Engineered Whiteness

Patrick Nagle '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

In a startling number of cyborg texts, cyborgs are figured as white. The Replicants from Blade Runner, Molly and Angela in Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy , Major Kusanagi and Bateau from Ghost in the Shell , and the Knight Sabers in Bubblegum Crisis are all racialized as white. An argument could be made that the anime characters are supposed to be Japanese, but according to Wood, the anime aesthetic was originally developed to portray white characters in shows that took place in European cities. (Wood) In contrast, the black characters in William Gibson's Neuromancer are portrayed as devotees of voodoo spirituality and members of Rastafarian space colonies.

The whiteness of these cyborgs can be explained in several ways. One explanation is that whiteness is perceived in the West as a non-race that does not carry the burden of an ever-present racial identifier. Operating under this assumption, the white cyborg body is a universalized body. People of color have also been viewed as primitive and identified with nature (see Eric Dillon's Ethnic Characterizations in Neuromancer and Count Zero ), and their knowledge traditions are often discounted by Western science. This opposition posits science and technology (and therefore cyborgs) as the domain of whiteness.

Related Material

Course Website cyborg Body & Self Literature

Last modified 22 May 2007