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Donna J. Haraway (born September 6, 1944 in Denver, Colorado) is currently a professor and chair of the History of Consciousness Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, United States. She is the author of Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields: Metaphors of Organicism in Twentieth-Century Developmental Biology (1976), Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science (1989), Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991), Modest Witness@Second Millenium. FemaleMan Meets OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience (1997, Ludwig Fleck Prize), The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness (2003), and When Species Meet (2008).

Haraway earned a degree in zoology and philosophy at the Colorado College and received the Boettcher Foundation scholarship. She lived in Paris for a year, studying philosophies of evolution on a Fulbright scholarship before completing her Ph. D. in the Department of Biology at Yale in 1972. She wrote her dissertation on the functions of metaphor in shaping research in developmental biology in the twentieth century.

Haraway has taught Women's Studies and General Science at the University of Hawaii and Johns Hopkins University. In September of 2000, Haraway was awarded the highest honor given by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), the J. D. Bernal Award, for lifetime contributions to the field. Haraway has also lectured in feminist theory and techno-science at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Haraway is a leading thinker about people's love and hate relationship with machines. Her ideas have sparked an explosion of debate in areas as diverse as primatology, philosophy, and developmental biology (Kunzru, 1).

Haraway's books

Primate Visions

When reading Haraway’s books, it is clear that her writings are predominantly grounded in her knowledge of the history of science and biology (Carubia, 4). In her book, Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science, Haraway explicates the metaphors and narratives that direct the science of primatology. She demonstrates that there is a tendency to masculinize the stories about "reproductive competition and sex between aggressive males and receptive females [that] facilitate some and preclude other types of conclusions" (Carubia, 4). She contends that female primatologists focus on different observations that require more communication and basic survival activities, offering very different perspectives of the origins of nature and culture than the currently accepted ones. Drawing on examples of Western narratives and ideologies of gender, race and class, Haraway questions the most fundamental constructions of scientific human nature stories based on primates. In Primate Visions, she writes:

My hope has been that the always oblique and sometimes perverse focusing would facilitate revisionings of fundamental, persistent western narratives about difference, especially racial and sexual difference; about reproduction, especially in terms of the multiplicities of generators and offspring; and about survival, especially about survival imagined in the boundary conditions of both the origins and ends of history, as told within western traditions of that complex genre (377).

Haraway's aim for science is "to reveal the limits and impossibility of its 'objectivity' and to consider some recent revisions offered by feminist primatologists" (Russon, 10). An expert in her field, Haraway proposed an alternative perspective of the accepted ideologies that continue to shape the way scientific human nature stories are created. More importantly, Haraway offers inventive analogies that reveal whole new vistas and possibilities for investigation (Elkins).

A Cyborg Manifesto

Haraway has been described as a "feminist, rather loosely a neo-Marxist and a postmodernist" (Young, 172). In 1985, Haraway published the essay "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" in Socialist Review. Although most of Haraway's earlier work was focused on emphasizing the masculine bias in scientific culture, she has also contributed greatly to feminist narratives of the twentieth century.

In A Cyborg Manifesto, Haraway deploys the metaphor of a cyborg in order to challenge feminists to engage in a politics beyond naturalism and essentialisms. She also uses the metaphor of the cyborg to offer a political strategy for the seemingly disparate interests of Socialism and feminism, writing "We are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs." A cyborg is (see also Cyborg theory) a:

As a postmodern feminist, she argues against Essentialism, which she defines as "any theory that claims to identify a universal, transhistorical, necessary cause or constitution of gender identity or patriarchy" (Feminist Epistemology, 2006). Such theories, she argues, either exclude women who don't conform to the theory and segregate them from "real women" or represent them as inferior.

Another form of feminism that Haraway is disputing is "a jurisprudence model of feminism made popular by the legal scholar and Marxist, Catharine MacKinnon" (Burow-Flak, 2000) who fought to outlaw pornography as a form of hate speech. Haraway argues that MacKinnon's legalistic version of radical feminism assimilates all of women's experiences into a particular identity, which ironically recapitulates the very Western ideologies that have contributed to the oppression of women. She writes: "It is factually and politically wrong to assimilate all of the diverse 'moments' or 'conversations' in recent women's politics named radical feminism to MacKinnon's version" (158).

According to Haraway's Manifesto, "there is nothing about being female that naturally binds women together into a unified category. There is not even such a state as 'being' female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices" (155). A cyborg does not require a stable, essentialist identity, argues Haraway, and feminists should consider creating coalitions based on "affinity" instead of identity. To ground her argument, Haraway analyzes the phrase "women of color", suggesting it as one possible example of affinity politics. Using a term coined by theorist Chela Sandoval, Haraway writes that "oppositional consciousness" is comparable with a cyborg politics, because rather than identity it stresses how affinity comes as a result of "otherness, difference, and specificity" (156).

Cyborg feminism

In her updated essay A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century[1], part of her book Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991), Haraway uses the cyborg metaphor to explain how fundamental contradictions in feminist theory and identity should be conjoined, rather than resolved, similar to the fusion of machine and organism in cyborgs. The Cyborg Manifesto is also an important feminist critique of capitalism.

The idea of the cyborg deconstructs binaries of control and lack of control over the body, object and subject, nature and culture, in ways that are useful in postmodern feminist thought. Haraway uses the metaphor of cyborg identity to expose ways that things considered natural, like human bodies, are not, but are constructed by our ideas about them. This has particular relevance to feminism, since women are often discussed or treated in ways that reduce them to bodies. Balsamo and Haraway's ideas are also an important component of critiques of essentialist feminism and essentialism, as they subvert the idea of naturalness and of artificiality; the cyborg is a hybrid being.

An interpretation of the Cyborg Manifesto:

Haraway feels that the cyborg myth has the potential for radical political action as it frees feminists from a desperate search for similarity with one another, since physical/epistemological boundary breaks can be extrapolated to political boundary crossings.


Situated Knowledges

Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective (1988) sheds light on Haraway's vision for a feminist science. This essay originated as a commentary on Sandra Harding's The Science Question in Feminism (1987) and is a reply to Harding's "successor science". Haraway offers a critique of the feminist intervention into masculinized traditions of scientific rhetoric and the concept of "objectivity". The essay identifies the metaphor that gives shape to the traditional feminist critique as a polarization. At one end lies those who would assert that science is a rhetorical practice and, as such, all "science is a contestable text and a power field" (577). At the other are those interested in a feminist version of objectivity, a position Haraway describes as a "feminist empiricism". While the constructivist position, informed by Post-Structuralist theory, served as a strong tool for deconstructing the truth claims of hostile science by showing the radical historical specificity, and so contestability, of "every layer of the onion of scientific and technological constructions", it also resulted in a dismantling of any apparatus that might be used to effectively talk about the "real" world. Making use of the history of feminist standpoint theories, Haraway suggests that there may be a way to reconcile what has been accomplished by the radical constructivist critique of the historical social implications of the rhetoric of science with a specifically feminist positioning with regards to the practice of science. To do this Haraway leaves aside the polarizing metaphor to explore the possibility of a metaphor of vision as one that might see us clear of an agonistic methodology and conception of objectivity in science.

"I'd rather be a Cyborg than a goddess"

The 1990s brought about the beginning of the cyborg era and Haraway is a constant contributor to the cyberculture that exists even today. Although Haraway's writing endorses technology in her metaphor of the cyborg, it is equally critical of what technology can bring about. The idea that machines can contribute to liberation is something feminists and women should consider. Haraway writes: "Up till now (once upon a time), female embodiment seemed to be given, organic, necessary; and female embodiment seemed to mean skill in mothering and its metaphoric extensions. Only by being out of place could we take intense pleasure in machines, and then with excuses that this was organic activity after all, appropriate to females" (180). In spite of this phrase Haraway also wishes to not completely dissassociate heself from ecofeminist values.


  • Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields : Metaphors of Organicism in Twentieth-Century Developmental Biology, 1976.
  • A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century, 1985[3]
  • "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives", in Feminist Studies, 1988, pp. 575–599.
  • Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science, Routledge: New York and London, 1989.
  • Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, New York: Routledge, and London: Free Association Books, 1991. (includes "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century")
  • Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan©Meets_OncoMouse™: Feminism and Technoscience, New York: Routledge, 1997. ISBN 0-415-91245-8
  • The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness, Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2003. ISBN 0-97175758-5
  • When Species Meet, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. ISBN 0-816-65045-4
  • How Like a Leaf: A Conversation with Donna J. Haraway, Thyrza Nichols Goodeve, Routledge, 1999


  • Burow-Flak, Elizabeth, "Background Information on Cyborg Manifesto", 17 September 2000. Online, 30 January 2006.
  • Campbell, Kirsten, "The Promise of Feminist Reflexivities: Developing Donna Haraway's Project for Feminist Science Studies", in Hypatia, 2004, pp.162-182.
  • Carubia, Josephine M., "Haraway on the Map", in Semiotic Review of Books. 9:1 (1998) 4-7.
  • Elkins, Charles, "The Uses of Science Fiction", in Science Fiction Studies, 17:2 (1990).
  • "Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science", in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 30 January 2006. Online
  • Flanagan, Mary and Austin Booth, Reload: Rethinking Women + Cyberculture, 2002.
  • Kunzru, Hari. "You Are Cyborg", in Wired Magazine, 5:2 (1997) 1-7.
  • O'Riley, Patricia Ann, "Technology, culture, and socioeconomics: a rhizoanalysis of educational discourses", New York: P. Lang, 2003.
  • Packman, Carl, "God(desses) and the Jouissance of Woman, or The (Cyborg) Future of Enjoyment", [Online]
  • Russon, Anne. "Deconstructing Primatology?", in Semiotic Review of Books, 2:2 (1991) 9-11.
  • Sandoval, Chela, "New Sciences: Cyborg Feminism and the Methodology of the Oppressed", in Chris Hables Gray (ed.), The Cyborg Handbook, New York: Routledge, 1995.
  • Senft, Theresa M. "Reading Notes on Donna Haraway's 'Cyborg Manifesto'", 21 October 2001. Online, 1 February 2006.
  • Young, Robert M, "Science, Ideology & Donna Haraway", in Science as Culture, 15.3 (1992): 165-207.


See also

  • Cyborg theory
  • Democratic transhumanism
  • Postgenderism
  • Posthumanism
  • Postmodernism
  • Sandy Stone
  • Techno-progressivism
  • Technoscience
  • Ecofeminism

External links

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