Escaping Domination by Absorption

Greg Halenda '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

Donna Haraway's A Cyborg Manifesto may well have been the most painful reading I have ever done. Though the passages that I felt deserve attention are few and far between, I was able to stomach one point Haraway made long enough to consider its significance:

Intense pleasure in skill, machine skill, ceases to be a sin, but an aspect of embodiment. The machine is not an it to be animated, worshipped, and dominated. The machine is us, our processes, an aspect of our embodiment. We can be responsible for machines, they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they.

And, further on, Haraway states that "cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves."

This seems to be a very astute observation. While it is fairly apparent that a cyborg is some combination of woman and machine, (clearly, the common convention of "man" would be an atrocious sin of domination here) and that this combination makes the woman more than human, I don't think the similar idea of the machine becoming more than machine has been explored as in depth.

If the machine is more than machine, who is to say that the human becomes the dominant force in the union? Haraway seems to think that in a pre-cyborg state, the machines dominate the humans, and the union flips this relationship around. What about the rat things of Snowcrash ? Though not a woman, Haraway has little problem blurring animals and humans anyways, and they seem to be a slave to their machinery.

The idea of escaping the binary duality of man or machine is very important to cyborg theory. Maybe it helps Haraway in her quest to end the socio-economic domination cycles, maybe not. Either way, it does seem to help cyborgs accomplish greater things than either man or machine alone.

Course Website cyborg Body & Self

Last modified 7 April 2005