A Cyborg Manifesto

[…] 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 object. This experience is a fiction and fact of the most crucial, political kind. Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, 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 twentieth 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 organic prophylactics against heterosexism). Cyborg replication is uncoupled 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 1984’sUS defence budget. I am making an argument for the cyborg as a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality and as an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful couplings. Michael Foucault’s biopolitics is a flaccid premonition of cyborg politics, a very open field.


The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence. No longer structured by the polarity of public and private, the cyborg defines a technological polis based partly on a revolution of social relations in the oikos, the household. Nature and culture are reworked; the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other. The relationships for forming wholes from parts, including those of polarity and hierarchical domination, are at issue in the cyborg world. Unlike the hopes of Frankenstein’s monster, the cyborg does not expect its father to save it through a restoration of the garden; that is, through the fabrication of a heterosexual mate, through its completion in a finished whole, a city and cosmos. […]

Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991)


One comment

  1. pedrolagoa

    “What are the implications of conceptualizing the posthuman as a hybridizing of biology and technology – are they as tragic as Virilio predicts? He states: the urbanization of the actual body of the city-dweller, the citizen-terminal soon to be decked out to the eyeballs with interactive prostheses – a being controlled by the machine, with which they say he talks (Virilio 1997:20).
    Virilio’s terminal citizen is clearly a dystopian vision of a cyborg future: he is implacably hostile to the trap of cybergnosis, which Hakim Bey also warns against – that is the false transcending of bodily limitations, the fantasy of downloading consciousness and jettisoning of ‘meat reality’. This is a kind of delusory technotopia, which was extensively debated and promoted in the early nineties, and a staple of cyberpunk, although William Gibson laments that the techno-evangelists missed his irony.
    The city is an environment in which the body is situated and inscribed socially, sexually, discursively, and crucially here, technologically. Technology is clearly implicated in the production of material transformations of corporeality: the posthuman figure of the cyborg is the point at which the body takes on the characteristics of machinery, either literally or figuratively. The contemporary city is transversed by technology – telematics, telecommunications, reconfigured informational maps and links, where time, not space is of the essence, folded and subject to an imaginary geography.
    Vaneigem points out in The Revolution of Everyday Life that the problem with technology is that it is used in the service of capitalism by a technocratic elite – and is thus alienating and disempowering for the majority of people. […] ‘Information superhighway’ suggests a linear or gridlike corporatized conception of cyberspace, which relates to the actualization of power and social relations in material architecture and urban planning, cyberspace as a ” striated metric for the machinic enslavement of integrationist circuits ” (Menser 1996:305).
    The Situationist practice of derive or drift, passage through the various ambiences of city spaces, enabled the participants to refuse the machinic functioning of the spectacle-city, reinscribing the city as text as a political act: “these inscriptions will have to extend their impact from a psychogeographical insinuation to subversion in its most simple form” claimed Potlatch (Potlatch in Sadler 1998:97). Thus the homogeneity of the city is critically fissured, opening up the possibility of alternative narratives – fleeting, contingent, subversive and heterogeneous. To uncritically apply notions of the flaneur/flaneuse or psychogeography to an understanding of the experience of cyberspace would be deeply problematic. Despite the much vaunted ‘interactivity’ of new media technologies, much of it is simply of the ‘point and click’ variety: surfing the net seems to involve a superficial notion of drifting, not so different from channel surfing the TV.”

    in Situating Cyborgs: Technology & Psychogeography
    by Liz Wilkinson

    (full text: http://arch.virose.pt/writings/liz.html)

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