Donna Haraway

The author of this essay is Donna J. Haraway (born September 6, 1944). Haraway is an American Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness Department and Feminist Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, United States. She is a prominent scholar in the field of science and technology studies, described in the early 1990s as a ”feminist, rather loosely a postmodernist”. Haraway is the author of numerous foundational books and essays that bring together questions of science and feminism, such as ”A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” (1985) and ”Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective” (1988). She is also a leading scholar in contemporary ecofeminism, associated with post-humanism and new materialism movements. Her work criticizes anthropocentrism, emphasizes the self-organizing powers of nonhuman processes, and explores dissonant relations between those processes and cultural practices, rethinking sources of ethics.

Haraway has taught Women’s Studies and the History of Science at the University of Hawaii and Johns Hopkins University. Haraway’s works have contributed to the study of both human-machine and human-animal relations. Her works have sparked debate in primatology, philosophy, and developmental biology. Haraway participated in a collaborative exchange with the feminist theorist Lynn Randolph from 1990 to 1996. Their engagement with specific ideas relating to feminism, technoscience, political consciousness, and other social issues, formed the images and narrative of Haraway’s book Modest_Witness for which she received the Society for Social Studies of Science’s (4S) Ludwik Fleck Prize in 1999. In September 2000, Haraway was awarded the Society for Social Studies of Science’s highest honor, the J. D. Bernal Award, for her ”distinguished contributions” to the field. Haraway serves on the advisory board for numerous academic journals, including differences, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Contemporary Women’s Writing, and Environmental Humanities.

A cyborg manifesto
In 1985, Haraway published the essay ”Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the 1980s” in Socialist Review. Although most of Haraway’s earlier work was focused on emphasizing the masculine bias in scientific culture, she has also contributed greatly to feminist narratives of the twentieth century. For Haraway, the Manifesto offered a response to the rising conservatism during the 1980s in the United States at a critical juncture at which feminists, in order to have any real-world significance, had to acknowledge their situatedness within what she terms the ”informatics of domination.” Women were no longer on the outside along a hierarchy of privileged binaries but rather deeply imbued, exploited by and complicit within networked hegemony, and had to form their politics as such.

According to Haraway’s ”Manifesto”, ”there is nothing about being female that naturally binds women together into a unified category. 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 does not require a stable, essentialist identity, argues Haraway, and feminists should consider creating coalitions based on ”affinity” instead of identity. To ground her argument, Haraway analyzes the phrase ”women of color”, suggesting it as one possible example of affinity politics. Using a term coined by theorist Chela Sandoval, Haraway writes that ”oppositional consciousness” is comparable with a cyborg politics, because rather than identity it stresses how affinity comes as a result of ”otherness, difference, and specificity”.

Haraway’s cyborg is a set of ideals of a genderless, race-less, more collective and peaceful civilization with the caveat of being utterly connected to the machine. Her new versions of beings reject Western humanist conceptions of personhood and promote a disembodied world of information and the withering of subjectivity. The collective consciousness of the beings and their limitless access to information provide the tools with which to create a world of immense socio-political change through altruism and affinity, not biological unity. In her essay Haraway challenges the liberal human subject and its lack of concern for collective desires which leaves the possibility for wide corruption and inequality in the world. Furthermore, the cyborg’s importance lays in its coalition of consciousness not in the physical body that carries the information/consciousness. A world of beings with a type of shared knowledge could create a powerful political force towards positive change. Cyborgs can see ”from both perspectives at once.” In addition, Haraway writes that the cyborg has an imbued nature towards the collective good.

Haraway explains that her ”Manifesto” is ”an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism.” She adds that ”Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves.” Haraway is serious about finding future ways towards equality and ending dominating behavior; however, the cyborg itself is not as serious of an endeavor for her as the idea of it is. Haraway creates an analogy using current technologies and information to imagine a world with a collective coalition that had the capabilities to create grand socio-political change. Haraway’s ”Manifesto” is a thought experiment, defining what people think is most important about being and what the future holds for increased artificial intelligence.