Revisualising Worlds: A Manifesto Against the Tyranny of Objectivity

October 2, 2013


(after Donna Haraway, ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Femiism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’ in Femnist Studies, Vol. 13, No. 3, Autumn 1988, pp. 575-599.)

1. This manifesto calls for a feminist theory of situated knowledges and a revision of what we mean by ‘objectivity’ (595)

2. Let’s return to the question of the relationship between vision and knowledge, or ways of seeing! Because we need to find the means to better understand patterns of objectification in the world, and how these rely heavily on visual metaphors and mediators.

3. The always-mediated visual possibilities of all manner of living being (dog, tick, human, fly, child) show us how the world is arranged in different ways, and demonstrates the powers of specificity and difference (583). In acknowledging these diverse, situated, differentiated points of view on a world, we need to be wary about how we make our knowledge claims:

4. Do not issue knowledge claims that are irresponsible, arrive from nowhere and cannot be called into account (583)

5. Beware of ‘seeing’ from below or ‘saying’ for the other. There are grave risks in making an account of the subjugated point of view.

6. Stake out an alternative to both relativism AND totalisation by engaging partial, locatable, critical knowledge. Focus on the details of location, embodiment, partial perspective. (584)

7. Practice mobile positioning and passionate detachment (585). Remember, you are responsible for the position you take up and represent, and responsible for the passage you took to get there.

8. As a ‘subject’ in knowledge, you are ever a split and contradictory, and never self-same identity. (586) Subjectivity is multidimensional.

9. The ‘object’ of knowledge can be called a ‘material semiotic actor’ (595) This stresses that the object does not pre-exist, but emerges or materializes amidst social interactions. The object of knowledge is loosely defined, for the time being, by boundaries set out by a set of concerns, practices and interactions.

10. Objectivity is achieved through critical positioning and is necessarily partial and always embodied.

11. We have no clear and distinct ideas! But grapple instead with risky boundary conditions as we precariously attempt to situate ourselves in relation to ever-emerging domains of knowledge.

12. ‘Feminist accountability requires a knowledge tuned to resonance, not dichotomy’ (588) Feminist hopes are for the value of partial knowledge, embodied objectivity, and situated knowledges.

Hélène Frichot

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