Monday, July 6, 2009

[Yasmin_discussions] Ethnic Cyborg - the harawaian cyborg

Although I am usually in the position of a reader of the posts on this list,
this time I really feel the need to take part in this extremely interesting
discussion, since I have been working very much on feminist cyborg theory for
my research.
I think that if we want to "properly" talk about the cyborg -
that is as the "inappropriate/d other" -, we need to retrieve the political and
ethical implications of the cyborg figuration in Donna Haraway's theory, as
well as to consider the recent developments of cyberfeminist theory and
practice in their encounter with postcolonial theory and transcultural

The figuration of the cyborg emerges from Haraway's situated
critique of technoscience. In fact, the cyborg is a situated and political
figuration, whose articulation happens to be linked with the very possibility
of a politics of location. The harawaian cyborg can be seen as a figure of
connection and connectivity, but only inasmuch as it is also considered as a
figure of partiality. Technofeminist connection is partiality, since it implies
the encounter with otherness, in/appropriatedness, differentiality.
Connectivity, in this context, is not a inclusive, inevitable or "evolutionary"
process of trascendental communion of subjectivities eventually taking place in
every corner of the planet, to paraphrase Raquel Paricio, but a situated
practice of networking dealing with contradictions and disjunctures (and
fighting against corporate powers' connections).

Feminist search for
commonalities has gradually been accompanied by the recognition and
articulation of differences within and without, rather than their inclusion.
Moreover, as Maria Fernandez points out, feminist incorporation is based on
acknowledging the "power and the legacy of embodied practices", rather than
overcoming them. For this reason, if "we are all cyborgs", this doesn't mean
that we all share the same ontological status, but that we are non unitary,
hybrid formations experiencing multiple connections across different

Lanfranco Aceti writes: "The new nature of the cyborg should have
been that of revolutionizing the status quo, overcoming differences, surpassing
and moving beyond human differences and even beyond human nature."
according to Haraway, cyborg bodies move across differences, rather than
overcoming them. Here is what Trinh T. Minh-ha
interviewed by Marina Gržinić
affirms in this respect:
"For me, the question of hybridity or of cultural
difference has never been a question of blurred boundaries. We constantly
devise boundaries, but these boundaries, which are political, strategical or
tactical-whatever the circumstance requires, and each circumstance generates a
different kind of boundary-need not be taken as an end in itself. The notion of
the migrant self, which has taken on a new lease in our times, is very relevant
here. The self-in-displacement or the self-in-creation is one through which
changes and discontinuities are accounted for in the making and unmaking of
identity, and for which one needs specific, but mobile boundaries. For example,
when do you call yourself a feminist, when you do not call yourself a feminist,
when do you see yourself as part of the East, and when do you when you tell
people the West is also in me? When I am speaking about the West I am not
speaking about a reality outside myself. It is not a question of blurring
boundaries or of rendering them invisible. It is a question of shifting them as
soon as they tend to become ending lines." (Inappropriate/d Artificiality,
1998, http://arch.ced.berkeley.

Thus, I believe that
speaking about ethnic cyborgs makes sense as soon as ethnicity is seen as
tactically articulating the boundary condition of cyborg bodies together with
other differences, rather than being considered as an essential property used
to perpetuate discriminatory as well as neocolonizing strategies. Combining
cyborg feminism and Thirld World feminism, for instance, Chela Sandoval sees
connectivity as a "crossing network of consciousness", based on the traversing
of sexual, cultural and national boundaries, rather than on their erasure; her
approach allows both the dominant and the oppositional power forces that flow
through the networks to be dealt with. Anna Munster also adopts an ethico-
aesthetic approach to digitality; reading the digital through the social, she
foregrounds the engagement with differences inside connectivity, rather than
the elision of differences through it.
I agree with Ekmel Ertan's statement
that "there is no place for ethnicity in utopias because utopias are uniform".
That is why I rather consider the cyborg as a techno-topic - neither utopic nor
dystopic - figuration that combines imagination and responsible praxis,
allowing to account for the contradictions and fragmentations of networks from
the inside and, at the same time, to produce alternative forms of

Federica Timeto

Ph.D. Candidate
University of Plymouth, UK

Planetary Collegium/M-Node

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