TechnoCapitalism Meets TechnoFeminism in Oryx and Crake

November 12, 2014


Education as ‘network’ in the posthuman landscape

Judith Wajcman outlines the male dominated field of engineering as what came to define ‘technology’, decreasing value and interest in the technologies associated with women. “The discourse about manliness was mobilised to ensure that class, race and gender boundaries were drawn around the engineering bastion” This idea is realized in the dystopian setting of Oryx and Crake. Crake’s father, being a bioengineer lives in the ‘site’ or compounds of the pharmaceutical companies. “Numbers” people within the Compounds are physically separated from others as technological knowledge further genders this dystopian setting. The relation between networks of educational institution and the Compounds’ progressions is evident: “numbers” people were placed in scientific/engineering institutions, offered better jobs, and had better standards of living than the “words” people. This segregation of educational backgrounds is evident in the attitude towards the “words,” arts, religion, and other various humanities, which Crake and the “numbers” people in power believe would cease to exist while “numbers” and other scientific developments would continue on as long as life did. Crake receives his education from the Watson-Crick Institute of Science and Technology while Snowman, the narrator, gets looked down upon for attending Martha Graham, an arts and humanities college. The Martha Graham Academy had received its name from a famous (woman) dancer,many of its ‘feminine’ subjects including performance, Fine Arts, etc. thought to be outdated by technology resulting to the school’s decline and eventual degradation. “There was a gruesome statue of her [Martha Graham] in front of the administration building, in her role—said the bronze plaque—as Judith, cutting off the head of a guy in a historical robe outfit called Holofernes. Retro feminist shit, was the general student opinion” (Atwood 186). While The Arts are left abandoned in this dystopian society, the image/visual culture is still very prominent, both in visual appearance (genetics/cosmetics) and in the technological advances for visual communication and data: the widespread, globalized network provides sites and videos of vicarious experiences including torture, rape, violence and child pornography, where readers are introduced to the character Oryx, Atwood’s criticism similar to Wajcman’s comment on how the “initial enthusiasm [of feminists] for everything digital has now been tempered by the increasing recognition of global online pornography and the use of internet to traffic women”

Bioengineering and the Cyborg

Wajcman identifies the cyborg as “human-machine amalgam, fundamentally redefines what it is to be human and thus can potentially exist in a world without gender categories”. In Oryx and Crake, Crake wipes out the world population and creates “floor models”, ‘Crakers’ as “better”, bioengineered version of the human race in order to save the planet. Crakers are a race without emotions, religion, Art or death. They were created by Crake, perhaps stemming from the complicated relationship he shared with Snowman and Oyrx, to have mating cycles and polygamous, transforming the gender roles and sexuality of these creatures in their posthuman landscape.

The network of Production and Consumption

Bioengineering, in Oryx and Crake, started off with animals and food, including pigoons and ChickieNobs (artificially produced chicken without brains that continuously produce wings and drumsticks) that links to the theme of production and consumption that Wajcman explores. “We are surrounded by things of whose nature and origin we know nothing” While Wajcman highlights the salience of the consumer culture with machines and mechanical engineering, in Oryx and Crake, consumers no longer think about the production process as gene splicing becomes widely accepted and even praised, the relationship between production and consumer bioengineered; this technology becoming the main driving force of the economy.



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