Donna Haraway: On “Objective” Knowledge and its Purpose

“So, I think my problem, and “our” problem, is how to have simultaneously an account of radical historical contingency for all knowledge claims and knowing subjects, a critical practice 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, one that can be partially shared and that is friendly to earthwide projects of finite freedom, adequate material abundance, modest meaning in suffering, and limited happiness. Harding calls this necessary multiple desire a need for a successor science project and a postmodern insistence on irreducible difference and radical multiplicity of local knowledges. All components of the desire are paradoxical and dangerous, and their combination is both contradictory and necessary. Feminists don’t need a doctrine of objectivity that promises transcendence, a story that loses track of its meditations just where someone might be held responsible for something, and unlimited instrumental power. We don’t want a theory of innocent powers to represent the world, where language and bodies both fall into the bliss of organic symbiosis. We also don’t want to theorize the world, much less act within it, in terms of Global Systems, but we do need an earthwide network of connections, including the ability partially to translate knowledges among very different – and power-differentiated – communities. We need the power of modern critical theories of how meanings and bodies get made, not in order to deny meanings and bodies, but in order to build meanings and bodies that have a chance for life.”

Written by Donna Haraway, in “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective” (1988)

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