Simians, Cyborgs, and Women – Haraway

Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. Print.

In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, Donna Haraway defines the cyborg as a “hybrid creature, composed of organism and machine.” Haraway promotes the idea of the cyborg other, and while she argues this from a feminist stance, rather than arguing for the empowerment of the (also) constructed idea of “women,” she argues for the cyborg, instead.  The cyborg acts as third party that bridges political and social gaps. Haraway notes that, “we have accepted at face value the traditional liberal ideology of social scientists in the twentieth century that maintains a deep an necessary split between nature and culture and between the forms of knowledge relating these two putatively irreconcilable realms. We have allowed the theory of the body political to be split in such a way that natural knowledge is reincorporated covertly into techniques of social control instead of being transformed into sciences of liberation.” And this is not only true of science; splits and fractures have likewise been generated between tool and myth, natural and unnatural, physical and non-physical, etc. Yet, Haraway states, the dialectic between these divisions “must not be made into a dynamic of growing domination,” and later remarks, “Gender, race, or class consciousness is an achievement forces on us by the terrible historical experiences of the contradictory social realities of patriarchy and capitalism.” Yet, the cyborg can help breach the relations between animal and human, organism and human, and the physical and non-physical.  In relation to Medicine and War, Haraway notes that both are already filled with cyborg relations: breathing apparatuses, prosthetics, command centers, etc. Thus, the cyborg relationship is not alien to us, but in some ways is the relationship that has always been part of what makes humans human. It is, as Haraway states, part of our ontology. There is a need, however, to acknowledge this ontology over the dualistic power structures currently in place. Haraway notes that current “communication technologies and biotechnology are the crucial tools recrafting our bodies.” Therefore, the cyborg is already a natural part of our lives. The issue, however, is in how the information generated remains tied to theories and languages of control. Haraway states, “Information is just that kind of quantifiable element which allows universal translation, and so unhindered instrumental power.  The biggest threat to such power is interruption [or control] of communication.” Thus while writing is a cyborg technology, cyborg politics is the “struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication, against the one code the translates meaning perfectly…that is why cyborg politics insist on noise and advocate pollution, rejoicing in the illegitimate fusions of animal and machine.” The cyborg, as a hybrid being, is neither one entity, nor two, but instead co-exists between multiple identities. And because the cyborg has no genesis, no heredity, it can exist in this complexity without capitulating to systemic practices of domination. As a hybrid, the cyborg does more than mediate the boundaries of fractured identities and dualities. Haraway notes, rather, that the cyborg is those boundaries, and is thus “a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained out bodies and our tools to ourselves.”

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