By Alex Massaad
Donna Haraway is trying to push a point; permeating probably only the pedant.
Alliterations aside, arguments advance!
I always like to set up definitions at the beginning of my argument so I will begin with the OED definition of a cyborg:
cyborg |ˈsʌɪbɔːg|nouna fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.ORIGIN 1960s: blend of cyber- and organism .
"A Manifesto for Cyborgs . . ." tries to create an ironic political "myth" that speaks to feminism, socialism and materialism. By melding the distinction between human and cyborg she tries to use the cyborg as the source of our ontology.
Her first point is hard to argue against, she says that the cyborg is both a part of our material reality and our imagination. While the fictional cyborg is a prominent figure in science fiction it is also starting to appear to be a possibility to enhance the human race. She is trying to blur the relational boundaries between machine and organism. The cyborg is both a fact of fiction and a nascent scientific/medical concept. For the last fifty years we have seen representations of cybernetic organisms in books, films and even comic books. Our society is beginning to consider the organic-mechanical synthesis through unconscious or conscious media representations.
While the Oxford definition posits a "hypothetical" status on cyborgs, discussions in Film 4002 have opened this up to include pacemakers, insulin pumps and even choclear implants, as these devices all extend certain human's physical abilities. Wikipedia includes these human "modifications" as cyborg criteria. I would argue against this inclusion based on the definition of cyborg. All of this attempts to bridge the gap between fiction and fact for the cyborg. The medical enhancements do not function to "extend beyond normal human limitations" but rather to return these patients abilities back to normal human limitations. To my knowledge it is not preferable to receive a pacemaker or cochlear implant to enhance human performance. They are in fact still very risky and serious surgical implants. Nobody gets a heart operation in order to improve their athletic ability or to endure longer strain compared to their natural limitations. If anything, these operations reduce the patients natural ability. The same applies for cochlear implants. Some patients find it helps their deafness, while others find that the implant does not function as an enhancement. I still firmly believe that the cyborg, as envisioned in science fiction has not yet become a reality for our society.
The crux of Haraway's argument rests on the statement that her essay "is an argument for pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for responsibility in their construction." Haraway seems to extend this confusion to extend to women of colour. She tries to label this as a cyborg identity, but I completely fail to follow her logic at comparing a marginalized section of society to humans with mechanically extended physical abilities. By failing to draw an adequate picture of what a cyborg is Haraway does not manage to convince me of the relationship between cyborg identity and feminism as I understand them. This may be due to the abridged nature of the article, perhaps earlier sections address this. I disagree that these are compatible identities based on their shared status as "outsider identities." We would continue to integrate humans that have medical enhancements, with unmodified humans with the same care that we integrate women of colour, or any other marginalized group into our society provided our societies' political and cultural ideology continues to remain the same.