Donna Haraway a cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”

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Donna Haraway "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”

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  • Secondary:

  • Major Reference:” Cyborgs, Trickster, and Hermes ”



  • Main Argument and General Questions

  • 1. Cyborg and Three sacred boundaries challenged: AN IRONIC DREAM

  • 2. The Cyborg myth: FRACTURED IDENTITIES

    • Marxist dialectical materialism and feminist object -relation theory critiqued;
  • 3. Informatics of Domination




  • Critique and Responses

Main Argument and General Questions

  • Cyborg: “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.”

  • Cyborg as a metaphor for feminist groups defined by affinity but not identification.

  • Any examples? And possible problems? How is her stance different from or similar to that of Judith Butler?


  • (149/2269)

  • This chapter is an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism. Perhaps more faithful as blasphemy is faithful, than as reverent worship and identification.

  • argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction. (150/2270)

Cyborg (1): definition

  • (151/2270) we are cyborgs. Ths cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centres structuring any possibility of historical transformation.

  • The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity. In a sense, the cyborg has no origin story . . .

  • The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence.

Cyborg (1): definition

  • (151/2271)

  • -- against origins; e.g. the oedipal project, the Garden of Eden

  • -- the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism.

Cyborg (2): examples

  • Contemporary science fiction

  • Modern medicine --Cyborg 'sex,' Cyborg replication,

  • modern war

Cyborg (3): ambiguous politics

  • (154/2275) “From one perspective, a cyborg world is about the final imposition of a grid of control on the planet, . . . From another perspective, 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.”

Feminist Cyborg Myth --conclusion

  • Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves. This is a dream not of a common language, but of a powerful infidel heteroglossia. It is an imagination of a feminist speaking in tongues to strike fear into the circuits of the supersavers of the new right. It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories. Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess. (Haraway 1991b, 181/2299).

1. Three Boundaries Challenged

  • 1) between human and animal

  • Biology and evolutionary theory (e.g. the primate)

1. Three Boundaries Challenged

  • 2) between animal-human (organism) and machine --(152/2272-73)

  • “Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert. ”

  • -- “the reconceptions of machine and organism as coded texts through which we engage in the play of writing and reading the world.”

  • Examples?

1. Three Boundaries Challenged

  • 3) physical and non-physical

  • -- "pop physics books on the consequences of quantum theory and the indeterminacy principle

  • -- silicon chip – writing;

  • -- miniaturization  ‘clean and light’ or mobility and fluidity

  • and spectacular-ization, too.


  • Group based on affinity but not unity 

  • Challenge the category of ‘female’ p. 2275 -76

  • Critiques the attempts at taxonomy p. 2277

  • Critique of Marxist Feminism p. 2278;

  •  The unity of women here rests on an epistemology based on the ontological structure of 'labour'.

  • Critique of radical feminism 2279- the totalization built into this tale of radical feminism achieves its end - the unity of women - by enforcing the experience of and testimony to radical non-being.

  • Taxonomy caricaturized 2281 

The Limits of Identification

  • “The theoretical struggle against unity-through-domination or unity -through-incorporation ironically not only undermines the justification for patriarchy, colonialism, humanism, positivism, essentialism, scientism, and other unlamented -isms, but all claims for an organic or natural standpoint."

  • "What kind of politics could embrace partial, contradictory, permanently unclosed constructions of personal and collective selves and still be faithful, effective and, ironically, socialist-feminist?" (157/2277)

Informatics of Domination – fundamental changes in the structure of the world

  • Critique and analysis of a new sets of dualism which marks “transitions from the comfortable old hierarchical dominations to the scary new networks I have called the informatics of domination ” (161/2281-82)

  • Biology and communication science: ”In relation to objects like biotic components, one must not think in terms of essential properties, but in terms of design, boundary constraints, rates of flows, systems logics, costs of lowering constraints.” (biological organism  biotic components p. 2282; 85)

Communications technologies and biotechnologies

  • Blurring of the boundaries – p. 2284 between mind, body, etc.  “The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self. This is the self feminists must code” (163/2284).

  • recrafting our bodies; the translation of the world into a problem of coding

Communications technologies and biotechnologies e.g.

  • e.g. 1) telephone technology, computer design, weapons deployment, or data base construction and maintenance;

  • 2) biotechnologies: molecular genetics, ecology, sociobiological evolutionary theory, and immunobiology )

  • Everyday life -- the translations of labour into robotics and word processing, sex into genetic engineering and reproductive technologies, and mind into artificial intelligence and decision procedures


  • Definition: a restructuring of work that broadly has the characteristics formerly ascribed to female jobs, jobs literally done only by women. Work is being redefined as both literally female and feminized, whether performed by men or women. To be feminized means to be made extremely vulnerable (2287)

  • (many women are involved and affected.)  p. 167/2287 the loss of the family (male) wage (if they ever had access to this white privilege) and in the character of their own jobs, which are becoming capital-intensive; for example, office work and nursing.


  • 3 stages of capitalism //3 forms of families

  • the patriarchal nuclear family, structured by the dichotomy between public and private// the white bourgeois ideology of separate spheres// Anglo-American bourgeois feminism;

  • the modern family mediated (or enforced) by the welfare state and institutions like the family wage// a-feminist heterosexual ideologies

  • the 'family' of the homework economy // women-headed households // its explosion of feminisms and the paradoxical intensification and erosion of gender itself.


  • 'Networking' is both a feminist practice and a multinational corporate strategy -- weaving is for oppositional cyborgs.


  • Cyborg Writing:

  • Cyborg writing is about the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other. (2293);

  • 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 and machine.

Harding’s Critique

  • In my view, Haraway's analysis is weakened by its still excessive containment within Marxist epistemological assumptions. This can be seen in her not so hidden assumptions that we can, indeed, tell 'one true story' about the political economy; that in principle develop mental psychologies can make no contributions to our understandings of the regularities and underlying causal tendencies of historical institutions; that we begin to exist as distinctive social persons only when we get our first paycheck or, if we are women, when we first begin adult forms of trading sexual favors for social benefits (Harding 1986, 194).

Response: "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective"

  • "our" problem -- how to have simultaneously an account of radical historical contingency for all knowledge claims and knowing subjects, a critical practice for recognizing our own "semiotic technologies" for making meanings, and a no-nonsense commitment to faithful accounts of a "real" world, one that can be partially shared and friendly to earth-wide projects of finite freedom, ad equate material abundance, modest meaning in suffering, and limited happiness. . .

  • . . . Immortality and omnipotence are not our goals. But we could use some enforceable, reliable accounts of things not reducible to power moves and agnostic, high status games of rhetoric or to scientistic, positivist, arrogance. (Haraway 1991b, 187 - 188)

Response: "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective"

  • Accounts of a 'real' world do not, then, depend on a logic of 'discovery,' but on a power-charged social relation of 'conversation.' The world neither speaks itself nor disappears in favor of a master decoder. The codes of the world are not still waiting only to be read. The world is not raw material for humanisation. . . The world encountered in knowledge projects is an active entity (Haraway 1991b, 198).

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