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robertogreco : cyborgmanifesto   2

Feminist cyborg scholar Donna Haraway: ‘The disorder of our era isn’t necessary’ | World news | The Guardian
"The history of philosophy is also a story about real estate.

Driving into Santa Cruz to visit Donna Haraway, I can’t help feeling that I was born too late. The metal sculpture of a donkey standing on Haraway’s front porch, the dogs that scramble to her front door barking when we ring the bell, and the big black rooster strutting in the coop out back – the entire setting evokes an era of freedom and creativity that postwar wealth made possible in northern California.

Here was a counterculture whose language and sensibility the tech industry sometimes adopts, but whose practitioners it has mostly priced out. Haraway, who came to the University of Santa Cruz in 1980 to take up the first tenured professorship in feminist theory in the US, still conveys the sense of a wide-open world.

Haraway was part of an influential cohort of feminist scholars who trained as scientists before turning to the philosophy of science in order to investigate how beliefs about gender shaped the production of knowledge about nature. Her most famous text remains The Cyborg Manifesto, published in 1985. It began with an assignment on feminist strategy for the Socialist Review after the election of Ronald Reagan and grew into an oracular meditation on how cybernetics and digitization had changed what it meant to be male or female – or, really, any kind of person. It gained such a cult following that Hari Kunzru, profiling her for Wired magazine years later, wrote: “To boho twentysomethings, her name has the kind of cachet usually reserved for techno acts or new phenethylamines.”

The cyborg vision of gender as changing and changeable was radically new. Her map of how information technology linked people around the world into new chains of affiliation, exploitation and solidarity feels prescient at a time when an Instagram influencer in Berlin can line the pockets of Silicon Valley executives by using a phone assembled in China that contains cobalt mined in Congo to access a platform moderated by Filipinas.

Haraway’s other most influential text may be an essay that appeared a few years later, on what she called “situated knowledges”. The idea, developed in conversation with feminist philosophers and activists such as Nancy Hartsock, concerns how truth is made. Concrete practices of particular people make truth, Haraway argued. The scientists in a laboratory don’t simply observe or conduct experiments on a cell, for instance, but co-create what a cell is by seeing, measuring, naming and manipulating it. Ideas like these have a long history in American pragmatism. But they became politically explosive during the so-called science wars of the 1990s – a series of public debates among “scientific realists” and “postmodernists” with echoes in controversies about bias and objectivity in academia today.

Haraway’s more recent work has turned to human-animal relations and the climate crisis. She is a capacious yes, and thinker, the kind of leftist feminist who believes that the best thinking is done collectively. She is constantly citing other people, including graduate students, and giving credit to them. A recent documentary about her life and work by the Italian film-maker Fabrizio Terranova, Storytelling for Earthly Survival, captures this sense of commitment, as well as her extraordinary intellectual agility and inventiveness.

At her home in Santa Cruz, we talked about her memories of the science wars and how they speak to our current “post-truth” moment, her views on contemporary climate activism and the Green New Deal, and why play is essential for politics.

We are often told we are living in a time of “post-truth”. Some critics have blamed philosophers like yourself for creating the environment of “relativism” in which “post-truth” flourishes. How do you respond to that?

Our view was never that truth is just a question of which perspective you see it from.

[The philosopher] Bruno [Latour] and I were at a conference together in Brazil once. (Which reminds me: if people want to criticize us, it ought to be for the amount of jet fuel involved in making and spreading these ideas! Not for leading the way to post-truth.)

Anyhow. We were at this conference. It was a bunch of primate field biologists, plus me and Bruno. And Stephen Glickman, a really cool biologist, took us apart privately. He said: “Now, I don’t want to embarrass you. But do you believe in reality?”

We were both kind of shocked by the question. First, we were shocked that it was a question of belief, which is a Protestant question. A confessional question. The idea that reality is a question of belief is a barely secularized legacy of the religious wars. In fact, reality is a matter of worlding and inhabiting. It is a matter of testing the holdingness of things. Do things hold or not?

Take evolution. The notion that you would or would not “believe” in evolution already gives away the game. If you say, “Of course I believe in evolution,” you have lost, because you have entered the semiotics of representationalism – and post-truth, frankly. You have entered an arena where these are all just matters of internal conviction and have nothing to do with the world. You have left the domain of worlding.

The science warriors who attacked us during the science wars were determined to paint us as social constructionists – that all truth is purely socially constructed. And I think we walked into that. We invited those misreadings in a range of ways. We could have been more careful about listening and engaging more slowly. It was all too easy to read us in the way the science warriors did. Then the rightwing took the science wars and ran with it, which eventually helped nourish the whole fake-news discourse.

Your PhD is in biology. How do your scientist colleagues feel about your approach to science?

To this day I know only one or two scientists who like talking this way. And there are good reasons why scientists remain very wary of this kind of language. I belong to the Defend Science movement and in most public circumstances I will speak softly about my own ontological and epistemological commitments. I will use representational language. I will defend less-than-strong objectivity because I think we have to, situationally.

Is that bad faith? Not exactly. It’s related to [what the postcolonial theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has called] “strategic essentialism”. There is a strategic use to speaking the same idiom as the people that you are sharing the room with. You craft a good-enough idiom so you can work on something together. I go with what we can make happen in the room together. And then we go further tomorrow.

In the struggles around climate change, for example, you have to join with your allies to block the cynical, well-funded, exterminationist machine that is rampant on the Earth. I think my colleagues and I are doing that. We have not shut up, or given up on the apparatus that we developed. But one can foreground and background what is most salient depending on the historical conjuncture.

What do you find most salient at the moment?

What is at the center of my attention are land and water sovereignty struggles, such as those over the Dakota Access pipeline, over coal mining on the Black Mesa plateau, over extractionism everywhere. My attention is centered on the extermination and extinction crises happening at a worldwide level, on human and non-human displacement and homelessness. That’s where my energies are. My feminism is in these other places and corridors.

What kind of political tactics do you see as being most important – for young climate activists, the Green New Deal, etc?

The degree to which people in these occupations play is a crucial part of how they generate a new political imagination, which in turn points to the kind of work that needs to be done. They open up the imagination of something that is not what [the ethnographer] Deborah Bird Rose calls “double death” – extermination, extraction, genocide.

Now, we are facing a world with all three of those things. We are facing the production of systemic homelessness. The way that flowers aren’t blooming at the right time, and so insects can’t feed their babies and can’t travel because the timing is all screwed up, is a kind of forced homelessness. It’s a kind of forced migration, in time and space.

This is also happening in the human world in spades. In regions like the Middle East and Central America, we are seeing forced displacement, some of which is climate migration. The drought in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America [Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador] is driving people off their land.

So it’s not a humanist question. It’s a multi-kind and multi-species question.

What’s so important about play?

Play captures a lot of what goes on in the world. There is a kind of raw opportunism in biology and chemistry, where things work stochastically to form emergent systematicities. It’s not a matter of direct functionality. We need to develop practices for thinking about those forms of activity that are not caught by functionality, those which propose the possible-but-not-yet, or that which is not-yet but still open.

It seems to me that our politics these days require us to give each other the heart to do just that. To figure out how, with each other, we can open up possibilities for what can still be. And we can’t do that in a negative mood. We can’t do that if we do nothing but critique. We need critique; we absolutely need it. But it’s not going to open up the sense of what might yet be. It’s not going to open up the sense of that which is not yet possible but profoundly needed.

The established disorder of our present era is not necessary. It exists. But it’s not necessary."
donnaharaway  2019  anthropocene  climatechange  science  scientism  disorder  greennewdeal  politics  interdependence  families  critique  humanism  multispecies  morethanhuman  displacement  globalwarming  extermination  extinction  extraction  capitalism  genocide  deborahbirdrose  doubledeath  feminism  postmodernism  harikunzru  cyborgmanifesto  philosophy  philosophyofscience  santacruz  technology  affiliation  exploitation  solidarity  situatedknowledge  nancyhartstock  objectivity  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Monstrous, Duplicated, Potent | Issue 28 | n+1
"On first read, I was dazzled and bewildered. Desperate to impress the organizer, who I thought brilliant, I strained over it line by line in hopes of insight. In the end, I mumbled through our meeting. I didn’t understand the Manifesto until I’d read it three more times. In truth, I probably still don’t. But for a young woman struggling to understand the world after Hurricane Katrina and a global financial crisis, Haraway beckoned. She offered a way to make sense of the things that seemed absent from politics as I knew it: science, nature, feminism.

The Manifesto proclaims itself to be against origin stories, but its own is hard to resist. In 1982, the Marxist journal Socialist Review — a bicoastal publication originally titled Socialist Revolution, whose insurrectionary name was moderated in the late 1970s as politics soured — asked Haraway to write five pages on the priorities of socialist feminism in the Reagan era. Haraway responded with thirty. It was the first piece, she claimed, she had ever written on a computer (a Hewlett-Packard-86). The submission caused controversy at the journal, with disagreement breaking down along geographic lines. As Haraway later recalled in an interview, “The East Coast Collective truly disapproved of it politically and did not want it published.” The more catholic West Coast won out, and the Manifesto was published in 1985 as “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the 1980s,” though it has been known colloquially as the Cyborg Manifesto ever since.

In one sense, Haraway did what she was asked: she outlined the contemporary state of political economy from a socialist-feminist perspective. Her reading of the shift to post-Fordism was loose but lucid. The rise of communications technologies made it possible to disperse labor globally while still controlling it, she noted, scattering once-unionized factory jobs across the continents. The gender of industrial work was changing too: there were more women assembling computer chips in East Asia than men slapping together cars in the American Midwest. Automation was lighter and brighter: in place of hulking industrial machinery, our “machines are made of sunshine” — but this light, invisible power nevertheless caused “immense human pain in Detroit and Singapore.” Family structures were changing: mothers increasingly worked outside the home and headed up the household. The result was what Haraway, drawing on Richard Gordon, called the homework economy — a pointed term for what’s euphemistically and blandly called the service economy.

The Manifesto offered a new politics for this new economy. Prescient about the need to organize the feminized, if not always female, sectors, Haraway explicitly called leftists to support SEIU District 925, a prominent campaign to unionize office workers. She also criticized the idea of a universal subject, whether held up by Marxists (the proletarian) or radical feminists (the woman). A new politics had to be constructed not around a singular agent but on the basis of a patchwork of identities and affinities. How, then, to find unity across difference, make political subjects in a postmodern era, and build power without presuming consensus? “One is too few, but two are too many,” she wrote cryptically. “One is too few, and two is only one possibility.” Acting as isolated individuals leads nowhere, but the effort to act collectively cannot leave difference aside. Women of color, Haraway suggested, following Chela Sandoval, could not rely on the stability of either category; they might lead the way in forging a new, nonessentialist unity based on affinity rather than identity.

This is where the metaphor of the cyborg comes in. For Haraway, the cyborg is a hybrid figure that crosses boundaries: between human and machine, human and animal, organism and machine, reality and fiction. As a political subject, it is expansive enough to encompass the range of human experience in all its permutations. A hybrid, it is more than one, but less than two.

In place of old political formations, Haraway imagined new cyborgian ones. She hoped that “the unnatural cyborg women making chips in Asia and spiral dancing in Santa Rita Jail” would together “guide effective oppositional strategies.” Her paradigmatic “cyborg society” was the Livermore Action Group, an antinuclear activist group targeting the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a nuclear-weapons-research facility in Northern California. The group, she thought, was “committed to building a political form that actually manages to hold together witches, engineers, elders, perverts, Christians, mothers, and Leninists long enough to disarm the state.”

What set the Manifesto apart from other reconceptions of feminism was its embrace of science. The cyborg was a figure that only a feminist biologist — herself an unlikely figure — could imagine. While by the 1980s many feminists were wary of biological claims about sexual difference, evading charges of essentialism by separating sex from gender (biology might give you a certain body, but society conditioned how you lived in it), Haraway argued that failing to take a position on biology was to “lose too much” — to surrender the notion of the body itself as anything more than a “blank page for social inscriptions.” Distinguishing her attachment to the body from the usual Earth Mother connotations was its famous closing line: “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.”

Who wouldn’t? The cyborg’s popularity was no doubt fueled in part by the vision of a bionic babe it suggested — a Furiosa or the Terminator — though it couldn’t be further from her meaning. Asked what she considered a true moment of cyborgness in 1999, Haraway responded, “the sense of the intricacy, interest, and pleasure — as well as the intensity — of how I have imagined how like a leaf I am.” The point was not that she shared some biological commonality with a leaf, or that she felt leaves to be kindred spirits (though she very well might have). What made her giddy was the thought of all the work that had gone into producing the knowledge that she was like a leaf — how incredible it was to be able to know such a thing — and the kinds of relationship to a leaf that such knowledge made possible.

Despite her frequent reminders that it was written as a “mostly sober” intervention into socialist-feminist politics rather than “the ramblings of a blissed-out, techno-bunny fembot,” many still read it as the latter. Wired profiled her enthusiastically in 1997. “To boho twentysomethings,” they wrote, “her name has the kind of cachet usually reserved for techno acts or new phenethylamines.” (More recently, the entrepreneurial synthetic biologist Drew Endy deployed the Manifesto in support of his bid to label synthetic biological products as “natural” under federal guidelines to increase their appeal to cautious consumers.)

Its Reagan-era coordinates may have changed, but the Manifesto remains Haraway’s most widely read work. The cyborg became a celebrity, as did Haraway herself, both serving as signifiers of a queer, savvy, self-aware feminism. Yet she has grown weary of its success, admonishing readers that “cyborgs are critters in a queer litter, not the Chief Figure of Our Times.”

Somewhat counterintuitively, it’s Haraway herself who sometimes seems the Chief Figure. There’s no Harawavian school, though she has many acolytes. She does not belong to any particular school herself, though many have attempted to place her. You can’t really do a Harawavian analysis of the economy or the laboratory; other than the cyborg, she’s produced few portable concepts or frameworks. Her own individual prominence runs counter to her view of intellectual work as collectively produced. Yet for thirty years she’s been ahead of intellectual trends, not by virtue of building foundational frameworks but by inspiring others to spawn and spur entire fields, from feminist science studies to multispecies ethics. Her work tends to emerge from problems she sees in the world rather than from engagement with literatures, thinkers, or trends, yet it manages to transcend mere timeliness.

Her new book, Staying with the Trouble, is a commentary on the most pressing threat of our era: catastrophic climate change. It’s hard to think of someone better suited to the task. Climate change requires ways of thinking capable of confronting the closely bound future of countless humans and nonhumans, the basis for certainty in scientific findings, the political consequences of such knowledge, and the kinds of political action that such consequences call for. If Haraway has long practiced such hybrid thinking, that also means the problem best suited to challenging her thought — to testing its mettle, and its usefulness to our political future — has decisively arrived."



"Under Hutchinson’s supervision, she wrote a dissertation heavily influenced by Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 landmark The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn had caused an uproar with his argument that rather than steadily progressing toward truth, the production of scientific knowledge was marked by conflict and upheaval. What scientists had once been certain was true would eventually be considered wrong. Each emerging framework was often incommensurable with what had come before. Kuhn called this phenomenon a “paradigm shift.” A classic example was the transition from Newtonian physics to Einsteinian relativity."

[See also: "Cthulhu plays no role for me"
https://www.viewpointmag.com/2017/05/08/cthulhu-plays-no-role-for-me/ ]
donnaharaway  2017  science  scientism  feminism  cyborgs  serviceeconomy  economics  academia  philosophy  1982  1985  california  ucsantacruz  queerness  biology  nancyhartstock  marxism  fredericjameson  hueynewton  angeladavis  historyofconsciousness  teresadelauretis  climatechange  anthropocene  naomiklein  blockadia  rustenhogness  kinstanleyrobinson  cyborgmanifesto  jamesclifford  histcon  alyssabattistoni  blackpantherparty  bobbyseale  jayemiller  historyofscience  radicalism  radicalscience  multispecies  animals  praxis  gregorybateson  systemsthinking  language  storytelling  politics  intersectionality  situatedknowledge  solidarity  perspective  thomaskuhn  epistemology  reality  consciousness  primatology  theory  empiricism  octaviabutler  sciencefiction  scifi  patriarchy  colonialism  racism  ignorance  objectivity  curiosity  technology  biotechnology  technofuturism  companionspecies  dogs  ethics  chthulucene  capitalocene  ursulaleguin  utopia  mundane  kinship  families  unity  friendship  work  labor  hope  sophielewis  blackpanthers 
may 2017 by robertogreco

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