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Donna Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto" and

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Amber Strother

on 15 April 2014

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Transcript of Donna Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto" and

The cyborg and boundaries
Gender and
Haraway's cyborg
Haraway is critiquing the construction of gender and the perception of the female body:

"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."
"A Cyborg Manifesto"
For Haraway, the cyborg is

* present in both reality and
fiction

* capable of blurring boundaries

* a feminist metaphor

* an illustration of identity


Cyborgs in science fiction
Haraway argues that writing is a tool of power and feminist science fiction authors are "theorists for cyborgs."
Some real-life science fiction
The boundaries between science fiction and reality are malleable and constantly changing.
Donna Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto" and
Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl

2. animal-human (organism)/machine
"Late twentieth-century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artifical, mind and body, self-developing and externally designed, and many other distinctions that apply to organisms and machines. Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert."
3. physical/non-physical
"Modern machines are quintessentially microelectronic devices; they are everywhere and they are invisible."
Donna Haraway
*feminist theorist

*philosopher of technology and science

*studied zoology, philosophy and English

*Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature
(1991)
Haraway's argument
Haraway is arguing that the cyborg (in science fiction, in reality, and as a feminist metaphor) is blurring traditional boundaries which results in what she calls a "fractured identity." Rather than attempting to return to a sense of wholeness, she argues that we should embrace those complicated identities.
"Cyborg" Lynn Randolph
"This chapter is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction."
Haraway's
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."
"The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women's experience in the late twentieth century."
Haraway sees the cyborg as breaking down 3 important boundaries:
1. Human/animal
"The last beachheads of uniqueness have been polluted if not turned into amusement parks -- language tool use, social behavior, mental events, nothing really convincingly settles the separation of human and animal."
"My cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities."
Cyborg identity
For Haraway, cyborgs offer a new sense of gender and identity:

"Cyborgs might consider more seriously the partial, fluid, sometimes aspect of sex and sexual embodiment. Gender might not be a global identity after all, even if it has profound historical breadth and depth.
Haraway's cyborg is genderless:
For Haraway, the cyborg does not have an origin story or a desire to return to innocence or wholeness:

"The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labor, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity."
The most quoted phrase by Haraway EVER:
Monstrous selves
Haraway discusses the construction of the cyborg myth in science fiction...

"Cyborg monsters in feminist science fiction define quite different political possibilities and limits from those proposed by the mundane fiction of Man and Woman."
"I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess."
2. How is Haraway's cyborg a symbol of human liberation?
3. How does Haraway's cyborg break away from traditional roles imposed on women?
1. What do you think a cyborg is? Consider the current indentity-changing perceptions brought on by new media environments (virtual reality or Second Life) and advances in medicine creating “super-humans.”
4. How tied are you to technology? Is any part of your body technologized? Does that make you a cyborg? Why or why not?
Rob Spence, eyeborg
Bioengineering food?
Swallowable Parfum
The Windup Girl
1. How does Emiko illustrate Haraway's cyborg? How does she push against our notions of what it means to be human? nonhuman?
Gynoid Eve
by Susan Slaviero
I strip down to the visibly mechanical when the genesis of a chromium rib pushes against the meat beneath my silicon skin. When I sleep,
I synthesize cherries into bullets, tobacco leaves into wristblades.
Don't ask me how I do it.

I am built to withstand sulfur volcanoes, ammonium air. They say I am
part daemon/part robot, reanimated with supple metallic limbs
and acid spit. I can dissolve your wetware with a French kiss, a well
executed lick across your back. Here, the oceans burn

like a fictional dystopia. There is no molecular solution. Cyberdogs
chew at the walls of our Eden, tasting copper and keratin, sticking
paws into stacks of pilfered spines, wagging cybernetic tails.
I name them after human teeth.

Bicuspid, Molar, Incisor.
I am partially organic. I could hunt,
but I prefer to list the names of amorphous metals on the tops
of my thighs. I cannot shake the sense of vertigo I feel
when Adam shows me his internal weapons.

He has a crossbow in his chest, air-cannons in his forearms. We are built
to withstand this primitive gutting, to swallow our conscience
at the sight of ruptured hide. No matter what he brings home for dinner
it tastes like apples and albumen.
Evolution of the posthuman
"The windup movement is not a required trait. There is no reason it couldn't be removed. Sterility... Limitations can be stripped away. The safeties are there because of lessons learned, but they are not required; some of them even make it more difficult to create you. Nothing about you is inevitable. Someday, perhaps, all people will be New People and you will look back on us as we now look back at the poor Neanderthals." Gibbons, Epilogue, page 358
2.What do you make of the ending of the novel? How does the possibility of reproduction affect Emiko? Your feelings about her as a threat? As the future?
Gender and Power
How does the political revolution work to empower the female characters in the text?
How are Emiko and Kanya instrumental in their new found access to power?
Bioengineering
How do the larger political and environmental issues intersect with the more personal narratives of the characters?
What do you think Anderson represents in the text? Is he the typical American in a foreign country? Is he changed by his interactions with the bio-engineered food and beings?
Final thoughts
"The man laughs. 'Don't look so glum! I was never much enamored with a woman's eggs as a source of genetic material anyway.' He smiles. 'A strand of your hair would do. You cannot be changed, but your children -- in genetic terms, if not physical ones -- they can be made fertile, a part of the natural world.'

Emiko feels her heart pounding. 'You can do this, truly?'

'Oh yes. I can do that for you.' The man's eyes are far away, considering. A smile flickers across his lips. 'I can do that for you, and much, much more.'"
Discussion questions:
Full transcript