October 17, 2010

25 years later: Donna Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto"

It has been 25 years since Donna Haraway published her seminal essay, "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century."While largely intended as metaphorical discourse, a number of feminists and futurists, including myself, were inspired by a more literal and technoprogressive interpretation of Haraway's message. The piece was a major influence on my conception of postgenderist theory, inspiring such articles as "Overcoming Gender" and "Postgenderism: Beyond the Gender Binary" (PDF) (the latter of which I co-authored with James Hughes).

In "A Cyborg Manifesto," Haraway issued a challenge to feminists to engage in a politics beyond naturalism and essentialism. She used the concept of the cyborg to offer a political strategy for the seemingly disparate interests of socialism and feminism, writing, "We are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs." Her paper was also an attemnpt to break away from Oedipal narratives and Christian origin myths like Genesis. She writes, "The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust."

From another angle, "A Cyborg Manifesto" can be interpreted as a critique of ecofeminism. She argued it was in the eroding boundary between human beings and machines, in the integration of women and machines in particular, that we can find liberation from old patriarchal dualisms. Haraway concludes “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess,” and suggested that the cyborg serves as a more appropriate liberatory mythos for women.

Now, 25 years later, "A Cyborg Manifesto" can be seen as the inspiration for the emergence of 'cyborgology' and 'cyberfeminism,' subdisciplines made up of culture critics who used the cyborg metaphor and the postmodernist questions Haraway posed to explore the woman-machine interface. And as mentioned earlier, it also brought transhumanists into the discussion, who integrated and re-interpreted Haraway's ideas, resulting in the emergence of postgenderist theory—the suggestion that both females and males should look to be liberated from gendered constraints through the application of advanced biotechnologies.

1 comment:

Nebris said...

I have long wished to ask her, "What if you could be a Cyborg Goddess?"