by Donna Haraway
Simians, Cyborgs & Women is part essay anthology, part autobiography, tracking the transformation of a "socialist- feminist, white, female, hominid biologist" into "a multiply marked cyborg feminist."
The focus of the essays is nature -- its invention, mutation, and reinvention in the late 20th century. The first third of the book describes the battleground of the natural world (as close as the body, and as far as the land); the middle section "explores contests for the power to determine stories about 'nature' and 'experience'-- two of the most potent and ambiguous words in English."
It's in the third, fascinating section of the book that Haraway shines, and where she proves herself to be a genuine heretic. The centerpiece of the section is "A Cyborg Manifesto," a controlled and relentless brainburn in which Haraway not only lays out the problems of perspective in a postmodern culture, but she actually offers a solution: what she calls "cyborg embodiment," a dual point of view formed from the melding of the organic and the machine, forming a hybrid creature that slips easily between the natural and the unnatural worlds. In "A Cyborg Manifesto," Haraway has constructed a Declaration of Independence for mutants, an anthem for a planet of bombarded and fragmented post-humans-- the hopeful monsters that will hop and wobble their way across the minefield of postmodern culture into the next century and beyond. Utopia will never be the same.
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By the late 20th century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs. The cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centers structuring any possibility of historical transformation. In the tradition of Western science and politics. . . the relation between organism and machine has been a border war. The stakes in the border war have been the territories of production, reproduction, and imagination. This chapter is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction.
Cyborgs are not reverent; they do not remember the cosmos. They are wary of holism, but needy for connection-- they seem to have a natural need for front politics, but without the vanguard party. The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism. But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins. Their fathers, after all, are inessential.
...I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.
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