The gap between citing Haraway and following her method: A Puzzle

Donna Haraway is one of the most cited writers in the area of Science and Technology Studies, but this does not seem to translate into people adopting her method–exemplifying it, exploring it, clarifying it, extending it. Comments, citations, or other contributions that address — or contest — this puzzle are welcome.

In the meantime, some initial thoughts:
1. What is Haraway’s method? I am thinking of the approach that resulted in Modest−Witness@Second−Millennium.FemaleMan−Meets−OncoMouse (1997), which was already evident in this segment of a 1989 video on Reading National Geographic on primates, and is conveyed in this interview from 2000:

I have this family of entities, these imploded objects: chip, gene, cyborg, fetus, brain, bomb, ecosystem, race. I think of these as balls of yarn, as gravity wells, as points of intense implosion, or as knots. They lead out into worlds, you can explode them, you can untangle them, you can somehow loosen them up. They are densities that can be loosened, that can be pulled out, that can be exploded, and they lead to whole worlds, to universes without stopping points, without ends. Out of the chip you can in fact untangle the entire planet, on which the subjects and objects are sedimented. (from Haraway, Donna. “Cyborgs, Coyotes, and Dogs: A Kinship of Feminist Figurations” and ”There are Always More Things Going on than You Thought! Methodologies as Thinking Technologies”)

2. Four levels of adopting the method might be distinguished:
a. Illustrate the existence of yarn-like, knotted complexities, which, when pulled on, “lead to whole worlds.”
b. Discipline the complexities that emerge.
c. Draw meaningful cross-connections to provide some sense of the causal linkages relevant in this complexity.
d. Identify points of engagement where you might help to influence the direction of future development. (After all, as noted in a recent post, “Haraway’s ‘culture critic’ does not really get to sit outside the knotted ball and pull at threads, but is more like a little knot of its own inside the ball.”)

3. A similar puzzle is about how few people adopted the method of an even-more-cited writer in the area of Science and Technology Studies, namely, Bruno Latour, as made explicit in the subtitle of his 1987 Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society, and the book’s rules of method. (Indeed, did Latour himself follow his rules in arriving at his account?)

4. The “360 Degrees Of Connection Activity” in a recent post. (The activity has not yet been test-run–stay tuned for what happens.)


One thought on “The gap between citing Haraway and following her method: A Puzzle

  1. chris london

    I regularly assign the Situated Knowledges paper in my methods classes. Here is a recent powerpoint that illustrates the use I make of it (You might recognize the eyeballs from Hoekstra and Allen’s paper on hierarchy theory). It doesn’t argue for a method as such, rather it argues that diverse methods already do the strand-pulling, the problem is that people fail to properly situate what they discover within the epistemological frame of partiality. In another vein, your “points of engagement” remind me of my own “strategic points of intervention”:


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