Social Theory: The Multicultural and Classic Readings

By Charles Lemert | Go to book overview

Donna Haraway ( 1944-) was trained in the history and philosophy of science. She holds a Ph.D. in biology from Yale. Haraway teaches in the History of Consciousness Program at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Her writings include Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science ( 1989), Modest- Witness@Second-Millennium FemaleMale-Meets-Onco-Mouse ( 1997), and Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature ( 1991), which is a collection of many of her most important essays in social theory and feminism--all (like The Cyborg Manifesto) informed by her training in biology.


The Cyborg Manifesto and Fractured Identities

Donna Haraway ( 1985)

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. Blasphemy has always seemed to require taking things very seriously. I know no better stance to adopt from within the secularreligious, evangelical traditions of United States politics, including the politics of socialist feminism. Blasphemy protects one from the moral majority within, while still insisting on the need for community. Blasphemy is not apostasy. Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes, even dialectically, about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true. Irony is about humour and serious play. It is also a rhetorical strategy and a political method, one I would like to see more honoured within socialist-feminism. At the centre of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the 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. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction. The international women's movements have constructed 'women's experience', as well as uncovered or discovered this crucial collective object. This experience is a fiction and fact of the most crucial, political kind. Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility. The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women's experience in the late twentieth century. This is a struggle over life and death, but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.

Contemporary science fiction is full of cyborgs--creatures simultaneously animal and machine, who populate worlds ambiguously natural and crafted. Modern medicine is also full of cyborgs, of couplings between organism and machine, each conceived as coded devices, in an intimacy and with a power that was not generated in the history of sexuality. Cyborg 'sex' restores some of the lovely replicative baroque of ferns and invertebrates (such nice organic prophylactics against heterosexism). Cyborg replication is uncoupled from organic reproduction. Modern production seems like a dream of cyborg colonization work, a dream that makes the nightmare of Taylorism seem idyllic. And modern war is a cyborg orgy, coded by C3I, command-controlcommunication-intelligence, an $84 billion item in 1984's US defence budget. I am

____________________
Excerpt from Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature ( New York: Routledge, 1991), pp. 149-151, 154-161.

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