Becoming Cyborg: Philosophy, Science, and Science-Fiction
Feminist science studies scholar Donna Haraway writes: “By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are all cyborgs.” Haraway goes on to argue in the “Cyborg Manifesto” that to be a cyborg means to live in a world made up of partial connections, complex kinship with humans, non-humans, and machines, and technological systems that have the potential to oppress or liberate, depending on who is in charge. Using this formulation of cyborg theory as a jumping off point, this seminar will explore what it means to live as cyborgs in our modern world. The figure of the cyborg will provide an anchor for discussions about disability and medicine; gender and technology; histories of cybernetic socialism and capitalism; and the intersections of labor, race, colonialism, and automation.
The course will begin with a deep dive into Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” and recent scholarship by Laboria Cuboniks on xenofeminism and Legacy Russell on glitch feminism to situate it in current feminist thought, art, and activism. We will take a brief look at the history of cybernetics with readings by Eden Medina and primary source readings by Norbert Wiener to understand how the cyborg emerges from Cold War science and technology, and the cybernetic futures promised, built, and forgotten in the 20th century. Then, we will examine how the cyborg has been taken up by disability scholars and activists, including both challenges to and extensions of Haraway’s original cyborg figure by thinkers like Ashley Shew and Jillian Weise. Finally, leaning on the work of Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora and science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor, we will examine how hybrid figures like cyborgs, robots, and computer-enhanced human workers continue to anchor critique and activism about the entwined oppressions of capitalism, race, and colonialism.
Course ScheduleSunday, 2:00-5:00pm ET
June 11 — July 02, 2023