06
Aug
08

Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto

Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto”
Area: Digital Media

•    Blasphemy has always required taking things very seriously
o    Irony is about humor and serious play.  It’s also a rhetorical strategy
o    At the center of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the cyborg
•    Boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion
•    We are all chimeras—theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine organisms
o    This is our cyborg ontology
•    Pleasure of the confusion of the boundaries
•    The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world
o    It skips the step of identification in the traditional Western sense
•    Forming wholes from parts—doesn’t expect completion in a finished whole
o    Or, through a heterosexual mate
•    Pre-cybernetic machines always had the spectre of the ghost in the machine
o    They couldn’t achieve man’s dream, only mock it: they were caricatures of that masculinist reproductive dream
•    The boundary between the physical and the non-physical is very imprecise
•    Cyborgs are about consciousness—or its simulation
•    None of “us” have any longer the symbolic or mental capability of dictating the shape of reality to any of “them”
•    Ironically, MacKinnon’s ontology constructs a non-subject, a non-being
o    Another’s desire, not the self’s labor, is the “origin” of woman
•    It’s not just that god is dead; so is the goddess
•    Translation of the world into a problem of coding, a search for a common language in which all resistance to instrumental control disappears
•    We’re not dealing with technological determinism, but with a historical system depending upon structured relations among people
•    The task is to survive diaspora
•    Perhaps, ironically, we can learn from our fusions with animals and machines how not to be Man, the embodiment of Western logos
Critical moments in the text (pagination not aligned with original)
1: “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.”
1: “The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experiences that changes what counts as women’s experience in the late twentieth century.”
2: “Nature and culture are reworked; the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other.”
2: “The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchcal capitalism, not to mention state socialism.”
2: “Biology an evolutionary theory over the last two centuries have simultaneously produced modern organisms as objects of knowledge and reduced the line between humans and animals to a faint trace re-etched in ideological struggle or professional disputes between life and social science.  Within this framework, teaching modern Christian creationism should be fought as a form of child abuse.”
2: “Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert.”
3: “So my cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities which progressive people might explore as one part of needed political work.  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 artifacts associated with ‘high technology’ and scientific culture.”
3: “There is nothing about being ‘female’ that naturally binds women.  There is not even such a state as ‘being’ female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices.  Gender, race, or class-consciousness is an achievement forced on us by the terrible historical experience of the contradictory social realities of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism.  And who counts as ‘us’ in my own rhetoric?”
4: “The main achievement of moth Marxist feminists and socialist feminists was to expand the category of labor to accommodate what (some) women did, even when the wage relation was subordinated to a more comprehensive view of labor under capitalist patriarchy.  In particular, women’s labor in the household and women’s activity as mothers generally (that is, reproduction in the socialist-feminist sense), entered theory on the authority of analogy to the Marxian concept of labor.  The unity of women here rests on an epistemology based on the ontological structure of ‘labor.’”
6: “Reproduction had different tones of meanings for the two tendencies, one rooted in labor, one in sex, both calling the consequences of domination and ignorance of social and persona reality ‘false consciousness.’”
8: “The actual situation of women is their integration/exploitation into a world system of production/reproduction and communication called the informatics of domination.  The home, workplace, market, public arena, the body itself all can be dispersed and interfaced in nearly infinite, polymorphous ways, with large consequences for women and others—consequences that themselves are very different for different people and which make potent oppositional international movements difficult to imagine and essential for survival. […[  The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self.  This is the self feminists must code.
8: “Communications technologies and biotechnologies are the crucial tools recrafting our bodies”
8: “The translation of the world into a problem of coding, a search for a common language in which all resistance to instrumental control disappears and all heterogeneity can be submitted to disassembly, reassembly, investment, and exchange.”
11: “I want to suggest the impact of the social relations mediated and enforced by the new technologies in order to help formulate needed analysis and practical work.  However, there is no ‘place’ for women in these networks, only geometries of difference and contradiction crucial to women’s cyborg identities.”
14: “’We’ did not originally choose to be cyborgs, but choice grounds a liberal politics and epistemology that imagines the reproduction of individuals before the wider replications of ‘texts.’”
15: “The self is the One who is not dominated, who knows that by the service of the other, the other is the one who holds the future, who knows that by the experience of domination, which gives the lie to the autonomy of the self.  To be One is to be autonomous, to be powerful, to be God; bur to be One is to be an illusion, and so to be involved in a dialectic of apocalypse with the other.  Yet to be other is to be multiple, without clear boundary, frayed, insubstantial.  One is too few, but two are too many.”
15: “High-tech culture challenges these dualisms in intriguing ways.  It is not clear who makes and who is made in the relation between human and machine.”
15: “Why should out bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin?”
16: “Our bodies, ourselves; bodies are maps of power and identity.  Cyborgs are no exception.  A cyborg body is not innocent; it was not born in a garden; it does not seek unitary identity and so generate antagonistic dualisms without end (or until the world ends); it takes irony for granted.”
16: Two crucial arguments in the essay: “the production of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality, probably always, but not certainly now; and second, taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing an anti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology, and so means embracing the skillful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication with all of our parts.”
16: “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.”

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