A Cyborg Manifesto  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In 1985, Donna Haraway published the essay A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century in "Simians, Cyborgs and Women". Although most of Haraway’s earlier work is focused on emphasizing the masculine bias in scientific culture, she has also contributed greatly to feminist narratives of the twentieth century.

In A Cyborg Manifesto, Haraway deploys the metaphor of a cyborg in order to challenge feminists to engage in a politics beyond naturalism and essentialisms. She also uses the metaphor of the cyborg to offer a political strategy for the seemingly disparate interests of socialism and feminism. Firstly, she introduces and defines the "cyborg." A cyborg is (see also Cyborg theory):

As a postmodern feminist, she argues against essentialism – which is "any theory that claims to identify a universal, transhistorical, necessary cause or constitution of gender identity or patriarchy" (Feminist Epistemology, 2006). Such theories, argues Haraway, either exclude women who don’t conform to the theory and segregate them from "real women" or represent them as inferior. Another form of feminism that Haraway is disputing is "a jurisprudence model of feminism made popular by the legal scholar and Marxist, Catharine MacKinnon" (Burow-Flak, 2000) who fought to outlaw pornography as a form of hate speech. Haraway argues that MacKinnon’s legalistic version of radical feminism assimilates all of women's experiences into a particular identity, which ironically recapitulates the very Western ideologies that have contributed to the oppression of women. She writes: "It is factually and politically wrong to assimilate all of the diverse 'moments' or 'conversations' in recent women's politics named radical feminism to MacKinnon's version" (158).

According to Haraway's Manifesto, "There is nothing about being female that naturally binds women together into a unified category. There is not even such a state as 'being' female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices" (155). A cyborg does not require a stable, essentialist identity, argues Haraway, and feminists should consider creating coalitions based on "affinity" instead of identity. To ground her argument, Haraway analyzes the phrase "women of color," suggesting it as one possible example of affinity politics. Using a term coined by theorist Chela Sandoval, Haraway writes that "oppositional consciousness" is comparable with a cyborg politics, because rather than identity it stresses how affinity comes as a result of "otherness, difference, and specificity" (156).

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