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Coding "l'ecriture feminine" for ironic emergence


Emergence process




Hybridity and Duality





Haraway, Donna. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s." Feminism/Postmodernism. Ed. Linda Nicholson. New York: Routledge, 1990. 190-233.

I think a feminist sensibility is one that focuses on the first cut that's made as essentially a divide of the plenitude. That takes the plenitude of the ensemble or the assemblage, and (…) (says) this is the machine and this is the human. (…) that cut that is the first ethical move that has to be accounted for, and that to me is what it means to be a feminist technologist (…). It's not about essentialist notions of identity body, but, it's about reflecting on how does the plenitude...literally get enacted to be a spectrum of difference.

Anne Balsamo

…in the consciousness of our failures, we risk lapsing into boundless difference and giving up on the confusing task of making partial, real connection. (…) The actual situation of women is their integration/exploitation into a world system of production/reproduction and communication called the informatics of domination. (…) The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self. This is the self feminists must code. (205)

Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs"

When patterns emerge, it’s best to pay attention. Many, well most, of the texts explored in this course have been inclusive of the concept/apparatus of emergence, likewise a pattern but one that manages a notational (at best, dicey at worst) contextual integration arising from multiplicity. Elements noted as emerging in the course texts have included forms of labour in a digital economy impacting the creation of collectivity in computer networks (Terranova), transformative effects of an emerging language of opposition to dominant perceptions informing a ‘methodology of the oppressed’ (Sandoval), as well as the use of emergence as a method of resistance and strategic intervention on the threat of disease to humans and therefore economic productivity (Cooper).

…nothing is wasted, or a failure. Emergence is a system that makes

use of everything in the iterative process. It’s all data.

Adrienne Maree Brown

Emergence is a polysyllabic word, which also covers the fact that we don't have a

really good clue to this fundamental matter (…) and must, then, speculate.

Donna Haraway, "From Cyborgs to Companion Species"

This pattern has been helping me to think about the flexibility of a process of development that is iteratively propagating relational material, and how as a method of particularizing human experience emergence is a catch-all… mediated by the scale and complexity of that which it is emerging (from or towards or in or for or of). It seems to be a great way to recognize and point to gaps or opportunities in deep understanding, but is not sufficiently illuminating alone. It’s sort of like a ‘so what?’. As Peter Corning describes, attempts to generate laws of emergence are inadequate “because the ‘system’ involves more than the rules (…). It is not simply a self-ordered process; it involves an organized, ‘purposeful’ activity” (26). So what? That’s what. Emergence needs pragmatist function. It needs to being doing, engaged to something, to be anything in process of.

This is obvious, but I have to type it out because it keeps coming up and, frankly, it bothers me. Does feminist discourse need something akin to what Hélène Cixous called for: a l'ecriture feminine. Or in more contemporary terms, does emergence interested in non-linear, performative and autobiographical languages to describe truths of new kinds of embodiment of feminist queer transformative subjectivities have potential?

Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions, classes, and rhetorics, regulations and codes, they must submerge, cut through, get beyond the ultimate reserve-discourse, including the one that laughs at the very idea of pronouncing the word "silence”… (886)

Hélène Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa”

Cixous' assertion sounds like a glorious poetic idea built on an ideological fallacy of essentialism. In consideration of Donna Haraway’s denouncement of a desire for a revelatory common feminist language as a “totalizing” impulse (215), the question of how a process of emergence that uses this data effectively may also be connected to invention, but not one that is impregnable, by design. In 1986 Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” called for the invention of, what I’m calling, a productive metaphor of contradiction for countering the anachronistic disembodied linear site of dualist contrast, and she called it ‘cyborg’.

Cyborg politics is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication, against the one code that translates all meaning perfectly, the central dogma of phallogocentrism. That is why cyborg politics insist on noise and advocate pollution, rejoicing in the illegitimate fusions of animal and machine. (…) This is not just deconstruction but liminal transformation.

Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs"

Emergence in Haraway’s cyborg is her argument that through a dualistic hybridity (of organic and technology), the “informatics of domination” (203) or hierarchical power models can be countered, subverted, dodged…and the cyborg is that metaphoric apparatus and vehicle able to carry the imaginative possibilities of reworlding an ethical and non-anxious recognition of difference that is non-hierarchically derived. Haraway is intentionally blasphemous of structural concepts with her metaphor, contradictory and interrogative of boundaries in difference, of structural dualism, with the interest in that which has a playful capacity to collapse binaries.

Going back to Balsamo’s ‘first cut’ quoted at this outset of this post, Haraway’s play attempts to bridge the divides created by this cut/allegiance to duality in Western thought and constructs of identity. By creating metaphor that opposes dualistic models of meaning and pursuing a reductio ad absurdum, Haraway's cyborg demonstrates the necessary acceptance of irony in emergence as a process: simultenaously a disembodied embodiment of difference that is unifying.


Balsamo, Anne. “Feminism, Technology, and the Machine”, FemTechNet video dialogue featuring Wendy Chun and Kelly Dobson, moderated by Anne Balsamo. Brown University, March 2013.

Brown, Adrienne Maree. “Emergence.” Keynote address for Allied Media Conference 2013. Published by on June 21, 2013.

Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen. Signs 1.4. Summer. Chicago IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1976. 875-93.

Corning, Peter A.. "The Re-Emergence of ‘Emergence’: A Venerable Concept in Search of a Theory", Complexity 7.6: 2002. 18–30.

Haraway, Donna. "From Cyborgs to Companion Species." 2003-2004 Avenali Chair in the Humanities, Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley. 17 Sept 2003. <>

Willis, Cait. laser-cut QR code portrait. Wood, 6″x6”.

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