Feminism in the Late 20th Century

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Chapter 4: A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist- Feminism in the Late 20th Century*
DONNA HARAWAY History of Consciousness Program, University of California, at Santa Cruz 1. AN IRONIC DREAM OF A COMMON LANGUAGE FOR WOMEN
IN THE INTEGRATED CIRCUIT
This chapter is an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism. Perhaps more faithful as blasphemy is faithful, than as reverent worship and identification. Blasphemy has always seemed to require taking things very seriously. I know no better stance to adopt from within the secular-religious, evangelical traditions of United States politics, including the politics of socialist-feminism. Blasphemy protects one from the moral majority within, while still insisting on the need for community. Blas- phemy is not apostasy. Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes, even dialectically, about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true. Irony is about hu- mor and serious play. It is also a rhetorical strategy and a political method, one I would like to see more honoured within socialist-feminism. At the center of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the cyborg.

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 ob- ject. This experience is a fiction and fact of the most crucial, political kind. Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative ap- prehension, 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 20th 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. Modern medicine is also full of cyborgs, of couplings between organism and machine, each conceived as coded devices, in an intimacy and with a power that was not generated in the history of sexuality. Cyborg “sex” restores some of the lovely replicative baroque of ferns and invertebrates (such nice * Originally published as Manifesto for cyborgs: science, technology, and socialist feminism in the 1980s.Socialist Review, no. 80 (1985): 65–108. Reprinted with permission of the author. 117 J. Weiss et al. (eds.), The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments, 117–158. o C

2006 Springer. Printed in the Netherlands.
organic prophylactics against heterosexism). Cyborg replication is uncou- pled from organic reproduction. Modern production seems like a dream of cyborg colonization work, a dream that makes the nightmare of Taylorism seem idyllic. And modern war is a cyborg orgy, coded by C3I, command- control-communication-intelligence, an $84 billion item in 1984s US defence budget. I am making an argument for the cyborg as a fiction mapping our so- cial and bodily reality and as an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful couplings. Michael Foucault’s biopolitics is a flaccid pre-monition of cyborg politics, a very open field. By the late 20th century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized, and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs. This cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined cen- ters structuring any possibility of historical transformation. In the traditions of “Western” science and politics—the tradition of racist, male-dominant capitalism;...
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