With the cyborg, this binary busting network, Haraway attempts to articulate a new ontological category (or perhaps mode is a better word to use here), one that, unlike the human, does not rely on Judeo-Christian narratives of redemption and salvation. She uses the cyborg, in part, to pull the curtains on this Enlightenment era liberal fiction which continues to police and proliferate the self/other organizing structure and boundary. For Haraway and her cyborg, there is no origin story, no fantasy of wholeness, there are only “partial explanations” (299). In this way, her cyborg’s apparent science-fiction, perhaps like all science fiction, tries to help us better see the real. While Haraway’s argument, in trying to desacralize the human, attempts to move away from the disciplinary terrain of the Humanities, as my heavy-handed title suggests, she does not do that. Haraway’s narrative around the cyborg seems to have something to do with the literacy or education narrative; encouraging those in the humanities to become scientifically literate, encouraging “cyborgs” to write and not be written.
I understand her call to critically engage with communication sciences and biology as having at least two motivations. On the one hand, Haraway understands these two disciplines to offer a different kind of ontological story, one that is decidedly un-ontological. She writes that they offer “constructions of natural-technical objects of knowledge in which the difference between machine and organism is thoroughly blurred; mind, body and tool are on very intimate terms” (303). She uses the “network” language to complicate the cellular self idea (although Enlightenment era ideas of the self were, I recently learned, informed by scientists’ discovery of the cell). On the other hand, Haraway’s argument around the cyborg is a feminist one, and she spends some time thinking through the ramification of Gordon’s “Homework Economy” on specifically women of color. If this “New Industrial Revolution” is capable of “producing a new worldwide working class as well as new sexualities and ethnicities” (304), Haraway wants women, in particular, to become critical producers, or authors, of these identities instead of those being continuously produced. At stake here is the labor of the political imagination; who does it imagine and who gets to do the imaging? To this effect, Haraway posits a question which I think drives her essay and one that still seems relevant today: “What kind of constitutive role in the production of knowledge, imagination and practice can new groups doing science have?” (307).
Although her question names groups “doing science” in particular, instead of imagining what this might look like, she turns toward the acts of reading and writing, to scenes of literacy. At end of her essay, she thinks back to the realm of the Humanities, and she names some of the science fiction and feminist writers important to her project. Here, she makes a point about how they have helped us understand “how fundamental body imagery is to worldview, and so to political language” (310). (What kind of body does Haraway’s cyborg have btw?) Haraway then moves into claims about the importance of writing to “all colonized groups” (311). Writing, or “the access to the power to signify,” takes on radical potential. While she cautions us against writing stories “about the Fall” (311), ones that play into the Salvationist narrative underpinning the human, Haraway connects writing to survival and to the cyborg (she says in another part of her essay, “the task is to survive in the diaspora” (308). It is at this moment where the cyborg seems clearly linked to women, particularly women of color. (The cyborg still seems to be a subject, perhaps just not the liberal human kind?) What can we understand Haraway’s “cyborg writing” to be exactly? Is cyborg writing autobiographical writing, and does this in any way counter her earlier claims against the idea of the unified subject? Is it literally “writing,” as we commonly understand it, or is it code, image-based, and so forth? What does her reliance on the literary at this moment reveal about her larger argument?