A schizophrenic out for a walk is a better model than a neurotic lying on the analyst’s couch. (Deleuze and Guattari 2)

Although I think that serious consideration needs to be given to how certain characteristics associated with the liberal subject, especially agency and choice, can be articulated within a postmodern context, I do not mourn the passing of a concept so deeply entwined with projects of domination and oppression. Rather, I view the present moment as a critical juncture when interventions might be made to keep disembodiment from being rewritten, once again, into prevailing concept of subjectivity. (Hayles 5)

Rosi Braidotti, in Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Thought, defines figuration as “a politically informed account of an alternative subjectivity” (1). In an attempt to move beyond traditional patriarchal narratives that support a dualistic ontology, Braidotti suggests a nomadic subject of becoming “to elaborate alternative accounts, to learn to think differently about the subject, to invent new frameworks, new images, new modes of thought” that challenge and question without locking the subject in any single location (1).

Rather than sounding the death knell of a dualistic mythology because of its conception by a patriarchal ideology, we should perhaps employ what Susan Brown Carlton calls a “double vision.” She suggests examining these ideologies, like Renaissance Humanism, in a way that embraces their positive qualities, concomitantly critiqes their subjugating tendencies, attempts to construct a malleable position from which to be heard. This position, or figuration, takes many forms in feminist criticism: cyborgs and nomads maintain an ironic position in order to de-naturalize and problematize dominant paradigms of oppression. Haraway characterizes this action as blasphemy.


The very fact of my constructing and your reading of this hypertext represents our growing understanding of a posthuman literacy intertwined with the components of that understanding. Access to the appropriate tools in order to approach the text itself represents a figuration composed of reading mythologies and technological manipulation. This know-how addresses not the praxis of reading these lexias (though, in itself, a necessary skill), but the a priori notions of the technology of reading, linking, and synthesizing into an understandable order. How this information is ordered depends more on how the reader’s notions of textuality interface with the physical construction of the hypertext. When can the reader stop reading? Can the reader ever be sure that s/he has exhausted the links? When has the information been communicated, and in what form? What figuration has constructed the reader, and what is its a/effect on this text? Minh-ha suggests, “writing necessarily refers to writing” (22); books implicitly and explicitly point beyond themselves, but their physicality imposes on the reader a way to read: from cover to cover. Allusions and works cited offer further areas of research, but cannot literally make those part of the text by linking to them. Readers know when a book has been read, though perhaps not in a linear fashion; can the same be said of a hypertext?

I suggest that our continued access to information technologies in our quotidian activities changes the structures of how we order information both in its reception and dissemination. Our ability to exist, function, and thrive in a ever-increasing world of hyperlinked lexias has begun to break down our perceptions of ourselves as embodied Men and Women by allowing us access to the free play of those constructions. The result is not a privileging of consciousness over embodiment, but a growing empathy for difference in embodiment.

Science Fiction

Haraway states that a feminist science might be found in the storytellers of science fiction (215 ff.). She names writers, like Tiptree, Varley, Delany, and McIntrye, that write images of the cyborg world—images that “bewilder anyone not preoccupied with the machines and consciousness of late capitalism”; i.e. anyone not aware of his/her cyblorg state. These cyborg authors of cyborg imagery have mastered the “conqueror’s language” and added to it their own violations and illegitimate productions that allow, not only survival, but a voice (217-18). I would add to Haraway’s list some other cyborg prophets who were writing before and after her manifesto.

Isaac Asimov, the founder of contemporary SF, continues to influence a new generation of SF storytellers; indeed, Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine publishes some the best young SF writers today: Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Rudy Rucker, and others. Others write what I call epical science fiction: Isaac Asimov, Sheri S. Tepper, Frank Herbert, Carl Sagan, Ursula Le Guin, and others.


4/5/99 - gerald/r/lucas