what people are experiencing [in this global world order] is not transparently clear, and we lack sufficiently subtle connections for collectively building effective theories of experience. Present efforts – Marxist, psychoanalytic, feminist, anthropological – to clarify even ‘our’ experience are rudimentary.
(Haraway, 1997a: 519)
Alongside Benhabib’s (1992) exile and Braidotti’s (1994) nomad, Haraway’s (1985; 1991; 1997a) cyborg is a construction of the postmodern subject. This subject is unlike the humanist subject of standpoint theory who is unified, fixed and, with the requisite degree of critical consciousness, can access and theorize her ‘experience’. The cyborg is the multiply located subject of the global order. Haraway’s construction of this subject starts from the premise that our experiences are constructed through the concepts that we have available to us and contemporary theories are insufficient to the task of adequately offering explanatory frameworks for understanding these. In saying this Haraway recognizes the political importance of validating women’s experiences of their daily lives. However, she is critical of the totalizing tendencies of standpoint theory that suggest a shared experience of womanhood. Indeed, one of Haraway’s major purposes is to illustrate how the production of universalistic theories misses the diversity of experiences and realities in a postmodern, global age of informatics.
Haraway locates the development of standpoint theory within a narrative framework that takes account of the historical discursive political necessities of its time. She therefore argues that the conceptualization of feminist standpoint should be perceived as fiction, albeit necessary, to the political context within which it was generated. Haraway comments on how it was politically necessary for feminists to construct ‘women’s experience’ as a totalizing concept because of the invisibility of women in main/malestream science. This construction facilitated the visibility of, and recognition of the salience of, women’s experiences. However, what is necessary in a postmodern global order is another kind of story that will engage the imagination and construct the possibilities for liberation. The cyborg is, therefore, both a politically motivated imaginative device and an alternative story about women’s experiences. In particular, Haraway urges us ‘to consider how humanity might have a figure outside the narratives of humanism. What language. . . would such a ‘‘posthumanist’’ figure speak?’ (Brah, 1999: 5).
The aim of the metaphor of cyborg is to illustrate how postmodern feminist epistemology can be synthesized with standpoint epistemology. This is achieved through an exploration of multiple viewpoints and locations. In this way Haraway is not suggesting that the cyborg should be viewed as a totalizing theory in terms that all women experience the world in this way. Rather, she is stressing the situated and perspectival nature of knowledge (Hekman, 1999). Haraway therefore uses the cyborg as a narrative or story that points us towards a post-gender world. In this regard the cyborg is an alternative story to that offered by standpoint theorists through which Haraway does not discard our prior understandings but builds on them in order to enable women to construct their own experiences. Haraway draws on the fractured identities and plurality of feminisms. She says that she wishes to ‘sketch a picture of possible unity’ (1997a: 511) that draws on socialist and feminist principles of design. Thus Haraway:
assumes that our picture of reality is a picture that includes some experiences but excludes others. She also assumes that in order to alter
this picture, another picture must be constructed, and that this picture, like the picture it replaces, is political. . . Haraway assumes that the picture that feminism constructs must be intelligible in terms of the old picture, even as it transforms it. (Hekman, 1999: 141)
In addition, Haraway suggests that the transgressive nature of cyborg imagery offers a way of moving beyond dualisms. Haraway illustrates this through the positive and negative features of the cyborg metaphor. By using a technological metaphor Haraway argues that we should not simply reject and demonize technology. From one perspective a cyborg world may imply being caught up in a grid of control over the planet and as a sign of masculinist and capitalist appropriation of women’s bodies. However, from another perspective, Haraway argues that the cyborg signifies how people are not afraid to acknowledge their joint kinship with animals and machines. They are also not afraid of partial identities and contradictory standpoints. However, as Haraway argues, ‘The political struggle is to see from both perspectives at once because each reveals domination and possibilities unimaginable from the other vantage points’ (1997a: 506-7). The cyborg metaphor therefore encourages us to engage in the task of reconstructing ‘the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication with all of our parts’ (ibid.: 525). In consequence, the cyborg is multiplicity and contradiction, requires connection but rejects universalism and has no fear of merging the boundaries of the social, technological and natural. In this way the cyborg:
is a dream not of a common language, but of a powerful infidel hetero – glossia. It is an imagination of a feminist speaking in tongues to strike fear into the circuits of the supersavers of the new Right. It means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships, spaces, stories. Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess. (ibid.)