What is a Cyborg?

Kenneth Coane '10, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Fall 2006)

In the essay "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socalist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," Donna Haraway relates and attempts to connect cyborgs to socialist-feminsim and politics among other things. She seems to ramble about feminism, and politics more than cyborgs at all, which is discussed in Karen Kayfetz's What does the cyborg have to do with feminism. In the parts of her essay that do define her definition of cyborg, she states that from a technological point of view, any person that associates themselves with technology and uses it at nearly any scale is a cyborg.

A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, 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. The international women's movements have constructed 'women's experience', as well as uncovered or discovered this crucial collective object. This experience is a fiction and fact of the most crucial, political kind. Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility. The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women's experience in the late twentieth century. This is a struggle over life and death, but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.

Contemporary science fiction is full of cyborgs - creatures simultaneously animal and machine, who populate worlds ambiguously natural and crafted.

Essentially she states that the line between fictional cyborgs and reality has been blurred, and because of this, when she references fictional cyborgs, she usually is reffering to people how they are now. She states this concisely: "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." She believes that cyborgs are those that use or have some connection to technology, and that this shapes the economy, politics, and other beliefs of today's society. While this is very transparent to us, being that we are cyborgs by her definition, she raises some interesting points mostly reffering to how we as a species depend so much on technology in medicine, economy, and just our daily lives. For most of the essay, the cyborg can be seen as human in her view of today's society.

Discussion Questions

1. With Haraway's description of the cyborg, can anyone in today's society not be a cyborg?

2. Does reading this question on the screen right now make you a cyborg in Donna Haraway's definition of the word?

3. The connections between feminism and cyborg seem to be handled loosly in Donna Haraway's essay. Is there a better name for the essay?

4. Does Donna Haraway use the term feminist, and feminism too loosly in her essay? Do you agree with her assumptions of other authors, political systems, and other beliefs that she referrs to as feminist?

5. At the end of her writing she states that she "would rather be a cyborg than a goddess." Does this imply anything about the views she claims to have in the body of her essay?


Donna Haraway, "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. pp.149-181.

Course Website cyborg Body & Self

Last modified 30 December 2006