Haraway—Situated Knowledges

Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective

by Donna Haraway

[Haraway, Donna. 1991. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” In Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, 183–201. London/New York: Routledge.]

Outline

  • Problem of ‘objectivity’
    1. They are masculinist scientists, but who are we (feminists) in terms of the objective? This is a misleading and fictive question she has been asking.
  • Feminist scientists “have both selectively and flexibly used and been trapped by two poles” (183).
    1. radical constructivism: everything is understood by the subjective experience of members of the scientific community to explain our perceptions of the natural world – “science is a contestable text and a power field” (185).
    2. feminist critical empiricism: everything is provable and comes from the natural; we may discover it but we don’t construct it. (uses rigorous scientific method to undo/avoid gender bias inherent in many scientific endeavors)
  • the question—“how to have simultaneously an account of radical historical contingency for all knowledge claims and knowing subjects, a critical practice for recognizing our own ‘semiotic technologies’ for making meanings, and a no-nonsense commitment to faithful accounts of a ‘real’ world” (187).
    1. the answer – situated knowledges (feminist objectivity)
  • THE PERSISTENCE OF VISION
    1. ‘the gaze’ signifies the unmarked positions of Man and White
    2. the “god-trick” a view that is outside the system (“the cannibal-eye of masculinist extra-terrestrial projects for excremental second birthing” (189).)
      • technological god-vision; sonograms, telescopes, seemingly infinite and rhetorically invisible
      • all this vision is mediated and constructed, therefore not objective
    3. “We need to learn in our bodies, endowed with primate colour and stereoscopic vision, how to attach the objective to our theoretical and political scanners in order to name where we are and are not, in dimensions of mental and physical space we hardly know how to name” (190).
      • “only partial perspective promises objective vision” (190).
    4. New prosthetic devices show that eyes are “active perceptual systems, building in translations and specific ways of seeing, that is ways of life” (190).
      • Understanding these visual systems is a possible way of embodying feminist objectivity
      • Such feminist objectivity would argue for “situated and embodied knowledges against various forms of unlocatable, and so irresponsible, knowledge claims” (191).
    5. Positioning (the gaze)
      • Splitting” should be the privileged position for feminist epistemologies of scientific knowledge.
        • multiplicities that are impossible to reconcile as lists or force into slots
      • taking responsibility for our positions
      • thinking in terms of webs, not dichotomies
        • “Feminist embodiment “is not about fixed location in a reified body, female or otherwise, but about nodes in fields, inflections in orientations, and responsibility for difference in material-semiotic fields of meaning” (195).

BIG statement—“I am arguing for politics and epistemologies of location, positioning, and situating, where partiality and not universality is the condition of being heard to make rational knowledge claims. These are claims on people’s lives; the view from a body, always a complex, contradictory, structuring and structured body, versus the view from above, from nowhere, from simplicity. Only the god-trick is forbidden” (195).

  • OBJECTS AS ACTORS: THE APPARATUS OF BODILY PRODUCTION
    1. objects seen historically as raw material for use by humans
      • “appropriations of a fixed and determined world reduced to resource for the instrumentalist projects of destructive Western societies” OR “masks for interests, usually dominating interests” (197).
    2. Situated knowledge requires the recognition not of object, but instead of “material-semiotic actor.”
      • human or non-human, machine or non-machine
      • part of a “conversation” that produces knowledge
    3. The object of knowledge is an “active, meaning-generating axis of the apparatus of bodily production” (200).

Annotation Summary for: “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective 1”

Page 183 (205), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “ith the question of what we might mean by the curiousand inescapable term ‘objectivity'”

Page 183 (205), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Of course, a special interest group is, by Reaganoid definition, any collective historical subject which dares to resist the stripped-down atomism of Star Wars, hyper­ market, postmodern, media-simulated citizenship.”

Page 183 (205), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “It has seemed to me that feminists have both selectively and flexibly used and been trapped by two poles of a tempting dichotomy on the question of objectivity.”

Page 184 (206), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “scientists’ tell parables about objectivity and scientific method to students in the first years of their initiation, but no practitioner of the high scientific arts would be caught dead acting on the textbook versions. ”

Page 184 (206), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “what scientists believe or say they do and what they really do have a very loose fit.”

Page 184 (206), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The only people who end up actually believing and, goddess forbid, acting on the ideological doctrines of disembodied scientific objectivity enshrined in elementary textbooks and technoscience booster literature are non­ scientists,”

Page 184 (206), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “For political people, social constructionism cannot be allowed to decay into the radiant emanations of cynicism.”

Page 185 (207), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “History is a story Western culture buffs tell each other; science is a contestable text and a power field; the content is the form. 3 Period.”

Page 185 (207), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The form in science is the artefactual-social rhetoric of crafting the world into effective objects.”

Page 185 (207), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “This is a practice of world-changing persuasions that take the shape of amazing new objects – like microbes, quarks, and genes.”

Page 186 (208), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “I, started out wanting a strong tool for deconstructing the truth claims of hostile science by showing the radical historical specificity, and so contestability, of every layer of the onion of scientific and technological constructions,”

Page 186 (208), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “We wanted a way to go beyond showing bias in science and beyond separating the good scientific sheep from the bad goats of bias and misuse.”

Page 186 (208), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “reducing the issues to bias versus objectivity, use versus misuse, science versus pseudo-science.”

Page 186 (208), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Humanistic Marxism was polluted at the source by its structuring ontological theory of the domination of nature in the self­ construction of man and by its closely related impotence to historicize anything women did that didn’t qualify for a wage.”

Page 186 (208), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “‘feminist empiricism’,”

Page 186 (208), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “also converges with feminist uses of Marxian resources to get a theory of science which continues to insist on legitimate meanings of objectivity and which remains leery of a radical”

Page 187 (209), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “constructivism conjugated with semiology and narratology”

Page 187 (209), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “So, I think my problem and ‘our’ problem is how to have sim11/taneo11s/y an account of radical historical contingency for all knowledge claims and knowing subjects, a critical practice for recognizing our own ‘semiotic technologies’ for making meanings, and a no-nonsense commitment to faithful accounts of a ‘real’ world, ”

Page 187 (209), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Feminists don’t need a doctrine of objectivity that promises transcendence,”

Page 188 (210), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “radical constructivism versus feminist critical empiricism.”

Page 188 (210), Highlight (Yellow): Content: “radical constructivism feminist critical empiricism.”

Page 188 (210), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “THE PERSISTENCE OF VISION7”

Page 188 (210), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Vision can be good for avoiding binary oppositions.”

Page 188 (210), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “This gaze signifies the unmarked positions of Man and White, one of the many nasty tones of the world objectivity to feminist ears in scientific and technological, late industrial, militarized, racist and male dominant societies, that is, here, in the belly of the monster, in the United States in the late 198os.”

Page 188 (210), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “feminist objectivity means quite simply situated knowledges.”

Page 188 (210), Highlight (Yellow): Content: “situated knowledges.”

Page 189 (211), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Vision in this technological feast becomes unregulated gluttony; all perspeclive gives way to infinitely mobile vision, which no longer seems just mythically about the god-trick of seeing everything from nowhere, but to have put the myth into ordinary practice. And”

Page 189 (211), Highlight (Yellow): Content: “god-trick”

Page 189 (211), Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” like the god-trick, this eye fucks the world to make techno-monsters. Zoe Sofoulis (1988) calls this the cannibal-eye of mascu­linist extra-terrestrial projects for excremental second birthing. ”

Page 190 (212), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “We need to learn in our bodies, endowed with primate colour and stereoscopic vision, how to attach the objective to our theoretical and political scanners in order to name where we are and are not, in dimensions of mental and physical space we hardly know how to name.”

Page 190 (212), Stamp (Quote!)

Page 190 (212), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “only partial perspective promises objective vision. ”

Page 190 (212), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “This is an objective vision that initiates, rather than closes off, the problem of responsibility for the generativity of all visual practices. ”

Page 190 (212), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The ‘eyer/ made available in modem technological sciences shatter any idea of passive vision; these prosthetic devices show us that all eyes, including our own organic ones, are active perceptual systems, building in translations and specific ways of seeing, that is, ways of life.”

Page 190 (212), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “each with a wonderfully detailed, active, partial way of organizing worlds.”

Page 190 (212), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Understanding how these visual systems work, technically, socially, and psychically ought to be a way of embodying feminist objectivity.”

Page 191 (213), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “this chapter is an argument for situated and embodied knowledges and against various forms of unlocatable, and so irresponsible, knowledge claims.”

Page 191 (213), Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” I want to argue for a doctrine and practice of objectivity that privileges contestation, deconstruction, passionate con­struction, webbed connections, and hope for transformation of systems of”

Page 192 (214), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “knowledge and ways of seeing.”

Page 193 (215), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Splitting, notbeing, is the privileged image for feminist epistemologies of scientific knowledge. ‘Splitting’ in this context should be about heterogeneous multiplicities that are simultaneously necessary and incapable of being squashed into isomorphic slots or cumulative lists. ”

Page 193 (215), Stamp (Quote!)

Page 193 (215), Highlight (Yellow): Content: “‘Splitting'”

Page 193 (215), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “a scientific knower seeks the subject position not of identity, but of objectivity; that is, partial connection.”

Page 193 (215), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Positioning implies responsibility for our enabling practices. It follows that politics and ethics ground struggles for the contests over what may count as rational knowledge.”

Page 194 (216), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “social and scientific revolutions have not always been liberatory, even if they have always been visionary. Perhaps this point could be captured in another phrase: the science question in the military. Struggles over what will count as rational accounts of the world are struggles over how to see.”

Page 194 (216), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “universal rationality ethnophilosophies heteroglossia common language new organon deconstruction unified field theory oppositional positioning local knowledges world system webbed accounts master theory”

Page 194 (216), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “But a dichotomous chart misrepresents in a critical way the positions of embodied objectivity which I am trying to sketch. The primary distortion is the illusion of symmetry in the chart’s dichotomy, making any position appear, first, simply alternative and, second, mutually exclusive. A map of tensions and resonances between the fixed ends of a charged dichotomy better represents the potent politics and epistemologies of embodied, therefore accountable, objectivity. ”

Page 195 (217), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Gender is a field of structured and structuring difference, where the tones of extreme localization, of the intimately personal and individual­ ized body, vibrate in the same field with global high tension emissions. Feminist embodiment, then, is not about fixed location in a reified body, female or otherwise, but about nodes in fields, inflections in orientations, and responsibility for difference in material-semiotic fields of meaning.”

Page 195 (217), Underline (Magenta): Content: “nodes in fields,”

Page 195 (217), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Embodiment is significant prosthesis;”

Page 195 (217), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “objectivity cannot be about fixed vision when what counts as an object is precisely what world history turns out to be about.”

Page 195 (217), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “I am arguing for politics and epistemologies of location, positioning, and situating, where partiality and not universality is the condition of being heard to make rational knowledge claims. These are claims on people’s lives; the view from a body, always a complex, contradictory, structuring and struc­ tured body, versus the view from above, from nowhere, from simplicity. Only the god-trick is forbidden.”

Page 195 (217), Stamp (Star (Frame, Red))

Page 196 (218), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “location is about vulnerability; location resists the politics of closure, finality, or, to borrow from Althusser, feminist objectivity resists ‘simplification in the last instance’.”

Page 196 (218), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “So science becomes the paradigmatic model not of closure, but of that which is contestable and contested. Science becomes the myth not of what escapes human agency and responsibility in a realm above the fray, but rather of accountability and responsibility for translations and solidarities linking the cacophonous visions and visionary voices that characterize the knowledges of the subjugated. A splitting of senses, a confusion of voice and sight, rather than clear and distinct ideas, becomes the metaphor for the ground of the rational.”

Page 196 (218), Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” We do not seek partiality for its own sake, but for the sake of the connections and unexpected openings situated knowledges make possible. The only way to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in particular. The science question in feminism is about objectivity as positioned rationality. ”

Page 197 (219), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “OBJECTS AS ACTORS: THE APPARATUS OF BODILY PRODUCTION”

Page 197 (219), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Throughout the field of meanings constituting science, one of the commonalities concerns the status of any object of knowledge and of related claims about the faithfulness of our accounts to a ‘real world’, no matter how mediated for us and no matter how complex and contradictory these worlds may be.”

Page 197 (219), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Accounts of such objects can seem to be either appropriations of a fixed and determined world reduced to resource for the instrumentalist projects of destructive Western societies, or they can be seen as masks for interests, usually dominating interests.”

Page 198 (220), Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” Nature is only the raw material of culture, appropriated, preserved, enslaved, exalted, or otherwise made flexible for disposal by culture in the logic of capitalist colonialism. ”

Page 198 (220), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Situated knowledges require that the object of knowledge be pictured as an actor and agent, not a screen or a ground or a resource, never finally as slave to the master that closes off the dialectic in his unique agency and authorship of ‘objective’ knowledge.”

Page 198 (220), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Accounts of a ‘real’ world do not,”

Page 198 (220), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “depend on a logic of’discovery’, but on a power-charged social relation of ‘conversation’.”

Page 199 (221), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Acknowledging the agency of the world in knowledge makes room for some unsettling possibilities, including a sense of the world’s independent sense of humour. Such a sense of humour is not comfortable for humanists and others committed to the world as resource.”

Page 199 (221), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “we are not in charge of the world. We just live here and try to strike up non-innocent conversations by means of our prosthetic devices, including our visualization technologies.”

Page 200 (222), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “the ‘body’ is an agent, not a resource. Difference is theorized biologically as situational, not intrinsic, at every level from gene to foraging pattern, thereby fundamentally changing the biological politics of the body.”

Page 200 (222), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “the apparatus of bodily production.”

Page 200 (222), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “I wish to translate the ideological dimensions of ‘facticity’ and ‘the organic’ into a cumbersome entity called a ‘material­ semiotic actor’. This unwieldy term is intended to highlight the object of knowledge as an active, meaning-generating axis of the apparatus of bodily production, without ever implying immediate presence of such objects or, what is the same thing, their final or unique detennination of what can count as objective knowledge at a particular historical juncture.”

Page 200 (222), Highlight (Yellow): Content: “‘material­ semiotic actor’.”

Page 201 (223), Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Boundaries are drawn by mapping practices;’objects’ do not pre-exist as such. Objects are boundary projects. “

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