Cyborg Manifesto – Notes

Donna Haraway

A Cyborg Manifesto


A feminist, materialist, socialist, manifesto. According to the writer too many US socialist feminists see mind/body, animal/machine, idealism/materialism as dualities. Author argues that they are mixed symbiotic concepts.

Is the manifesto an effort to build a coalition of affinity rather than identity? Given that gender, race and class consciousness are constructs thrust upon people thru historical circumstance this is too shaky a basis to build a coalition. It resulted in endless splitting. P.296.

p.297 Use cyborg as a new category and is not exclusive unlike “man” (excludes women) and “woman” (cultural narrative excludes women of colour).


Argues cyborgs are a social reality as well as in fiction. This parallels “women’s experience” it is a social reality and a social construct.

We are all cyborgs. We are joined with machines.

We need to embrace this as it is fun but also take responsibility for where we draw the line between human and machine.

Fictional cyborgs have no gender. They are post-oedipal. There’s lessons in being for humans mired in gender relations. Could we really live in a gender free world?

Psychoanlysis and Marxism have an origin myth – there was a time when we were one (with our mothers or hunter gatherers, respectively) all our problems stem from the rupture of this state and us trying to get it back.

Cyborgs skip this origin myth. They were constructed. They have no unitary origin myth.

Cyborgs defines a polity based on reconfiguring social relations within the household. (e.g. no more gender politics).

Cyborgs are the product of militarism and patriarchal capitalism/state socialism. But are not necessarily going to reproduce their values and social structures.


3 boundary breakdowns that lead to cyborgism:

  1. Human – animal. (we acknowledge that humans are animals) – cyborg fills a similar philosophical space to where the boundary between animal and human is breached.
  2. Organism – machine. We can’t distinguish between the two. Machines can self-move, design, be autonomous.
  3. Physical – Non physical. The immateriality of information. The micro-ness of lots of dig tech makes it barely seem physical.


Don’t see cyborg world as either masculine orgy of war. Don’t see it as a utopia where people feel kinship with animal and machine, embrace contradictory standpoints and partial identities.

Try and see it from both perspectives to understand both dominations and possibilities.

p.300 useful quote “But in the consciousness of our failures, we risk lapsing into boundless difference and giving up on the confusing task of marking partial, real connection. Some differences are playful; some are poles of world historical systems of domination. Epistemology is about knowing the difference.”

p.301 “one must think not in terms of essential properties but in terms of design, boundary constraints, rates of flows, systems logics, costs of lowering constraints.”

p.302 instead of all that is solid melts into air we have all that is natural becomes information. Haraway suggests that this could be freeing as with no “natural” facts to draw upon race, class, gender, etc are revealed as social constructs. Will that let us build something new from there?

p.302 Technologies and scientific discourses can be partially understood as formlizations, as frozen moments, of the fluid social interactions constituting them, but they should also be viewed as instruments for enforcing meanings.

p.303 Cybernetic summary. Aim of system thinking is to map flows of information. Info is the universal element that allows unhindered instrumental power (effective communication). All threats to system are communication breakdowns. All system breakdowns are a function of stress.

C3I – Command, Control, Communication, Intelligence

p.304 – tech allows feminization of work. The erosion of labour rights so the employee is in the historical supplicant position of women e.g. exploited.

The changing state of the family parallels capitalisms changes:

Early industrial – patriarchal nuclear family, private/public spheres

Welfare state – Family propped up by welfare state

Modern homework capitalism – Women keeping family afloat. Erosion of gender differences


Women in the integrated circuit: – p.308

No longer able to characterize women’s lives by public and private spheres. It’s all interwoven.

Idealized social Locations, have no place for women, only contradictions and differences. This can’t be understood from the perspective of a single self. The subject is dispersed –

Home, Market, Paid Work Place, State, School, Hospital, Church – All are affected by science and tech. Seemingly for the worse. Socialist-feminist need to find a way to engage with tech

p.309 – don’t just sort people’s subjectivity into “clear sighted critique/Marxist” or “false consciousness”. Aim for subtle understanding of emerging pleasures, powers and experience as human tech relationships expand. BE aware how social norms are changing.

p.310 – finally gets round to stating her argument clearly. Feminism and Marxism are still too totalizing. We can learn from cyborgs to create potent fusions that offer multiple understanding of the lived social experience.

p.311 Cyborg writing isn’t about returning to a mythic time when all were one. It is about seizing the tools that mark the oppressed and repurposing them.

p.313 cyborg politics is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication.

Desire as a force lead to language and gender. What if tech subverts the power of desire? New genders emerge. Like Otaku?

Cyborg politics undermines the idea of constructing a revolutionary subject from the perspective of victimhood, righteousness, innocence, being “more natural”. Thus it is more inclusive and less prone to fracture than Marxism or feminism.

Freed of identity, the need for salvation, privileged reading we can finally play with text. We can recognise ourself as fully implicated in the world. We can do away with purity, vanguagrd parties and the like.

  1. 315 Bodies are maps of power and identity. So is the cyborg body. It has no origin, innocence, it collapses unitary identity and dualisms. And many more things I can’t be bothered to list.

p.316 Cyborg imagery means engaging with the social relations of tech and science. Learn to enjoy the skilful task of constructing boundaries of daily life.

Materialist – nothing exists but matter.

Dialectic – investigating truth of opinions

Taylorism – scientific efficient management method

Infomatics of domination – a person’s integration into the world system of production/reproduction and communication.

p.303 – amazing quote on AIDS and children with baboon hearts.