Morality of development

November 19, 2013


Donna J. Harraway takes an intersectional approach to the discussion about human relations to nature and machines within the Western tradition, in her text “Cyborg Manifesto” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women The Reinvention of nature. Harraway explains how “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.” (Harraway, pp. 149). The imagery of the cyborg aims to dissolve the way we describe ourselves and our world in dualistic relations; nature or culture, man or woman, black or white, human or machine. Harraway fundamental condition is the construction of nature, gender and our social relations, this also generates an elaboration on identity. But the relevance for the discussion on the cyborg also is also predicated on the scientific and technological development that we stand before. Harraway’s objective is to highlight the need for “…taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology”. She also rejects the desire of one universal, totalizing theory and argues that multiple perspectives lead to a less skewed view of the world.

I embrace Harraways way of challenging common and “neutral” views on science, research or medicine, fields that purports to come from a “rational” point of view. Especially the constructed counter-relation of nature vs. culture hold values deriving from the romantic movement of nineteen century, where “nature” is seen as the divine, the sublime and almost replace the role of religious homage. This view is still dominant on our perception of the world, creating a moral value-system embracing the “natural”. We treat nature as a moral guide book, continuously projecting our ideas on “nature” and explaining why something must be because it is “natural”. The “cultural” on the other hand is not surrounded by this divine glow, since it’s created by humans. This also explains any hesitation towards scientific break-trough’s and why cyborgs or machines might be considered provoking.

Recognizing the construction of the concept of the world means taking more responsibility for how we continue to construct it. Scientific and technological development can mean great improvements of our daily lives as well as tools for exclusion and dominance. This development also exposes how the most progressive activity – ironically – brings out the most reactionary responses.

Reading: Donna J. Harraway, “Cyborg Manifesto” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women The Reinvention of nature, London: Free Association Books, 1991, pp. 149-.


Johanna Nenander


One Response to “Morality of development”

  1. aisacson Says:

    I agree with your description of how we use the concept of “nature” to justify behaviors etc. as being “natural”. Regarding environmental conservation issues, for example, we are deeply concerned about protecting what we perceive as real nature, forgetting that most of it has been effected by humans for thousands of years.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: