no real way of defining ‘women of colour’ – varies with where and who you are – e.g. is a negroid coloured?  What about a Chicano?

Theory that women appeared as a historical grouping after the Second World War, along with e.g. ‘youth’.  160  (French theorist Julia Keisteva)  Worth noting that terms like ‘women’ as a sub-grouping rather than a subordinate grouping of ‘man’ is probably a relatively new concept, even if we negate the time scale suggested by Keisteva.

The Informatics of Domination 161

  • Post-industrial society, compared to the work-based industrial society, is a leisure-based information society.
  • Lists a series of dichotomies – with old and new terminology  (e.g. Representation/simulation, bourgeois novel, realism/science fiction, postmodernism, public/private: cyborg citizenship, mind/artificial intelligence, )

Concludes that we must take responsibility for ‘the social relations of science and technology’  – not demonise or mystify technology – but integrate it as part of our daily life, and as one of the ways we connect with others.

Suggests that ‘Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves.’  181 ‘It is an imagination of a feminist speaking in tongues to strike fear into the circuits of the super-savers of the new right. It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories.’

Under this usage, has not the cyborg itself become a tool for humanity to reinvent itself?    


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