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Cyborg M(Others): Feminism And The New Reproductive Technologies

3068 words - 12 pages

The technological regulation of bodies and the control of reproduction are central issues within the sociology of the body. The existence of such technologies has changed and transformed the way we understand the physical body, and has in turn created spaces where new truths about the body have arisen. As such, the issues raised by reproductive technologies are central to any consideration of the sociology of the body. However, it is not the existence of the technologies themselves that determines their impact on people's lives, but the social and political context within which they are located and from which they derive their meaning. Instead of viewing ARTs statically as an essential object, they need to be understood as shifting historical practices. Like all practices, disciplines and codes, have a materiality only within the context with individual and groups' uses, appropriations and contestations. Women cannot help being shaped and transformed in their participation in these technologies; and these technologies cannot but be shaped and transformed by woman's participation. Rejecting any fixed characterisation of these technologies then, a more useful appraisal would focus on the historical specifity of the diversity of their uses and the shifting of the meanings they generate for and by different constituencies.In this vein a number of people have commented that we are now living in a "cyborg society", all of us to some degree cyborgian whether we accept the designation or not (Haraway, 1985; Gray, 1995; Balsamo, 1999). While the cyborg metaphor is invaluable in offering a new way of conceptualising the relationship between human beings and machines that challenges the limitations of essentialism and fixity, the idea that we are all cyborgs poses some limitations of analysis. Such a blanket conceptualisation ignores the fact that there are many ways in which women can and do resist the cyborg image, and by suggesting that we are all cyborgs there is a danger of losing sight of these differences, as well as possible differences among cyborgs. The fundamental questions in analysing a "society of cyborgs" should be: Under what cultural, economic and political conditions are cyborgs configured? For whom and in who's interests are cyborgs "liberating" or "pleasurable"? For whom and under what conditions are cyborgs "oppressive" or "dangerous"?***Donna Haraway's notion of the cyborg "as a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality and as an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful couplings" is useful to invoke the emancipatory potential of scientific practices that offer only "permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints" (1991, pp150 154) Despite criticisms about its tainted genealogy, I think it is one of the most useful and fruitful metaphors advanced over the last decade for those who wish to displace binary representations of technology such as liberal deification and radical demonisation. Dion Farquhar has...

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