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Alternative conceptions of the self and the political order. Homer. Point: Homer does not distinguish between the psychological and the physical “psuche” (from which “psychology”) – an individual when one is alive and which departs at death (27)

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  • Point: Homer does not distinguish between the psychological and the physical
    • “psuche” (from which “psychology”) – an individual when one is alive and which departs at death (27)
    • There is no real sense of the “I” which “takes decisions”
      • One’s thumos makes you do something “hot swirling surging sensation produced by strong feeling (29)
        • No distinction between psychological function and organ

Thumos: it can feel “on its own” but one can also “rejoice in one’s thumos.”

  • “Soma” – does not mean body but corpse (from which the psuche has departed)
  • What is body?
body diplyon vase c 800 bce
Body: Diplyon vase (c 800 BCE)
  • No word for body as a whole.
  • The oikos – noble household under the leadership of a chief or agathos
  • “Agathos (however) is not the title of the head of the oikos but the most powerful adjective available to commend a man in Homeric society” (37)
    • He has arete: “strength-and-bravery-and-wealth-leading-or-preserving-success”
  • Fragmented versus unitary self

Ph.D. in biology (Yale, 1972)

  • J.D. Bernal medal, 2000
  • Teaches in History of Consciousness, UCSC
    • A Cyborg Manifesto (1985)
    • Primate Visions: Gender, Race and Nature in the World of modern Science (1989)
    • Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991)
    • When Species Meet (2008)

The question of objectivity

    • Not constructivist – leads to relativism
    • Not empiricist – leads to universalism
  • For DG, subject is SITUATED, hence knowledge is always partial
  • Metaphor for this is vision – necessarily limited
    • “Only partial perspective promises objective vision.” (1991)

We do not represent nature as scientists but interact with it: “conversations” with a trickster.

  • The Question of Identity
    • Do not identify with a standpoint (including that of gender)
        • DH not afraid that agency will be lost
  • Beings who blur boundaries
  • Reaction against feminist distrust of technologies
  • Undermines nature/culture distinction


  • 1/ “essentialism”: "any theory that claims to identify a universal, transhistorical, necessary cause or constitution of gender identity or patriarchy”
  • 2/ "a jurisprudence model of feminism” (e.g. Catherine Mackinnon)


  • "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" (MC 236-7)
  • “Affinity rather than identity”

The cyborg: hybrid of machine and organism

  • Why this image?
    • "Cyborg replication is uncoupled from organic reproduction” (231)
    • The cyborg does not aspire to "organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all the powers of the parts into a higher unity”
    • The cyborg "is not afraid of joint kinship with animals and machines...of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints"

The "cyborg" resembles the identity of "women of color," which "marks out a self-consciously constructed space that cannot affirm the capacity to act on the basis of natural identification, but only on the basis of conscious coalition, of affinity, of political kinship"

three changes
Three changes
  • 1. boundary between animal and human is breached
    • Creationism “is a form of child abuse”
  • 2. The distinction between animal-human (organisms) and machine is leaky.
    • What counts as nature is undermined
  • 3. Boundary between physical and non-physical is imprecise.
    • Miniaturization and fluidity (235)

Representation Simulation

Bourgeois novel Science Fiction

Realism and modernism Postmodernism

Organism Biotic component, code

Work Text

Mimesis Play of signifiers

Depth, integrity Surface, boundary

Heat Noise

Biology as clinical practice Biology as inscription

Physiology Communications engineering

Microbiology, tuberculosis Immunomodulation

Small group Subsystem

Perfection Optimization

Eugenics Genetic engineering

Decadence Obsolescence

Hygiene Stress Management

Organic division of labour Ergonomics, cybernetics

Functional specialization Modular construction

Biological determinism System constraints

Reproduction Replication

Individual Replicon

Community ecology Ecosystem

Racial chain of being United Nations Humanism

Colonialism Transnational capitalism

Nature/culture Fields of difference

Co-operation Communications enhancement

Freud Lacan

Labour Robotics

Mind Artificial intelligence

Second World War Star Wars

White capitalist patriarchy Informatics of domination


Neither side is “natural”

  • The “cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self.” (MC 246)
  • Science is coming – what are we to do?
    • "Cyborg monsters in feminist science fiction define quite different political possibilities and limits from those proposed by the mundane fiction of Man and Woman"
  • 1. beware grand categories (sex, patriarchy, etc – go for the in between
  • 2. seize the tools to mark the world that marks one as an other (science, technology)
  • 3. be open to perspectives from other points of view (science fiction useful)
  • 4. I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess”
  • 5. Like Homer the self composed of multiple parts and not limited to “nature”