Title: "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century"
Source:Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp.149-181.
In this article, Haraway has taken cyborg to constructed an identity beyond the traditional boundaries, such as human/animal, animal-human/machine, and physical/non-physical. She considers "[a] cyborg is a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived socail relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction." The fiction makes us reflect the character of human. In the late-twientith century. the boundaries among organism/machine and physical/non-physical have disapper gradually and the change gives us rethinking the gender and power issue.
The cyborg discourse breaks the boundaries in Western politics and ideology. Wi-Fi technology makes the human-users converted to the cyborg-users, but it also brings the new issues on geography, the difference between the city and the country, and the difference which exists among the users whose cultural background and the Wi-Fi access ability. She emphasize the cyborg can break the boundaries in politics, gender and body/mind, but she didn't handle the cyborg difference. My Wi-Fi project will investigate the different wi-fi habits in the different city and will discuss the diversity in the cyborgs.
a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our
most important political construction, a world-changing fiction.
And modern war is a cyborg orgy, coded by C3I, command-control-communication-intelligence, an $84 billion item in 1984'sUS
defence budget. I am making an argument for the cyborg as a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality and as an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful
couplings. Michael Foucault's biopolitics is a flaccid premonition of cyborg politics, a very open field.
By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs. Ths
cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centres structuring any
possibility of historical transformation.
The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world; it has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labour, or other seductions to organic wholeness
The cyborg skips the step of original unity, of identification with nature in the Western sense. This is its
illegitimate promise that might lead to subversion of its teleology as star wars.
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.
The third distinction is a subset of the second: the boundary between physical and non-physical is very imprecise for us.
But there has also been a growing recognition of another response through coalition - affinity, not identity.7
The contribution from these formulations has been the emphasis on the daily responsibility of real women to build unities, rather than to
The entire universe of objects that can be known scientifically must be formulated as problems in
communications engineering (for the managers) or theories of the text (for those who would resist). Both are cyborg semiologies.
There is no way to read the following list from a standpoint of'idendfication', of a unitary self. The issue is dispersion. The task is to
survive in the diaspora.
CYBORGS: A MYTH OF POLITICAL IDENTITY
These real-life cyborgs (for example, the Southeast Asian village women workers inJapanese and US electronics firms described
by Aihwa Ong) are actively rewriting the texts of their bodies and sociedes. Sumival is the stakes in this play of readings.
But the ground of life? What about all the ignorance of women, all the exclusions and failures of knowledge and skill? What about men's access to daily competence, to
knowing how to build things, to take them apart, to play? What about other embodiments?
Cyborg imagery can help express two crucial arguments in this essay: first, the production of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality,
probably always, but certainly now; and second, taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing an anti-science metaphysics, a
demonology of technology, and so means embracing the skilful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication
with all of our parts. It is not just that science and technology are possible means of great human satisfaction, as well as a matrix of complex dominations. Cyborg imagery
can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves. This is a dream not of a common language, but of a
powerful infidel heteroglossia. It is an imagination of a feminist speaking in tongues to strike fear into the circuits of the supersavers of the new right. It means both
building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, space stories. Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.
Cyborg writing must not
be about the Fall, the imagination of a once-upon-a-time wholeness before language, before writing, before Man. Cyborg writing is about the power to survive, not on the
basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other.
'We' did not originally choose to be cyborgs, but choice grounds a liberal politics and epistemology that
imagines the reproduction of individuals before the wider replications of 'texts'.
There are several consequences to taking seriously the imagery of cyborgs as other than our enemies. Our bodies, ourselves; bodies are maps of power and identity.
Cyborgs are no exception. A cyborg body is not innocent; it was not born in a garden; it does not seek unitary identity and so generate antagonistic dualisms without end
(or until the world ends); it takes irony for granted. One is too few, and two is only one possibility. Intense pleasure in skill, machine skill, ceases to be a sin, but an aspect
of embodiment. The machine is not an it to be animated, worshipped, and dominated. The machine is us, our processes, an aspect of our embodiment. We can be
responsible for machines; they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they. Up till now (once upon a time), female embodiment seemed
to be given, organic, necessary; and female embodiment seemed to mean skill in mothering and its metaphoric exten-sions. Only by being out of place could we take
intense pleasure in machines, and then with excuses that this was organic activity after all, appropriate to females. Cyborgs might consider more seriously the partial, fluid,
sometimes aspect of sex and sexual embodiment. Gender might not be global identity after all, even if it has profound historical breadth and depth.
I want to signal three crucial boundary breakdowns that make the following politicalfictional
(political-scientific) analysis possible. By the late twentieth century in United States scientific culture, the boundary between human and animal is thoroughly
breached. The last beachheads of uniqueness have been polluted if not turned into amusement parks--language tool
use, social behaviour, mental events, nothing really convincingly settles the separation of human and animal. And many people no longer feel the need for such a
separation; indeed, many branches of feminist culture affirm the pleasure of connection of human and other living creatures. Movements for animal rights are not irrational
denials of human uniqueness; they are a clear-sighted recognition of connection across the discredited breach of nature and culture. Biology and evolutionary theory over
the last two centuries have simultaneously produced modern organisms as objects of knowledge and reduced the line between humans and animals to a faint trace reetched
in ideological struggle or professional disputes between life and social science. Within this framework, teaching modern Christian creationism should be fought as
a form of child abuse.
Biological-determinist ideology is only one position opened up in scientific culture for arguing the meanings of human animality. There is much room for radical political
people to contest the meanings of the breached boundary.2 The cyborg appears in myth precisely where the boundary between human and animal is transgressed. Far from
signalling a walling off of people from other living beings, cyborgs signal distrurbingly and pleasurably tight coupling. Bestiality has a new status in this cycle of marriage
The second leaky distinction is between animal-human (organism) and machine. Pre-cybernetic machines could be haunted; there was always the spectre of the ghost in
the machine. This dualism structured the dialogue between materialism and idealism that was settled by a dialectical progeny, called spirit or history, according to taste.
But basically machines were not self-moving, self-designing, autonomous. They could not achieve man's dream, only mock it. They were not man, an author to himself,
but only a caricature of that masculinist reproductive dream. To think they were otherwise was paranoid. Now we are not so sure. Late twentieth-century machines have
made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and art)ficial, mind and body, self-developing and externally designed, and many other distinctions that used
to apply to organisms and machines. Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert.
Technological determination is only one ideological space opened up by the reconceptions of machine and organism as coded texts through which we engage in the play
of writing and reading the world.3 'Textualization' of everything in poststructuralist, postmodernist theory has been damned by Marxists and socialist feminists for its
utopian disregard for the lived relations of domination that ground the 'play' of arbitrary reading.4 It is certainly true that postmodernist strategies, like my cyborg myth,
subvert myriad organic wholes (for example, the poem, the primitive culture, the biological organism). In short, the certainty of what counts as nature -- a source of insight and promise of innocence -- is undermined, probably fatally. The transcendent authorization of interpretation is lost, and with it the ontology grounding
'Western' epistemology. But the alternative is not cynicism or faithlessness, that is, some version of abstract existence, like the accounts of technological determinism
destroying 'man' by the 'machine' or 'meaningful political action' by the 'text'. Who cyborgs will be is a radical question; the answers are a matter of survival. Both
chimpanzees and artefacts have politics, so why shouldn't we (de Waal, 1982; Winner, 1980)?
The third distinction is a subset of the second: the boundary between physical and non-physical is very imprecise for us. Pop physics books on the consequences of
quantum theory and the indeterminacy principle are a kind of popular scientific equivalent to Harlequin romances* as a marker of radical change in American white
heterosexuality: they get it wrong, but they are on the right subject. Modern machines are quintessentially microelectronic devices: they are everywhere and they are
invisible. Modern machinery is an irreverent upstart god, mocking the Father's ubiquity and spirituality. The silicon chip is a surface for writing; it is etched in molecular
scales disturbed only by atomic noise, the ultimate interference for nuclear scores. Writing, power, and technology are old partners in Western stories of the origin of
civilization, but miniaturization has changed our experience of mechanism. Miniaturization has turned out to be about power; small is not so much beautiful as preeminently
dangerous, as in cruise missiles. Contrast the TV sets of the 1950s or the news cameras of the 1970s with the TV wrist bands or hand-sized video cameras now
advertised. Our best machines are made of sunshine; they are all light and clean because they are nothing but signals, electromagnetic waves, a section of a spectrum, and
these machines are eminently portable, mobile -- a matter of immense human pain in Detroit and Singapore. People are nowhere near so fluid, being both material and
opaque. Cyborgs are ether, quintessence.
The ubiquity and invisibility of cyborgs is precisely why these sunshine-belt machines are so deadly. They are as hard to see politically as materially. They are about
consciousness - or its simulation.5 They are floating signIfiers moving in pickup trucks across Europe, blocked more effectively by the witch-weavings of the displaced
and so unnatural Greenham women, who read the cyborg webs of power so very well, than by the militant labour of older masculinist politics, whose natural constituency
needs defence jobs. Ultimately the 'hardest' science is about the realm of greatest boundary confusion, the realm of pure number, pure spirit, C3I, cryptography, and the
preservation of potent secrets. The new machines are so clean and light. Their engineers are sun-worshippers mediating a new scientific revolution
*The US equivalent of Mills & Boon.
associated with the night dream of post-industrial society. The diseases evoked by these clean machines are 'no more' than the minuscule coding changes of an antigen in
the immune system, 'no more' than the experience of stress. The nimble fingers of 'Oriental' women, the old fascination of little Anglo-Saxon Victorian girls with doll's
houses, women's enforced attention to the small take on quite new dimensions in this world. There might be a cyborg Alice taking account of these new dimensions.
Ironically, it might be the unnatural cyborg women making chips in Asia and spiral dancing in Santa Rita jail* whose constructed unities will guide effective oppositional
So my cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities which progressive people might explore as one part of needed political
work. One of my premises is that most American socialists and feminists see deepened dualisms of mind and body, animal and machine, idealism and materialism in the
social practices, symbolic formula-tions, and physical artefacts associated with 'high technology' and scientific culture. From One-DimensionalMan (Marcuse, 1964) to
The Death of Nature (Merchant, 1980), the analytic resources developed by progressives have insisted on the necessary domination of technics and recalled us to an
imagined organic body to integrate our resistance. Another of my premises is that the need for unity of people trying to resist world-wide intensification of domination has
never been more acute. But a slightly perverse shift of perspective might better enable us to contest for meanings, as well as for other forms of power and pleasure in
technologically mediated societies.