We are reading Donna Haraway’s Situated Knowledges and Cyborg Manifesto for our department’s “Classics” reading group. An odd institution. Haraway, Donna (), “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective”. In: Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3. In her essay ‘Situated Knowledges’, Donna Haraway both raises and responds to the challenge of a feminist politics of location in a way.

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I took this down again for some reason, maybe because of a change of opinion about the appropriateness of its message. My further thoughts on that piece are here. I believe this is because of its subject matter, not because of its quality.

Nevertheless, the epistemological considerations seemed to touch a nerve.

Donna Haraway

After the Presidential election, I made this post private via password protection because I was worried that by criticizing this brand of postmodernism I was contributing to an imminent backslide in societal values. Writing this now, I see that this was an unhinged fear only somebody woefully immersed in academic nonsense would hold. It has since become more accepted by the leadership of UC Berkeley that reason is a value worth upholdingand that it is through reason that we can best resist prejudice.

As I try to point out below, if true this is likely to be a disappointment for those influenced by Haraway. Rational knowledge is power-sensitive conversation. Decoding and transcoding plus translation and criticism; all are necessary.

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.

Since we bridge between many disciplines, there is a lot of ground to cover. I also think she is mostly right about things. This is not what I expected going into reading her. This is in This work incorporates some of the feminist critiques of his earlier work on the formation of the bourgeois public sphere.

Habermas reaches more or less the same conclusion as Haraway: Despite their similarities, there are some significant differences between these points of view. Does it include working class white men? Or men with disabilities of any kind? Essentially, she does not believe that the scientific conversation can or should reach consensus or agreement.


She is focusing on the critical process. Reading Habermas, on the other hand, you get the sense that he believes that if everyone would just calm down and stop bickering, we would at last have scientific peace.

Perhaps the difference here comes from the presumed orientation or purpose of interpretation. For Habermas, is it mutual understanding. For Haraway, it is criticism and contest.

Advocates of a cyborg feminist science or successor science or science of situated knowledges might argue for it on the grounds that it improves diversity. Specifically, it provides a way for women to participate in science. In a recent training organized by the committee for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity, we met together and did exercises where we discussed our unconscious biases.

Situated Knowledges & Feminism by Group 2 on Prezi

People may be biased toward or against an individual, a race, a religion, a social class, or a political party. Biased means one-sided, lacking a neutral viewpoint, not having an open mind. The problem with bias in a diverse setting is that it leads to communication breakdown and exclusion. A related idea is the idea of a statistical biaswhich is when a statistic is systematically out of sync from the population of interest. In computational social science, we have to look out for statistical biases because we aim for our social scientific results to be objective.

Another related idea is cognitive biasa psychological phenomenon harwway general than the first kind of bias. These biases are deviation from rationality in psychological thought.

This Nobel Prize winning psychological research has found systematic ways in which all people make mental shortcuts that skew their judgments.

Somehow, for Haraway, men have no perspective, not even a partial one. Yet, from this non-perspective, men carry out their project of domination. So instead I am going along with what we learned in Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity training, which is to try to understand better my own biases so that I harxway do my best to correct them.

This experience is something that anybody who has worked collaboratively on source code harawqy recognize as familiar. When working on software with a team of people, everybody has different ideas about how things should be organized and implemented.


Some people may have quirky ideas, some people may be flat out wrong. Haraaway discussion that happens on, for example, an open source issue tracker is a discussion about reaching consensus on a course of action. Like in statistics or the pursuit of psychological sitjated, this activity is one of finding an agreement that reduces the bias of the outcome. In machine learning and statistics, one of the ways you can get an unbiased estimator is by combining many biased ones together and weighting their outcomes.

The idea of an unbiased democratic outcome of combined situate perspectives is familiar to people who work in data science or computational social science because it is foundational to their work. It is frustrating that this kind of robust, consensually arrived at agreement is still sometimes rejected as radically contingent or historical by those from the Science and Technology Studies STS tradition who find their epistemic roots in Haraway.

Haraway seems to believe that women in science are unable to overcome their own bias partialityor at least encourages them to not kbowledges.

Donna Haraway – Wikipedia

Maybe they should be reading Habermas instead. Situated Knowledge, Bias, and Code. And this would stifle further progress of inclusion.

Instead her way of questioning might be: How far can statistics be a source of truth that is open to interpretation and thus has nothing to do with exact mathematics? This has nothing to do with mathematics but with interpretation and human social sciences. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Knowleedges me of new comments via email. Harwway me of new posts via email.

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