A Cyborg Manifesto is an essay by Donna Haraway that criticizes traditional notions of feminism—particularly its strong emphasis on identity, rather than affinity. She uses the metaphor of a cyborg to urge feminists to move beyond the limitations of traditional gender, feminism, and politics. Marisa Olson summarized Haraway’s thoughts as a belief that there is no distinction between natural life and artificial man-made machines. Olson notes the word “cyborg” has a “stale whiff” in today’s internet age and also applies to a boys internet art club that is centered on exploring and reproducing a series of constantly upgraded machines.
Haraway suggests that feminists should move beyond naturalism and essentialism. It criticizes feminist tactics as “identity politic” that victimizes those excluded, and she proposes that it is better strategically to confuse identities.
Donna Haraway’s cyborg theory is an attempt to break away from Oedipal narratives and Christian origin doctrines like Genesis; the concept of the cyborg is a rejection of rigid boundaries, notably those separating “human” from “animal” and “human” from “machine.” In the A Cyborg Manifesto, she writes: “The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust.”
Haraway’s cyborg called for a non-essentialized, material-semiotic metaphor capable of uniting diffuse political coalitions along the lines of affinity rather than identity. Following Lacanian feminists such as Luce Irigaray, Haraway’s work addresses the chasm between feminist discourses and the dominant language of Western patriarchy. As Haraway explains, “grammar is politics by other means,” and effective politics require speaking in the language of domination. To counteract the essentializing, and anachronistic, rhetoric of spiritual ecofeminists who were fighting patriarchy with modernist constructions of female-as-nature and earth goddesses, Haraway employs the cyborg to refigure feminism in cybernetic code. As she details in a chart of the paradigmatic shifts from modern to postmodern epistemology within the Manifesto, the unified human subject of ?? has shifted to the hybridized posthuman of technoscience, from “representation” to “simulation,” “bourgeois novel” to “science fiction,” “reproduction” to “replication,” and “white capitalist patriarchy” to “informatics of domination.” While Haraway’s “ironic dream of a common language” is inspired by Irigaray’s argument for a discourse other than patriarchy, she rejects Irigaray’s essentializing construction of woman-as-not-male to argue for a linguistic community of situated, partial knowledges in which no one is innocent.