Cyborg Liberation

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

At the same time that they code sexist and racist messages, cyborg texts can also open up liberating potentials. Bubblegum Crisis contains several sympathetic queer characters, a risky move for its time in Japan. The female cyborgs are also empowered by their modifications; For instance, Major Kusanagi's cyborg body and mind make her a lethal enemy, even to Section 6. These cyborg women put into practice what Donna Haraway calls cyborg writing: "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" (175). This cyborg liberation also has postcolonial implications in these texts, since many of these cyborg characters (such as the Replicants) use their modifications to escape colonial subjugation.

Some cyborg texts also question the society/nature and human/nonhuman dichotomies that justify totalizing and antifeminist science that discounts local knowledge traditions and devalues the people who use them (Harding, 123). Donna Haraway points to Rachel from Blade Runner as "the image of a cyborg culture's fear, love, and confusion" resulting from cyborgs' liberating rejection of falsely dichotomized visions of reality (178).

The cyborgs in these texts also expose the (literal) construction of whiteness and the malleability (in some instances) of racial codes. The Mona Lisa Overdrive character Porphyre, who chose to be black by cosmetic modification, demonstrates this questioning of racial determinism. While his appropriation of a (historically) subordinated racial position is problematic, the novel's statement that race a poor scheme of classification strikes at the heart of racist doctrines of inherent inferiority.

Related Material


Haraway, Donna J. Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York; Routledge, 1991.

Harding, Sandra. Science and Social Inequality: Feminist and Postcolonial Issues. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006.

Course Website cyborg Body & Self Literature

Last modified 31 October 2006