Donna Jeanne Haraway
September 6, 1944
|Awards||J. D. Bernal Award, Ludwik Fleck Prize, Robert K. Merton Award|
|Alma mater||Yale University, Colorado College|
|Influences||Nancy Hartsock, Sandra Harding, G. Evelyn Hutchinson, Robert Young, Gregory Bateson|
|Discipline||Zoology, Biology, Science and Politics, Technology, Feminist Theory, Medicine Studies, Animal Studies, Animal-Human Relationships|
|Main interests||Feminist studies, ecofeminism, posthumanism|
|Notable works||A Cyborg Manifesto, Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science, Staying with the Trouble, "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective"|
|Notable ideas||cyborg, cyborg feminism, cyborg imagery, primatology, cross species sociality|
Donna J. Haraway (born September 6, 1944) is an American Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness Department and Feminist Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, United States. She is a prominent scholar in the field of science and technology studies, described in the early 1990s as a "feminist and postmodernist". Haraway is the author of numerous foundational books and essays that bring together questions of science and feminism, such as "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" (1985) and "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective" (1988). Additionally, for her contributions to the intersection of information technology and feminist theory, Haraway is widely cited in works related to Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Her Situated Knowledges and Cyborg Manifesto publications in particular, have sparked discussion within the HCI community regarding framing the positionality from which research and systems are designed. She is also a leading scholar in contemporary ecofeminism, associated with post-humanism and new materialism movements. Her work criticizes anthropocentrism, emphasizes the self-organizing powers of nonhuman processes, and explores dissonant relations between those processes and cultural practices, rethinking sources of ethics. Haraway criticizes the Anthropocene because it generalizes us as a species. However, she also recognizes the importance of it recognizing humans as key agents. Haraway prefers the term Capitalocene which defines capitalism's relentless imperatives to expand itself and grow, but she does not like the theme of irreversible destruction in both the Anthropocene and Capitalocene.
Haraway has taught Women's Studies and the History of Science at the University of Hawaii (1971-1974) and Johns Hopkins University (1974-1980). She began working as a professor at the University of Santa Cruz in 1980 where she became the first tenured professor in feminist theory in the United States. Haraway's works have contributed to the study of both human–machine and human–animal relations. Her works have sparked debate in primatology, philosophy, and developmental biology. Haraway participated in a collaborative exchange with the feminist theorist Lynn Randolph from 1990 to 1996. Their engagement with specific ideas relating to feminism, technoscience, political consciousness, and other social issues, formed the images and narrative of Haraway's book Modest_Witness for which she received the Society for Social Studies of Science's (4S) Ludwik Fleck Prize in 1999. She was also awarded with the Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology's Robert K. Merton award in 1992 for her work Primate Visions:Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science.  In 2000, Haraway was awarded the Society for Social Studies of Science's John Desmond Bernal Prize for her distinguished contributions to the field of science and technology studies. Haraway serves on the advisory board for numerous academic journals, including differences, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Contemporary Women's Writing, and Environmental Humanities.
Donna Jeanne Haraway was born on September 6, 1944 in Denver, Colorado. Haraway's father, Frank O. Haraway, was a sportswriter for The Denver Post and her mother Dorothy Mcguire Haraway, who came from a heavily Irish Catholic background, died from a heart attack when Haraway was 16 years old. Although she is no longer religious, Catholicism had a strong influence on her as she was taught by nuns in her early life. The impression of the Eucharist influenced her linkage of the figurative and the material. Haraway attended high school at St. Mary's Academy in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado. Growing up around her father's adoration for sports writing is a major part of her own love for writing. The two of them would have dinner conversations about words and their fascination with them. Another impact on Haraway's writing came from the wars she experienced throughout her life, considering she was born at the end of World War II and grew up during the Cold War.
Haraway majored in Zoology, with minors in philosophy and English at the Colorado College, on the full-tuition Boettcher Scholarship. After college, Haraway moved to Paris and studied evolutionary philosophy and theology at the Fondation Teilhard de Chardin on a Fulbright scholarship. She completed her Ph.D. in biology at Yale in 1972 writing a dissertation about the use of metaphor in shaping experiments in experimental biology titled The Search for Organizing Relations: An Organismic Paradigm in Twentieth-Century Developmental Biology, later edited into a book and published under the title Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields: Metaphors of Organicism in Twentieth-Century Developmental Biology.
Haraway was the recipient of several scholarships. Alluding to the Cold War and post-war American hegemony, she said of these, "...people like me became national resources in the national science efforts. So, there was money available for educating even Irish Catholic girls' brains." In 1999, Haraway received the Society for Social Studies of Science's (4S) Ludwik Fleck Prize. In September 2000, Haraway was awarded the Society for Social Studies of Science's highest honor, the J. D. Bernal Award, for her "distinguished contributions" to the field. Haraway's most famous essay was published in 1985: "A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the 1980s" and was characterized as "an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism".
In Haraway's theses, "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective" (1988), she means to expose the myth of scientific objectivity. Haraway defined the term "situated knowledges" as a means of understanding that all knowledge comes from positional perspectives. Our positionality inherently determines what it is possible to know about an object of interest. Comprehending situated knowledge "allows us to become answerable for what we learn how to see". Without this accountability, the implicit biases and societal stigmas of the researcher's community are twisted into ground truth from which to build assumptions and hypothesis. Haraway's ideas in "Situated Knowledges" were heavily influenced by conversations with Nancy Hartsock and other feminist philosophers and activists.
Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science, published in 1989 (Routledge), focuses on primate research and primatology: "My hope has been that the always oblique and sometimes perverse focusing would facilitate revisions 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". Currently, Donna Haraway is an American Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness Department and Feminist Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, United States. She lives North of San Francisco with her partner Rusten Hogness. In an interview with Sarah Franklin in 2017, Haraway addresses her intent to incorporate collective thinking and all perspectives: "It isn't that systematic, but there is a little list. I notice if I have cited nothing but white people, if I have erased indigenous people, if I forget non-human beings, etc. I notice on purpose. I notice if I haven't paid the slightest bit of attention ... You know, I run through some old-fashioned, klutzy categories. Race, sex, class, region, sexuality, gender, species. I pay attention. I know how fraught all those categories are, but I think those categories still do important work. I have developed, kind of, an alert system, an internalized alert system."
See also: A Cyborg Manifesto
In 1985, Haraway published the essay "Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the 1980s" 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 the feminist narratives of the twentieth century. For Haraway, the Manifesto offered a response to the rising conservatism during the 1980s in the United States 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." 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.
According to Haraway's "Manifesto," "there is nothing about being female that naturally binds women together into a unified category. There is not even such a state as 'being' female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices". A cyborg does not require a stable, essentialist identity, argues Haraway, and feminists should consider creating coalitions based on "affinity" instead of identity. To ground her argument, Haraway analyzes the phrase "women of color", suggesting it as one possible example of affinity politics. Using a term coined by theorist Chela Sandoval, Haraway writes that "oppositional consciousness" is comparable with a cyborg politics, because rather than identity it stresses how affinity comes as a result of "otherness, difference, and specificity".
Haraway's cyborg is a set of ideals of a genderless, race-less, more collective, and peaceful civilization with the caveat of being utterly connected to the machine. Her new versions of beings reject Western humanist conceptions of personhood and promote a disembodied world of information and the withering of subjectivity. The collective consciousness of the beings and their limitless access to information provides the tools with which to create a world of immense socio-political change through altruism and affinity, not biological unity. In her essay, Haraway challenges the liberal human subject and its lack of concern for collective desires which leaves the possibility for wide corruption and inequality in the world. Furthermore, the cyborg's importance lays in its coalition of consciousness, not in the physical body that carries the information/consciousness. A world of beings with a type of shared knowledge could create a powerful political force towards positive change. Cyborgs can see "from both perspectives at once." In addition, Haraway writes that the cyborg has an imbued nature towards the collective good.
Haraway explains that her "Manifesto" is "an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism." She adds that "Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves." Haraway is serious about finding future ways towards equality and ending dominating behavior; however, the cyborg itself is not as serious of an endeavor for her as the idea of it is. Haraway creates an analogy using current technologies and information to imagine a world with a collective coalition that had the capabilities to create grand socio-political change. Haraway's "Manifesto" is a thought experiment, defining what people think is most important about being and what the future holds for increased artificial intelligence.
Gender, Work, & Organization's author Agnes Prasad's piece Cyborg Writing as a Political Act: Reading Donna Haraway in Organization Studies elaborates on how Haraway's writing contributes to the greater feminist community. "This essay, almost immediately, became a watershed text for feminist theory and for, what was at the time, the inchoate field of feminist science studies. Interweaving ideas that were playful and imaginative with an incisive critique of the totalizing essentialism that was the ironic hallmark of the myriad strands of the second-wave feminist movement — encompassing, but not limited to, Marxist, psychoanalytic and radical feminist approaches — Haraway conscientiously articulates the politics of a monstrous creature of the post-gender world: the cyborg."
Main article: Cyberfeminism
In her updated essay "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century", in her book Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991), Haraway uses the cyborg metaphor to explain how fundamental contradictions in feminist theory and identity should be conjoined, rather than resolved, similar to the fusion of machine and organism in cyborgs. The manifesto is also an important feminist critique of capitalism by revealing how men have exploited women's reproduction labor, providing a barrier for women to reach full equality in the labor market.
"Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective" sheds light on Haraway's vision for a feminist science. The essay originated as a commentary on Sandra Harding's The Science Question in Feminism (1986) and is a reply to Harding's "successor science". Haraway offers a critique of the feminist intervention into masculinized traditions of scientific rhetoric and the concept of objectivity. The essay identifies the metaphor that gives shape to the traditional feminist critique as a polarization. At one end lies those who would assert that science is a rhetorical practice and, as such, all "science is a contestable text and a power field". At the other are those interested in a feminist version of objectivity, a position Haraway describes as a "feminist empiricism". Haraway argues for an epistemology based in "situated knowledges," which synthesizes aspects of these two traditions. Haraway posits that by acknowledging and understanding the contingency of their own position in the world, and hence the contestable nature of their claims to knowledge, subjects can produce knowledge with greater objectivity than if they claimed to be neutral observers.
Haraway also writes about the history of science and biology. In Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science (1990), she focused on the metaphors and narratives that direct the science of primatology. She asserted 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". She contended 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 questioned the most fundamental constructions of scientific human nature stories based on primates. In Primate Visions, she wrote:
"My hope has been that the always oblique and sometimes perverse focusing would facilitate revisions 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".
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". Haraway presents an alternative perspective to the accepted ideologies that continue to shape the way scientific human nature stories are created. Haraway urges feminists to be more involved in the world of technoscience and to be credited for that involvement. In a 1997 publication, 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.
Haraway created a panel called 'Make Kin not Babies' in 2015 with five other feminist thinkers named: Alondra Nelson, Kim TallBear, Chia-Ling Wu, Michelle Murphy, and Adele Clarke. The panel's emphasis is on moving human numbers down while paying attention to factors, such as the environment, race, and class. A key phrase of hers is "Making babies is different than giving babies a good childhood." This led to the inspiration for the publication of Making Kin not Population: Reconceiving Generations, by Donna Haraway and Adele Clarke, two of the panelist members. The book addresses the growing concern of the increase in human population and its consequences on our environment. The book consists of essays from the two authors, incorporating both environmental and reproductive justice along with addressing the functions of family and kinship relationships.
Speculative fabulation is a concept which is included in many of Haraway's works. It includes all of the wild facts that won't hold still, and it indicates mode of creativity and the story of the Anthropocene. Haraway stresses how this doesn't mean it isn't a fact. In Staying with the Trouble, she defines speculative fabulation as "a mode of attention, theory of history, and a practice of worlding," and she finds it an integral part of scholarly writing and everyday life. In Haraway's work she addresses a feminist speculative fabulation and its focusing on making kin instead of babies to ensure the good childhood of all children while controlling the population. Making Kin not Population: Reconceiving Generations highlights practices and proposals to implement this theory in society.
Together with scholar Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Haraway coined Plantationocene as an alternative term to the proposed epoch Anthropocene that centers humans activities in the transformation of the planet and its negative effect on land use, ecosystems, biodiversity, and species extinction.
Tsing and Haraway point out that not all humans equally contribute to the environmental challenges facing our planet. They date the origin of the Anthropocene to the start of colonialism in the Americas in the early modern era and highlight the violent history behind it by focusing on the history of plantations. The Spanish and the Portuguese colonists started importing models of plantations to the Americas by the 1500s which they have previously developed a century earlier in the Atlantic Islands. These models of planation were based on migratory forced labor (slavery), intensive land usage, globalized commerce, and constant racialized violence, all have transformed the lives of humans and non-humans worldwide. Current and past plantations provide an important note of the histories of colonialism, capitalism, and racism which can't be separated from environmental issues that made some humans more at risk to warming temperatures, rising seawater levels, toxicants, and land disposition than others.
The companion Species Manifesto is to be read as a “personal document”. This work was written to tell the story of cohabitation, coevolution and embodied cross-species sociality. Haraway argues that humans ‘companion’ relationship with dogs can show us the importance of recognizing differences and ‘how to engage with significant otherness'.
Haraway's work has been criticized for being "methodologically vague" and using noticeably opaque language that is "sometimes concealing in an apparently deliberate way". Several reviewers have argued that her understanding of the scientific method is questionable, and that her explorations of epistemology at times leave her texts virtually meaning-free.
A 1991 review of Haraway's Primate Visions, published in the International Journal of Primatology, provides examples of some of the most common critiques of her view of science:
This is a book that contradicts itself a hundred times; but that is not a criticism of it, because its author thinks contradictions are a sign of intellectual ferment and vitality. This is a book that systematically distorts and selects historical evidence; but that is not a criticism, because its author thinks that all interpretations are biased, and she regards it as her duty to pick and choose her facts to favor her own brand of politics. This is a book full of vaporous, French-intellectual prose that makes Teilhard de Chardin sound like Ernest Hemingway by comparison; but that is not a criticism, because the author likes that sort of prose and has taken lessons in how to write it, and she thinks that plain, homely speech is part of a conspiracy to oppress the poor. This is a book that clatters around in a dark closet of irrelevancies for 450 pages before it bumps accidentally into its index and stops; but that is not a criticism, either, because its author finds it gratifying and refreshing to bang unrelated facts together as a rebuke to stuffy minds. This book infuriated me; but that is not a defect in it, because it is supposed to infuriate people like me, and the author would have been happier still if I had blown out an artery. In short, this book is flawless, because all its deficiencies are deliberate products of art. Given its assumptions, there is nothing here to criticize. The only course open to a reviewer who dislikes this book as much as I do is to question its author's fundamental assumptions—which are big-ticket items involving the nature and relationships of language, knowledge, and science.
Another review of the same book, appearing in a 1990 issue of the American Journal of Primatology, offers a similar criticism of Haraway's literary style and scholarly methods:
There are many places where an editorial hand appears absent altogether. Neologisms are continually coined, and sentences are paragraph-long and convoluted. Biography, history, propaganda, science, science fiction, and cinema are intertwined in the most confusing way. Perhaps the idea is to induce a slightly dissociated state, so that readers can be lulled into belief. If one did not already possess some background, this book would give no lucid history of anthropology or primatology.
However, a review in the Journal of the History of Biology disagrees:
Primate Visions is one of the most important books to come along in the last twenty years. Historians of science have begun to write more externalist histories, acknowledging the possibilities of a science profoundly integrated with ongoing social agenda. Haraway's history of primatology in the twentieth century sets new standards for this approach, standards that will not be surpassed for some time to come. The book is important to students of science, feminists, historians, and anyone else interested in how the complex systems of race, gender, and science intertwine to produce supposedly objective versions of the "truth." This analysis of primatology is at once a complex, interdisciplinary, and deeply scholarly history and an imaginative, provocative analysis of the working of science in late twentieth-century Euro-America.