Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

Donna Haraway “A Cyborg Manifesto”

November 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Haraway, Donna 1991. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the LateTwentieth Century. – Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York; Routledge: 149-181A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. […] The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experiencethat changes what counts as women’s experience in the late twentieth century. This is a struggle over lifeand death, but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion. (149)

The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional,utopian, and completely without innocence. No longer structured by the polarity of public and private,the cyborg defines a technological polls based partly on a revolution of social relations in the oikos, the household. Nature and culture are reworked; the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation orincorporation by the other. (151)

The ubiquity and invisibility of cyborgs is precisely why these sunshine-belt machines are so deadly.They are as hard to see politically as materially. They are about consciousness – or its simulation. (153)

[…] a cyborg world might be 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. The political struggle is to see from both perspectives at once because eachreveals both dominations and possibilities unimaginable from the other vantage point. (154)

The theoretical and practical struggle against unity-through-domination or unity-through-ncorporation ironically not only undermines the justifica-tions for patriarchy, colonialism, humanism, positivism,essentialism, scient-ism, and other unlamented -isms, but all claims for an organic or natural standpoint.I think that radical and socialist/Marxist-feminisms have also undermined their/our own epistemologicalstrategies and that this is a crucially valuable step in imagining possible unities. (157)

The entire universe of objects that canbe known scientifically must be formulated as problems in communications engineering (for the managers) or theories of the text (for those who would resist). Both are cyborg semiologies. (162-163)

No objects, spaces, or bodies are sacred in themselves; anycomponent can be interfaced with any other if the proper standard, the proper code, can be constructedfor processing signals in a common language. Exchange in this world transcends the universaltranslation effected by capitalist markets that Marx analysed so well. The privileged pathology affectingall kinds of components in this universe is stress – communications breakdown (Hogness, 1983). The cyborg is not subject to Foucault’s biopolitics; the cyborg simulates politics, a much more potent field of operations. (163)

One important route for reconstructing socialist-feminist politics isthrough theory and practice addressed to the social relations of science and technology, including crucially the systems of myth and meanings structuring our imaginations. The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self. This is the self feminists mus tcode. (163)

Furthermore, communications sciences and modern biologies are constructed by a common move – thetranslation of the world into a problem of coding, a search for a common language in which allresistance to instrumental control disappears and all heterogeneity can be submitted to disassembly, reassembly, investment, and exchange. (164)

In a sense, organisms have ceased to exist as objects of knowledge, giving way to biotic components, i.e., special kinds of information-processing devices. (164)

Writing is pre-eminently the technology of cyborgs, etched surfaces of the late twentieth century.Cyborg politics is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication, against the one code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of phallogocentrism. That is why cyborg politics insist on noise and advocate pollution, rejoicing in the illegitimate fusions of animal andmachine. These are the couplings which make Man and Woman so problematic, subverting the structure of desire, the force imagined to generate language and gender, and so subverting the structure andmodes of reproduction of ‘Western’ idendty, of nature and culture, of mirror and eye, slave and master, body and mind. ‘We’ did not originally choose to be cyborgs, but choice grounds a liberal politics andepistemology that imagines the reproduction of individuals before the wider replications of ‘texts’. (176)

With no available original dream of a common language or original symbiosis promising protection from hostile ‘masculine’ separation, but written into the play of a text that has no finallyprivileged reading or salvation history, to recognize ‘oneself’ as fully implicated in the world, frees us ofthe need to root politics in identification, vanguard parties, purity, and mothering. (176)

The self is the One who is not dominated, who knows that by the semice of theother, 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; butto 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. (177)

High-tech culture challenges these dualisms in intriguing ways. It is not clear who makes and who ismade in the relation between human and machine. It is not clear what is mind and what body inmachines that resolve into coding practices. In so far as we know ourselves in both formal discourse (for example, biology) and in daily practice (for example, the homework economy in the integrated circuit), we find ourselves to be cyborgs, hybrids, mosaics, chimeras. Biological organisms havebecome biotic systems, communications devices like others. There is no fundamental, ontological separation in our formal knowledge of machine and organism, of technical and organic. (177-178)

Why should our bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin? (178)

There are several consequences to taking seriously the imagery of cyborgs as other than our enemies.Our bodies, ourselves; bodies are maps of power and identity. Cyborgs are no exception. A cyborgbody is not innocent; it was not born in a garden; it does not seek unitary identity and so generateantagonistic dualisms without end (or until the world ends); it takes irony for granted. One is too few,and two is only one possibility. Intense pleasure in skill, machine skill, ceases to be a sin, but an aspectof embodiment. The machine is not an it to be animated, worshipped, and dominated. The machine is us,our processes, an aspect of our embodiment. We can be responsible for machines; they do not dominateor threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they. (180)

Cyborg imagery can help express two crucial arguments in this essay: first, the production of universal,totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality, probably always, but certainly now; andsecond, taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing ananti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology, and so means embracing the skilful task ofreconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication with all of our parts. (181)