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date: 27 January 2020

Summary and Keywords

Donna Haraway is a prophet. Not only is her work indispensable to an understanding of science, technology, feminism, environmental studies, and protest, but she is also outlining a vivid description of where society is headed in a simultaneous array of dystopian and utopian futures. To think about human and nonhuman bodies (as well as their machinic and organic trajectories) requires engaging this provocative scholar and her work spanning over three decades. Like other prophets, Haraway has her critics, including many with understandable objections to her politics or her omissions. From any perspective, however, the way she merges genres and negotiates perspectives is unparalleled, even in critical and cultural studies. The insight she offers into the juxtaposition between humans and the environment shows how the interactions between the natural and social worlds are far more intricate and intertwined than previously conceived. The very survival of the planet depends on a new orientation to humanity’s impact on surrounding ecosystems, generating a personal, political, theoretical, and moral imperative to live in tandem with our surroundings, not in opposition. Reading Haraway thus becomes more than an academic exercise or form of intellectual tourism. In short, she is arguing for a sea-change in perspective that centers on animals and ecosystems as an indispensable part of human life on Earth.

Whether thinking through the relationships between humans and primates, ants and acacias, art and politics, compost and toxicity, or gods and pigeons, Haraway always finds ways to blur science and fiction, speculation and empiricism, or sustainability and rupture. As she demonstrates that the Anthropocene is better thought of as the Chthulucene, Haraway provokes her readers to think deeply and in unique and reflective ways. The three main clusters that constitute her work are each monumental: first, the merging of human and machine in the form of the cyborg; second, the concept of “natureculture” and the double-edged sword represented by technology that can either help natureculture contribute to a radical emancipation or experience a catastrophic exploitation; and, third, the available means of politics within both ideological structures and new identities. Between the clusters the various criticisms of Haraway’s work will also emerge, both highlighting and interrogating the clusters themselves. Overall, quilting a shelter to brave the ongoing storm is Haraway’s objective, but she knows that such a goal necessitates staying with the trouble.

Keywords: Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto, cultural theory, ecology, anthropocentrism, critical scientific fabulation, technology, feminism, communication and critical studies

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