To Be a Cyborg or Not?

Being a cyborg is hard for me to imagine. Why would I want to be something else instead of me? But one can question, aren’t you already a cyborg? Indeed. With a Fitbit band on my wrist and an iPhone constantly held in my hand (I don’t feel secure enough if it’s in my pocket), I can hardly deny that I am a cyborg. Anyway, isn’t a cyborg a human plus machine/technology? In fact, in her A Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway shows that a cyborg can mean more than that. A cyborg can be human plus machine, but it can also be animal plus machine, or all of them mix together. What is important is that clear boundaries now disappear, and what has been guarded behind the boundaries – identity – will shatter as well. An alternative world Haraway visions is constructed via affinity, not identity. Affinity is not fixed. Unlike identity, affinity is not an inborn quality. Instead, one can choose with free will or even build an affinity. It is fluid, flexible, possible to be deconstructed and then reconstructed. With multiple affinities, there emerges cyborg.

Thinking about such an understanding of cyborg and then look at both Haraway’s and Hammonds’ chapters on race is helpful. What these authors are both trying to say is that race, as either an idea or a belief, is constructed, even though it is commonly taken as part of one’s identity. Haraway believes that race as an identity quality (that people believe) should be shattered, and new affinity connections should be built (e.g. she talks about vampire). Technology is able to delineate a dream by visualizing a woman’s face with multiple racial backgrounds, but this will only re-emphasize the masculine power which existed on racial differences, based on Hammonds’ understandings. If our present world is inevitably racist, then building affinities and becoming cyborgs will lead us to another future.

However, as “a woman of color,” I have to say that the chapter that I resonate with the most is Moya’s. It is not simply because her postpositivist realist theory of identity is something that I can operate, but more because she admits, and accepts, as a woman of color herself, the history and the reality (and everything carried by them) which made us who we are. Affinity is beautiful, and cyborg is also fantastic – but aren’t they dreams too? We, no matter as a white woman or a woman of color, need a way to achieve these dreams. To me, the first step is to accept who I am, where I am, and the things that build me. Then, maybe little by little, I will have the courage to question my identity, to even deconstruct, and build a new “self” from numerous affinities. Before being a cyborg, I desperately have to see my historical identity.

There is one last thing that I want to share: I have never seen myself as a woman of color before reading A Cyborg Manifesto.