Meredith, Jen, Tom and Rachel
...met for a couple hours on February 12th at "the del" to discuss Donna Haraway's "A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s", which was, to our surprise, originally published in 1985. We talked and talked. This is my partial recreation full of fractured half-articulations; i expect the other three to reiterate thoughts that i fail to bring to screen.

Jen started the session off by pointing out a theme in the essay: "But there are also great riches for feminists in explicitly embracing the possibilities inherent in the breakdown of clean distinctions between organism and machine and similar distinctions structuring the Western self" (p174 jen's version, p216 mine). Haraway is heralding the breakdown in Western thought. She attacks identity politics in the guise of Marxism, feminism and all other -isms as imperialist, arguing for our need to form affinities instead of identities. Tom noted that Haraway is presenting the technological revolution as a time of possibilities, a time to create rather than be created. The cyborg, as constructed by Haraway, breaks down typical binary distinctions: mind/body, animal/machine. This blasphemous organism is monstrous, ironic, interesting. Rachel dourly wondered about the possibilities of cyborg-ship being a repressive force. Who would produce cyborgs? Who would get to be a cyborg? Jen noted the fetishization of the woman/machine, woman/animal by (male) SF writers.

(We then took a brief detour and pondered identifying rappers as the decadents of the late twentieth century.)

We voiced many more questions about cyborg "existence". If cyborgs replicate, rather than reproduce, how do they labor? Why do they have sex? Do they or how do they experience pleasure? Is Bill Gates a cyborg? What happens to the human part of the cyborg? Are cyborgs gendered? What does gender signify in a cyborgian world? Are little kids learning to read on cd roms cyborgs?

What happens when technology makes the human obsolete? A flatter structure allows for a broader base among people, allowing for more affinities, but people must give up identities first. This is a near impossible thing to ask. There is a sense that the schism will grow, mainly along class lines. The "Data Trash" people have come up with cute terms to describe the two "classes" of people -- the "virtual class" and the "surplus flesh". Welding oneself to a machine can be thought of as a method for survival.

Groups are still bounded by identifications along sex class race etc lines. Do they need to be? Who is breaking down the boundaries of identity politics? To what end? If a group lets "supporters" join them, does that constitute an "affinity"? Do cyborgs have minds? If so, do they think? If so, what do they think? If so, how different are their thoughts from ours?

what do you think?