I’ve just read Shields and, I have to admit, it’s got me quite excited about reading Haraway (who I’ve been putting off for reasons I’ve explained earlier).
I’m not sure what significantly new line Shields is articulating but it looks like a good introduction to Haraway and a clear explanation of the cyborg as “literary device” for exploring identity, power etc. in ways not dissimilar to the earlier literary antecedents (e.g. the flâneur).
Here’s Shields on this:
The inky cyborg is a hybrid subject of history offered as part of a new political myth. It is an immanent critique of the ‘constructed’ nature of a unitary womens’ identity, which was intended to subvert the foundational myths of socialist feminism, whose homogeneous prescriptions limited the political relevance and analytical purchase of academic feminism. Even though avowedly feminine, Haraway’s cyborg takes us beyond heteronormative notions of gender: she is a hybrid, trans-being without clear origins, fidelities or identity. (Shields 2006: 209)
Just as the flâneur can be seen to be a 19th-century literary device who sought the truth of the flux of public space, so the cyborg is a science fiction literary device that encapsulates truths of genetic space. (Shields 2006: 210)
Tales of the cyborg are less a matter of actual, concrete mechanical or even virtual humans. They are more a matter of stories, political mythologies and a form of writing that is concerned with ‘seizing the tools to mark the world’ and ‘recoding communication and intelligence to subvert command and control’ (1990: 175). The textual preoccupations that bracket the claims concerning the social relations of technologies in the ‘Manifesto’ are notable in that they are a language politics that speaks against colonization, hetero-normative identification and origin myths. ‘A cyborg body is not innocent; it was not born in a garden; it does not seek unitary identity . . . it takes irony for granted’ (1990: 180). (Shields 2006: 211)
In terms of taking Haraway a bit further, I thought Shields was really good on exemplifying some of the trends she identifies. I liked this line in particular which struck me as interesting in the context of recent government legislation on drugs, prostitution and, of course, the continued ‘war on terror’ (I prefer Borat’s “war of terror” as the more accurate description):
Terms such as ‘Empire’ and ‘militarization’ poorly capture the internal focus of the surveillant state on both bodies and biological processes (growing incarceration, extra-legal eavesdropping, regulation of substances). (Shields 2006: 214)
This afternoon, I’m gonna print it off, find a comfy chair in Starbucks (I’m thinking Haraway might disapprove of such chains?) and have a read. Will blog again later …
Shields, R. (2006). Flânerie for Cyborgs. Theory Culture Society, 23(7-8): 209-220.