Hi ITP crew-
I posted this in the Forum, but thought perhaps I ought to put it here. (The internet is for redundancy? Or at least forgives it to an alarming degree?)
“This chapter is an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism” Donna J. Haraway (149).
Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto (first published in Socialist Review in 1985, then included as a chapter in 1991) is a great place to start deepening our conversation from last week. Not only do her concerns express fundamental conditions of current trends in theorizing the digital, her writing style manifests the blurred boundaries of the organic and the mechanical she describes.
The way Haraway so fluidly metastasizes metaphor and science corresponds with her mission of myth making. She writes in images and with wry allusion (“other than a shroud for the day after the apocalypse that so prophetically ends salvation history” (158)). The politics Haraway argues for reorganizes “world-wide social relations tied to science and technology” (161), identifying dichotomies that mark the transition from “comfortable old hierarchical dominations” to “scary new networks” she calls “informatics of domination” (161). Choosing to list and categorize concepts and classifications, she highlights the role of language in paradoxically establishing and transgressing boundaries.
I pose, as a reaction to this reading, a few questions about the cyborg made manifest. Have we reached a point at which the materialism of digital tools has superseded our theoretical concerns? Do these metaphors still work? What function does the cyborg serve as we become more and more connected to our smartphones?
Haraway discusses the shift in world ideological frameworks and I am curious whether we have dissolved even further since her claim that “boundary-maintaining images of base and superstructure, public and private, or material and ideal never seemed more feeble” (165). Has the omnipresence of technological redundancy further diluted our attempts at unifying ideas or movements?
“‘Networking’ is both a feminist practice and a multinational corporate strategy — weaving is for oppositional cyborgs.” (170) Haraway looks for new coalitions within the loosened picture of women in society that no longer relates solely to the private/public dichotomy. As Haraway describes the shifting realm and power of women, “the task,” she states, “is to survive the diaspora”(170). As the internet continues to expand these consortia, how do movements coalesce? Is Amy Schumer really the face of new feminism? “Feminist cyborg stories have the task of recoding communication and intelligence to subvert command and control” (175). Do new representations of women succeed to any extent of Haraway’s mission? What will we include in our “powerful infidel heteroglossia” (181)?
I look forward to hearing how each of the disciplines represented in class approach the vast political, economic, gendered reaches of this text. Irony seems to be an excellent adhesive for cohering these extremes. Lean on the opposite to assert your position. What ironies are most notable in Haraway’s text? Does irony ultimately hold? Or do we all become mustaches on coffee mugs?
Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, Routledge, 1991, 149-81.