The Cyborg

Cyber Space and Critical Theory

Snow Crash

A Cyborg Manifesto

Last modified April 12, 2005


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A Cyborg Manifesto Quotes & Responses

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Cyborgs are ether, quintessence (Haraway, 153).

I think that this is a reference to electronic technology and particularly digital data as being intangible and perfect at the same time. I feel like Haraway could have been more explicit however.

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 consciousnesss - or its simulation.… The new machines are so clean and light. Their engineers are sun-worshippers mediating a new scientific revolution associated with the night dream of post-industrial society (Haraway, 153-154).

Again, sun and sunshine is referring to the perfection and immateriality of digitization. The metaphor is decent, but is stretched beyond its limits. Deadly sunshine-belt machines call up bizarre images that have nothing to do with Haraway’s argument. I’m thinking like a belt of light that sneaks up on you and wraps itself around your waist, squeezing you to death before you even notice its there. I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t think that’s what this passage was talking about.

‘Women of color’, a name contested at its origins by those whom it would incorporate, as well as a historical consciousness marking systematic breakdown of all the signs of Man in ‘Western’ traditions, constructs a kind of postmodernist identity of otherness, difference, and specificity (Haraway, 155).

Passages like this are what bother me especially about Haraway’s writing style. I know what all the words mean, but I just get lost when I try to parse and understand this (long!) sentence. She could say something like:

‘Women of color’ is a label for otherness: not-white, not-male. By making a label for otherness, it creates an alternative to traditional Western hierarchies of white above black and man above woman. In the process, these traditional hierarchies are subverted.

This is an oversimplification, and does not express exactly what Haraway’s passage does. But it’s a lot more readable, and I don’t understand why there can’t be some sort of middle ground between her version and mine.

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 (Haraway, 163).

When I got to this point in the text, I felt like she had just made a point, and challenged those who would disagree with her. The only problem was that I’m still not entirely sure what that point was. Also, I’d like to point out that even the spell checker in Word doesn’t know the word semiologies, so I feel vindicated.

Technologies and scientific discourses can be partially understood as formalizations, i.e., as frozen moments, of the fluid social interactions constituting them, but they should also be viewed as instruments for enforcing meanings (Haraway, 164).

I don’t follow how a technology (for example, superconductors) can be partially understood as a frozen moment of the fluid social interactions that constitute it. In fact, I think that having written that I now understand less about superconductors. And I don’t even know how that’s possible. Okay, so I’m being a bit sarcastic again.

…weaving is for oppositional cyborgs (Haraway, 170).

When I read this I could almost picture Donna Haraway shaking her finger at a cyborg sitting in front of a loom weaving a beautiful tapestry and saying “you naughty, oppositional cyborg!”

However, there is no ‘place for women in these networks, only geometries of difference and contradiction crucial to women’s cyborg identities (Haraway, 170).

Throughout her text, Haraway takes words that I had only ever encountered as singular nouns (e.g. Marxism, feminism, and now geometry), and makes them plural. Geometry is what I learned in math class, I think it involved angles and compasses. If there are now multiple ‘geometries’, does that mean am I going to have to do more trig? Okay, so cosecant equals hypotenuse over opposite…

The rest of these are just more examples of passages that are difficult, seemingly out of habit rather than out of necessity. I didn’t take the time to comment on them for fear of repeating myself.

This is [the cyborg’s] illegitimate promise that might lead to subversion of its teleology as star wars (Haraway, 151).

Unlike the ‘woman’ of some streams of the white women’s movement in the United States, there is no naturalization of the matrix, or at least this is what Sandoval argues is uniquely available through the power of oppositional consciousness.… Sandoval argues that ‘women of colour’ have a chance to build an effective unity that does not replicate the imperializing, totalizing revolutionary subjects of previous Marxisms and feminisms which had not faced the consequences of the disorderly polyphony emerging from decolonization (Haraway, 156).

We are excruciatingly conscious of what it means to have a historically constituted body. But with the loss of innocence in our origin, there is no expulsion from the Garden either (Haraway, 157).

For liberals and radicals, the search for integrated social systems gives way to a new practice called ‘experimental ethnography’ in which an organic object dissipates in attention to the play of writing (Haraway, 162).

In the US gay men and intravenous drug users are the ‘privileged’ victims of an awful immune system disease that marks (inscribes on the body) confusion of boundaries and moral pollution (Haraway, 165).

The ‘family’ of the homework economy with its oxymoronic structure of women-headed households and its explosion of feminisms and the paradoxical intensification and erosion of gender itself (Haraway, 167).

What kind of political accountability can be constructed to the women together across the scientific-technical hierarchies separating us? (Haraway, 169).

Superluminal stands also for the defining contradictions of a cyborg world in another sense; it embodies textually the intersection of feminist theory and colonial discourse in the science fiction I have alluded to in this chapter (Haraway, 179).

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 (Haraway, 180).

There is a myth system waiting to become a political language to ground one way of looking at science and technology and challenging the informatics of domination—in order to act potently (Haraway, 181).


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