As one looks both backward and forward from this 1985 essay, Haraway's seemingly varied purposes are of a piece, for she has been relating an increasingly thick and compelling story for about twenty years. A quick survey of Haraway's writing will illuminate her commitment to some of the issues and arguments of her most recent work. In her first book, Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields: Metaphors of Organicism in Twentieth-Century Developmental Biology (1976), Haraway draws upon and refines Thomas Kuhn's articulation of paradigm shifts in the history of scientific thought in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) to develop a thesis suggesting the centrality of metaphor as an influence -- even a "predictive value" -- framing research advances in biological sciences (Haraway 1976, 3). She proposes that "a metaphor with explanatory power is the vital spirit of a paradigm (or perhaps its basic organizing relation)" (1976, 9). In an historical survey of the metaphors that supply "boundaries to worlds" and enable "paradigms [to] operate ¨as directing tendencies," she calls upon Robert Boyle (1627-1691) to summarize the metaphors that animated a slew of seventeenth century scientific discoveries: "I do not expect to see any principles propos'd more comprehensive and intelligible than the Corpuscularian or Mechanical" (1976, 10, 18). Haraway then explores the ruptures, shifts, discoveries, and aesthetic metaphors -- especially those of Goethe and Coleridge -- that work toward displacing physics in favor of biology as the paradigmatic science and mechanism in favor of organicism as the paradigmatic metaphor. The central focus of her study is on three embryologists at the beginningof the twentieth century who were emblematic of the dynamics between metaphor and science. Two particular examples of "directing" metaphors in organicist science are the tissue or fiber metaphor and metaphors that express the conviction that form is "the totality of structured relationships unfolded in development" (1976, 45). Haraway concurs with several contemporary scholars who suggest that the synthesis of metaphors derived from artistic vision/expression with the problems of science "initiates a powerful emotional drive towards the solution of the problem" (1976, 42). She does not mention, but might have, Yeats's conceptually rich image: "O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer, / Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?/ O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,/ How can we know the dancer from the dance?" ("Among School Children" 1927). Her early attention to the way cultural metaphors, expectations, and assumptions -- especially those circulating as visual images -- influence and contaminate the agenda of scientific endeavors is based on the extensive knowledge of the history of science and biology that grounds all of her work.
In 1978 she questioned "the degree to which the principle of domination is embedded in our natural sciences, especially in those disciplines that seek to explain social groups and behavior" (1991, 8) and suggested that "A feminist history of science, which must be a collective achievement, could examine that part of biosocial science in which our alleged evolutionary biology is traced and supposedly inevitable patterns of order based on domination are legitimated" ("The Past is the Contested Zone," 1991, 23).
In 1981, she was asking "should feminists be laying the foundation for an epistemological revolution illuminating all facets of scientific knowledge? Is there a specifically feminist theory of knowledge growing today which is analogous in its implications to theories which are the heritage of Greek science and of the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century?" (1991, 71)
Haraway's 1988 article, "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective," engages the problem of "how to have simultaneously an account of radical historical contingency for all knowledge claims and knowing subjects, a critical practice for recognizing our own 'semiotic technologies' for making meanings, and a no-nonsense commitment to faithful accounts of a 'real' world, one that can be partially shared and friendly to earth-wide projects of finite freedom, adequate material abundance, modest meaning in suffering, and limited happiness" (1991, 187). She offers here the beginnings of a project that also occupies her in her current publication, that is, "to translate the ideological dimensions of 'facticity' and 'the organic' into a cumbersome entity called a 'material-semiotic actor'" (1991, 200).
Her 1989 book, Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science elucidates the metaphors and narratives that direct the science of primatology. In her interrogation, she demonstrates that masculinist predisposition towards stories centered on reproductive competition and sex between agressive males and receptive females facilitate some and preclude other types of conclusions. Haraway shows how different findings result when female primatologists approach observation with a focus on social organization, food sharing, and friendship. Contesting a number of Western ideologies that penetrate science to produceconfirming narratives of gender, race and class, Haraway questions the most basic constructions of nature and culture that inform all social interactions from birth to death.
Despite some textual infelicities, Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium: FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience both strengthens and extends Haraway's substantial body of work. (It is most likely that if you've heard of her once, you've heard of her a dozen times!) The overall structure of the book inhabits two dimensions (at least), each requiring a slightly different intellectual frequency. One dimension is the "human science of semiotics" (14); the second is the hypertext metaphor radiating from the book's title. Haraway's provocative title -- Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium: FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience -- invites unpacking and, in the process, yields much of the substance of the text. However effective it is as a title (once you memorize it), I still question its function as a structuring device for the progress of the text. It almost seems like a parallel series of headings arbitrarily linked and then justified in those relationships. I have to admit that knowing that chapters one, two, five, and six were revised from previously published essays increased my sensitivity to anomalies of repetition, structural self-consciousness, and purpose-posturing. "Yes, yes," I can hear the editor saying (having been there myself), "those essays would come together perfectly as an authored book. Now, what can we call it?" So, my sense that the title structures the text is actually backwards; the construction of the text from extant articles necessitates such a title. The parallel feel of these chapters is not devastating to the book, though it is frustrating and disappointing, both for first-time Haraway readers and for those who look forward to every new piece she writes. Still, this title holds a number of keys to the text, and as Haraway herself proves, if you can explain all the terms in the title, you've captured the essence of her very complex argument.[See note 3]
Haraway's attention throughout the book to "the anatomy of meanings" (14) -- an insistence on the material-semiotic construction of reality, truth, fact, artifact, empire, and corporation -- yields (in conventional book format) a holistic three part structure: "Part One: Syntactics," "Part Two: Semantics," and "Part Three: Pragmatics." Referring to and going beyond Charles Morris's (1901-1979) discussions of these three dimensions of signfunction as applied to the processes and productions of science, Haraway locates her discussions of the relations of sign-vehicles to each other in Part One. In other words, this sixteen page section is the "Introduction." She introduces the syntax and syntax markers of the components of the book's title as well as varied other salient material-semiotic entities that will reappear throughout the book: figurations such as the cyborg, salvation history, diffraction, and the four horns of the wormhole of technoscience (military conflict, the market, ecosystem production, globalized entertainment). What she does not do is reveal how these are related to each other as signvehicles. She sketches the profundity of their contemporaneous trajectories, but the magnitude of the conceptual complexity she suggests is such that it takes the whole book even to begin clarifying their relations as signs.
In "Part Two: Semantics," she initiates a discussion of three central signvehicles -- the Modest_Witness, the FemaleMan, and OncoMouse -- and their relationship to those objects they are intended to represent. But this discussion is inevitably interwoven with the relations between and among these signs (Syntactics) and between the network of signs and their interpreters (Pragmatics), and one begins to doubt the efficacy of the tripartite structure.
Haraway quotes Charles Morris's Foundation of the Theory of Signs: "Considered from the point of view of pragmatics, a linguistic structure is a system of behavior" as the epigram to "Part Three: Pragmatics" (125) and then tackles the paradox of presenting his position in this book. If one of the goals of this book is to reveal the "interdigitating" "implosions" of modern technoscience, what is the purpose of separating organic from inorganic and of relegating into artificial parts, three simultaneously operating signrelations? The first few pages of Part Three suggest the same question. Haraway revises "the impoverished schemata by which Morris imagined organisms" to a near-twenty-first-century view:
Across the former divide between subjects and objects and between the living and nonliving meaning-in-the-making -- the physiology of semiotics -- is a more cyborg, coyote, trickster, local, open-ended, heterogeneous, and provisional affair. Sign interpreters are ontologically dirty; they are made up of provisionally articulated, temporally dispersed, and spatially networked actors and actants. In the most literal and materialist sense, connections and enrollments are what matter. (127)It is here, in Part Three, that she finally discusses the relationship between the signs of semiotics and hypertext. Hypertext (which would seem to me to refer to a syntactical function) is adopted as the metaphor of the pragmatic: "Because of hypertext's physical/symbolic power to inflect the way we make the associations implicated in forging new 'human universals,' I adopt the metaphor for the webs of consequential, contingent connections explored in Part III" (126).
The intersection of these two structuring devices of semiotics and a web address might be described by another metaphor of this text: diffraction (reflection with a difference). Imagine a semiotic galaxy intersecting with and diffracting through a galaxy of hypertext links, nodes, databases, and web sites. (If Haraway didn't spend so much time fore-grounding the structure of her arguments, I would feel rather self-conscious doing the same.) Careering through these two "controlling" metaphors/structuring devices is at least one additional extended metaphor as textual structuring apparatus: family and kinship patterns. Despite frequent reminders of which structual dimension the text inhabits at any given moment, a reader may still wonder why so many fields are set in motion at once. The hypertext metaphor can always supply at least a superficial reason. Despite these infelicities, as I said at the outset, Haraway offers a model of participatory critical awareness that I think applies here. As she puts it, "critique caresses comedy. I laugh [or offer critique]: therefore, I am... implicated. I laugh: therefore, I am responsible and accountable" (182). Both laughter and responsible critique disrupt narratives and interrogate the intersections and implosions that structure our texts and our lives. Sailing through these several interesting refractions are Haraway's characteristically rich reflections on the interfaces among art, fiction, advertising, biology, politics, cartoon figures, religion, and so on.
After commenting on an innovative, though somewhat awkward structure, I willnow structure the remainder of this review in an entirely conventional way: I will first try to convey a sense of Haraway's core arguments and then sample the radiating, multidimentional web of case studies and applications that exhibit their figuration in technoscience. Donna Haraway's major premises in this text are based on at least four foundational concepts: "agential realism," "situated knowledges," "strong objectivity," and "yearning."[See note 4] She credits physicist Karen Barad with the term "agential realism" which expresses Barad's stance that "'agency' is not about 'subjectivity' that can be in any sense separate from 'objectivity.' Agency is about knowledge and accountability for boundaries and objects" (116). In one of her eminently clear and helpful footnotes, Haraway explicates her own "account of reality as an effect of an observing interaction, as opposed to a treasure awaiting discovery 'Reality' is certainly not 'made up' in scientific practice, but it is collectively, materially, and semiotically constructed -- that is, put together, made to cohere, worked up for and by us in some ways and not others" (301 n 12).
Closely related to "agential realism" is Haraway's own 1988 formulation of "situated knowledges." In this discussion, Haraway gives up the notion of discovering a true, full, and total version of a "real" world outside of human knowing and embraces the inevitably partial, located knowing of humans in interactions with the world and each other. She takes hope in the thought that such knowledges "sustain . . the possiblity of webs of connections called solidarity in politics and shared conversations in epistemology" (Simians, Cyborgs, and Women 191). In Haraway's view, trained scientists, aboriginal cultures, women working in service jobs, migrant laborers, artists, and common sense observers all participate in the achievement of "reliable, partially shareable, trope-laced, worldly, accountable, noninnocent knowledge rooted in ongoing articulatory activities that are always potentially open to critical scrutiny from disparate perspectives" (Modest_Witness 138).
Haraway turns to Sandra Harding's depiction of "strong objectivity" as a correlate of agential realism and situated knowledges. "Critical reflexivity," another term for strong objectivity, means that the ordinarily unscrutinized areas of knowledge production must be examined as routinely and as rigorously as the methods and results of the empirical process. "Strong objectivity insists that both the objects and the subjects of knowledge-making practices must be located" (37). Harding further stipulates the necessity "for systematically examining all of the social values shaping a particular research process, not just those that happen to differ between members of a scientific community. culture wide beliefs that are not critically examined within scientific processes end up functioning as evidence for or against hypotheses" (Harding 1993: 18 in Haraway 1997: 36). Haraway's and Harding's conception of strong objectivity disrupts many of the assumptions and practices based on a dichotomy between subject and object and, in the process, generates an explosion of new questions.
It seems to me that Haraway appreciates bell hooks's term "yearning" for its expression of an ethical passion that motivates and drives feminist and other liberatory movements. "For hooks, yearning is an affective ¨cognitive¨and political sensibility allowing cross-category ties that 'would promote the recognition of common commitments and serve as a base for solidarity and coalition'" (hooks1990:27; Haraway 1997: 191-2). Haraway thoroughly appropriates the concept into the cyborg world of technoscience: it is even, she finds, a better trope than the Web for "a worldwide tissue of coalitions of a more liveable technoscience" (129). Yearning keeps feminist technoscience committed to agential realism, situated knowledges, and strong objectivity. "Yearning in technoscience is for knowledge projects as freedom projects -- in a polyglot, relentlessly troping, but practical and material way -- coupled with a searing sense that all is not well with women, as well as billions of nonwomen, who remain incommensurable in the warped coordinate systems of the New World Order, Inc." (269).
Strong objectivity and yearning provide a smooth transition to the central commitments/arguments/purposes of Haraway's book. The former provides the questions that guide the inquiries supplied with drive and vision by the latter. It seems to me that Haraway's writing is suffused with four inter-digitating commitments: to articulate what is going on in science, to raise questions that challenge science, to create analytical languages that make these projects possible, and finally, to construct a more democratic science. For Haraway, these are not specifically feminist commitments, but are part of a "'general' discourse critical for science studies" (189).
Freedom and justice questions are intrinsic to the inquiry about the joinings of humans and nonhumans. Feminist technoscience inquiry is a speculum, a surgical instrument, a tool for widening all kinds of orifices to improve observation and intervention in the interest of projects that are simultaneously about freedom, justice, and knowledge. In these terms, feminist inquiry is no more innocent, no more free of the inevitable wounding that all questioning brings, than any other knowledge project. (191)
Haraway's articulations of past and present scientific processes, here as in her earlier works, "enliven[s] our practical imagination of who the actors are and what is at stake in some of the material-semiotic domains" of science (15). Specifically, she takes on the task of revealing to the unsuspecting (or deliberately innocent/ignorant) the behind-the-scenes "knot[s] of knowledge-making practices, industry and commerce, popular culture, social struggles, psychoanalytic formations, bodily histories, human and nonhuman actions, local and global flows, inherited narratives, new stories, syncretic technical/cultural processes, and more" (129). From the minute details of corporate sponsorships of educational materials and projects to the fetishizing of "life itself," Haraway relentlessly exposes more and more of the "complexity and embeddedness of all objects, including genes" (146).
Haraway's interrogations are just as relentless. Her commitments to raising the questions that may be used to "break the frame," "change the stories" -- especially the apocalyptic salvation histories circulating at the end of the Second Millenium -- and "work out the knots" are all part of a larger "goal¨to help put the boundary between the technical and the political back into permanent question as part of the obligation of building situated knowledges inside the materialized narrative fields of technoscience" (89). Throughout this book, as in the work of many of the feminists she cites, specific and immediate agenda questions are suggested:
If technoscience is to develop truly situated knowledges and strong standards ofobjectivity that take account of all of its webs of human and nonhuman actors and consequences, then at a minimum questions about content and availability of jobs, richness and strength of what counts as scientific knowledge, cultural breadth among scientists and engineers and their constituents, distribution of wealth, standards of health, environmental justice, decision-making structures, sovereignty questions, and biodiversity ought to vie with "competitiveness" for sexy luminosity in the eyes of molecular biologists and other politicians. (95)These questions contribute to the analytical languages that must be deliberately invented and modeled if the agenda of feminist technoscience can proceed. The list of contributors to and practitioners of these new analytical languages is now quite long, but the work of the "Three H's": Nancy Hartsock, Sandra Harding, and Donna Haraway -- along with the critiques and debates on their work -- forms an important core of these important languages. Haraway credits many, many people in this area, in particular Valerie Hartouni for her advances to the "project of crafting the feminist visual literacy needed for working effectively inside a reproductive technoscience politics saturated with visual communications practices" (189). Modest Witness, of course, furthers this visual acuity through Haraway's own extensive analysis of commercial advertising and through commentaries on the marvelous images of artist-collaborator Lynn Randolph.
The foregoing three commitments all contribute to an overall goal of constructing "a more democratic science" (15). Haraway notes several times in this book that she never undertakes a critique when she feels completely disengaged. She always tackles the issues on which she is ambivalent, simultaneously appreciative and critical of an agenda, an image, or an accomplishment. She describes herself as "Trained in molecular and developmental biology, I identify professionally as a historian of science. ¨But my real home is the ferociously material and imaginary zones of technoscience" (49). She traces her professional history back to the 1970's when the standard college biology course "aimed to persuade students that natural science alone, not politics or religion, offered hope for secular progress not infected by ideology." Even then, Haraway was commited as vigorously to "biology as knowledge" as she was to "understanding the historical specificity and conditions of solidity of what counts as nature, for whom, and at what cost." Haraway's goal of a more democratic science is rooted in a pursuit of justice which, for science practitioners, must begin with the admission that science "is a political discourse, one in which we should engage at every level of the practice -- technically, semiotically, morally, economically, institutionally" (104-5).
Haraway's commitments and goals emerge from and lead to direct engagements with a wide variety of actual events in the sphere of techno-science in the "New World Order, Inc." Haraway engages in major and minor skirmishes with the practices and policies behind the media images, news-bites, and museum displays that disseminate the operating assumptions of technoscience throughout the culture. More visceral than words, "more interesting than metaphors," her critiques probe the models that institutionalized science transmits relentlessly. She draws upon Robert Boyle (1627-1691) again to demonstrate the construction of the figure of the male-gendered modest witness as a bonafide, respected category of being in the first flush of experimental science as a way of ascertaining knowledgeabout the world. In his laboratory, "the rhetoric of the modest witness, the 'naked way of writing,' unadorned, factual, compelling, was crafted;" and now, Haraway crafts the rhetoric of a "mutated modest witness," animated by agential realism, strong objectivity, and yearning, to take its place. Modeling the perspicacity of a mutated modest witness, Haraway probes the commercial production of genetically engineered fruits, vegetables, animals and other "transuranic elements" and "transgenic organisms." Gathering the history of intellectual property laws to her argument, she opens up the story of Du Pont's licensed, cancer-carrying OncoMouseÓ to reveal the legal, economic, and institutional forces contributing to a project that "makes technical and semiotic sense in the world of corporate biology, where the author of life is a writer of patentable (or copyrightable) code" (97). Instead of the familiar "animal rights" approach to laboratory creatures, Haraway celebrates their "constructedness, their always unfinished articulations" as the harbingers of a new consciousness wherein we might achieve an "understanding [of] identity as an effect with consequences" (120).
Haraway moves on to tackle the insidious metaphors of engineered nature in college biology textbooks like Advances in Genetic Technology and our cultural fetishization of maps as seen in computer games like the Maxis Corporation's SimLife, SimEarth, SimCity, etc. as well as in the Human Genome Project itself. Haraway's main point is to show that "spatialization is a social practice" (138) motivated more often than not by an urge to "make things seem clear and under control." (136) The map-making impulse frequently "transmutes material, contingent, human and nonhuman liveliness into maps of life itself and then mistakes the map and its reified entities for the bumptious, nonliteral world" (emphasis added 135).
Haraway offers as a model Martha Crouch's unique rejection of corporate funding (and exploitation) of her basic biological research in order to live a "responsible life in science," directing her own efforts toward improvements in local, material conditions rather than toward corporate-defined, locally destructive "progress" (112). She reminds us that advances in visual technology have provided for public consumption fantastic images of the big blue marble without and the fetal universe within. These marvels of vision coexist uneasily with a global economy of production and marketing that, as Nancy Scheper-Huges demonstrates, functions with "selective blindness" (202) to permit the "modernization of child mortality" among the poor in contemporary Brazil (Scheper-Hughes Death Without Weeping, quoted in Haraway 207). Haraway vigorously interrogates the discourses of kinship, race, population, and genome that "transfused into the body politic . . . shape what millions of people consider common sense in thinking about human nature" (218). Not until we forge "solidarity and human unity ¨[through] friendship, work, partially shared purposes, intractable collective pain, inescapable mortality, and persistent hope," contends Haraway, will we avoid the tragedies and injustices of human cultures based primarily on kinship and race.
Haraway's closing image is of the child's game of cat's cradle, a dynamic, communally-constructed, process/skill/goal that is all "about patterns and knots" (268). Ultimately, this is the most accurate (albeit low-tech) structural metaphor for this text. Haraway's genius is the spinning, catching, and twisting of threads and thehistorically nuanced teasing out of knots with the nimble fingered collaboration of colleagues and readers. The threads are forged out of desire: "a modern, reinvented desire for justice and democratically crafted and lived well-being" (267).
2 I am giving the dates of original publication of Haraway's essays. They are now collected in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, Routledge, 1991. Page references are to Simians, Cyborgs, and Women.
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3 VERY briefly: "Modest Witness" refers to the knower of science; "Second Millenium" refers to the salvation narratives still operating at this time; "FemaleMan" refers to feminist challenges to the category "woman;" and "OncoMouse" is Hara-way's "synecdoche for all of technoscience" (22).
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4 In addition, Haraway recognizes the following as a few of the most central concepts: "modest interventions (Heath forthcoming); boundary objects, borderlands, communities of practice, articulation work, misplaced concretism, and feminist method (Star 1994); border crossings and narrative strategies (Traweek 1992); [and] science as social knowledge (Longino 1990)". She also cites the work of Teresa de Lauretis and Nancy Hartsock's "nonessentialist feminist standpoint theory" and a great many others throughout the text as well.
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---.1995b. "A Feminist Approach to Teaching Quantum Physics." In Teaching the Majority: Breaking the Gender Barrier in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering, edited by S.V. Rosser. New York: Teachers College Press.
Haraway, Donna J. 1976. Crystals, Fabrics, and Fields: Metaphors of Organicism in Twentieth-Century Developmental Biology. New Haven: Yale U P.
---.1989. Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science. New York: Routledge.
---.1991. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.
---.1997. Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium: Female-Man_Meets_OncoMouse. New York: Routledge.
Harding, Sandra. 1992. Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? Thinking from Women's Lives. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
---.1993. The "Radical" Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Hartouni, Valerie. 1991. "Containing Women: Reproductive Discourse in the 1980s." In Technoculture, edited by C. Penley and A. Ross. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 27-56.
---.1992. "Fetal Exposures: Abortion Politics and the Optics of Allusion." Camera Obscura: A Journal of Feminism and Film Theory 29:130-49.
---.1994. "Breached Birth: Reflections on Race, Gender, and Reproductive Discourse in the 1980s." Configurations 2(1): 73-88.
---.1997. Cultural Conceptions: On Reproductive Technologies and the Remaking of Life. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Hartsock, Nancy. 1983. "The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminist Historical Materialism." In Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, edited by S. Harding and M. Hintikka. Dordrecht/Boston: Reidel, 283-310.
hooks, bell. 1990. Yearning. Boston: Southend Press.
Kuhn, Thomas. 1962. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 1992. Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Yeats, William Butler. 1927, 1961. "Among School Children." Fifty Great Poets. New York: Bantam Books.
Josephine M. Carubia teaches in the English Department and Women's Studies Program at The Pennsylvania State University. Her research interests lie in the intersections of literature and feminist epistemologies. She has published articles on Virginia Woolf and fractal theory, Virginia Woolf and the processes of memory, and on feminist utopian fictions.