A Cyborg Manifesto

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Definition

"A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" was a notable and groundbreaking essay on technology and culture written by Donna Haraway in 1986. The essay explores the concept of the cyborg and it's ramifications for the future, and effectively inaugurating the academic study of cyborgs. The manifesto uses gender as its central example in explaining the power of the cyborg. Haraway attacks the "goddess feminism" movement as "an American attempt to reject things technological and return women to nature"[1] and instead offers the model of the cybernetic woman: that of machine and human, a co-created techno-social assemblage with the capability of transcending the polarizing binary notions of gender. With technologies such as sex-change operations and virtual avatars erasing the traditional markers we use to determine gender, the binary starts to collapse and new hybrid forms of sexuality can emerge.

Haraway defines the cyborg in four different ways in her essay. The first is as a "cybernetic organism." The second is as "a hybrid of machine and organism." The third is as "a creature of lived social reality", and the fourth is as a "creature of fiction." [2] Haraway points out that "the border of the cyborg is an optical illusion", and that "the struggle to define and control the cyborg amounts to a border war". Ironically enough, she adds, this war is fought on a terrain that is largely an optical illusion: the space between science fiction and today's fact. Anyone who believes cyborgs are things of the future is mistaken. Modern medicine is full of cyborgs already, as is modern reproduction, manufacturing and modern warfare. In short, "we are cyborgs", whether we know it or not, if only because it is the cyborg which "is our ontology, it gives us our politics",[3] which is to say that it is wrapped into our existence as human beings. It has become us, and we are it.

References

  1. Theresa M. Senft's reading notes for Donna Haraway's "A Cyborg Manifesto". Background Information on Haraway and her Manifesto. Accessed 02 July 2011. http://www.terrisenft.net/students/readings/manifesto.html
  2. Ibid.
  3. Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York; Routledge, 1991. Pg.150.