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Haraway, Donna

Page history last edited by Maraya Massin-Levey 15 years, 7 months ago

Donna Haraway (September 6, 1944 - ) is currently a professor and the chair of the history of consciousness at UC Santa Cruz. In 1985, she wrote an article called "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." A section of the article from Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature deals specifically with Haraway's conception of the cyborg, which becomes her metaphor for the feminist movement and women's experiences. 

     She argues that a cyborg is "a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction... The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism" (Lemert 522 - 23). The cyborg is shaped by the social reality around it, but is committed to irony, and is free from the confines of the separation of public and private.

     Haraway makes the case for fractured identities, arguing that being identified by your race or gender is rather simplistic, and that there is "nothing about being 'female' that naturally binds women" (523). The creation of these categories is proof enough of a social reality that is incredibly complex and riddled with contradictions. Despite the fragmentation that this may cause in movements, Haraway supports the idea of "affinity, not identity," agreeing with thinkers such as Chela Sandoval. Their argument is premised on what Sandoval calls "oppositional consciousness," where the terms such as "women of color" is highly politicized and is based on contradictory locations and memberships into various groups (race, sexual orientation, female, political preference, so forth). Sandoval and Haraway argue that this form of identity "marks out a self - consciously constructed space that cannot affirm the capacity to act on the basis of natural identification, but only on the basis of conscious coalition, of affinity, of political kinship" (524). Haraway argues that contemporary radical feminists and marxist feminists have discovered that the term "woman" alone is rather oppressive, as the narrative of women is one that is dominated by western conceptions of "the female experience," and does not allow the inclusion of multiple voices. she explains that this meant that "there was no structural rome for race (or much else) in theory claiming to reveal the construction of the category of woman and social group women as a unified or totalizable whole. The structure of my caricature looks like this: 

1. Social Feminism: structure of class // wage labor // alienation labor, by analogy reproduction, by extension sex, by addition race

2. Radical Feminism: structure of gender // sexual appropriation // objectification sex, by analogy labor, by extension reproduction, by addition race" (525).


Haraway describes academia as resting on the Cartesian divide between mind and body. This dichotomy is fueled by a strong belief in Science as the site of rationality and the tool of objective observation being of the highest value. She argues that the theorists of the Enlightenment saw themselves as modest witnesses, allowing nature to unfold her truth to their scientific methods. This view failed to acknowledge the ways in which science is a product of nationalistic traditions and situationally produced mindstates. Science itself rests on hefty assumptions, such as the idea that objectivity is even possible or that there is a single truth to be observed. Science is a system of truth reification, taking claims achieved through a specific process, then erasing that history in order to render the findings as fact. Most of the understandings we have about the world and the tools we use in our current techno-social society are black boxed from us. The process of black boxing occurs when the social history of a product, or the explanation is concealed. This phenomenon is everywhere from clicking 'print' to how weather forecasts are generated and, certainly, the economy.


In her view, There exist multitudes of knowledge emerging from complex, situated voices, inflected by culture, history and personhood. We must start from infinite inter-connection to reframe our own understanding of the world as shaped by narrative tropes. Within our current mental narrative, it is important to place a valued emphasis on metaphor. This applies especially to revisiting the notion of science in that metaphorical thinking is wrapped up in how we define a fact. In science, an arena that defines itself in terms of fact-finding, metaphoric thinking can help liberate our understanding of science as fact-production. It revisits 'truths' as truth-claims which are achieved through historically specific endeavors. Facts are the coupling of knowledge and power and right about here Foucault might ask, who gets to make truth-claims stick?


The cyborg is a symbol for where humans and technology meet. We have been technological creatures from the origin moment of what could be called human and technology is always social. In this way, we do not exist separate from technology, nor it from us. There is a co-production between society, technology and science where each influences and shapes the other. Forms and facts are snap-shots in a process that is multiple processes at the interface of individuals and cultures, uniqueness and inter-connection, fact-making and meaning-making. The cyborg is an 'exogenously extended organizational complex functioning as an integrated, unconscious, homeostatic system.' It is technical, organic and the hybrid. It is me when I ride my bike, alphabets, cell phones, war games and war, wheel chairs, herbal tinctures, guitars, religion, gravity, zoos, time zones, the postal system, and particle accelerators. 

Most of all it is a reminder that we are responsible for our own relationship to technology. That we cannot opt out of our era and that it is up to us to craft our techno-social world along the contours of our own vision. 

Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 8:19 pm on Dec 15, 2008

This is awesome! When we think and talk about technology, it always seems to be with the idea that technology is this extremely recent and modern phenomenon, rather than a way that humans have been engaging with reality since the first time we ever picked up a rock and chucked it at something to kill it or squish it or something. This has my brain juices going.

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