Donna Haraway


Donna Haraway : biography

September 6, 1944 –


Major themes

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). Haraway urges feminists to be more involved in the world of technoscience and to be credited for that involvement. In her 1997 publication FemaleMan©Meets_OncoMouse™: Feminism and Technoscience, she remarked I want feminists to be enrolled more tightly in the meaning-making processes of technoscientific world-building. I also want feminist—activists, cultural producers, scientists, engineers, and scholars (all overlapping categories) — to be recognized for the articulations and enrollment we have been making all along within technoscience, in spite of the ignorance of most “mainstream” scholars in their characterization (or lack of characterizations) of feminism in relation to both technoscientific practice and technoscience studies (396).

"A Cyborg Manifesto"

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. For Haraway, the Manifesto came at a critical juncture at which feminists, in order to have any real-world significance, had to acknowledge their situatedness within what she terms the “informatics of domination.” Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." Stanford University. . Feminists must, she proclaims, unite behind “an ironic dream of a common language for women in the integrated circuit.” Women were no longer on the outside along a hierarchy of privileged binaries but rather deeply imbued, exploited by and complicit within networked hegemony, and had to form their politics as such.

In "A Cyborg Manifesto", Haraway deploys the metaphor of a cyborg to challenge feminists to engage in a politics beyond naturalism and essentialism. She also uses the cyborg metaphor 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"(p. 150). A cyborg is a: