feminism, feminist studies, feminist theory, postcolonial theory, science and technology

Article Review: Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” in Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Feminist Inc., 1988), 575-599.


(photo credits to link provided: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_Haraway)

From one of my all time favorite feminist theorists, Donna Haraway, discusses how the idea of the objective/subject is nothing more than an illusion. Donna Haraway discusses in her essay entitled, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives,” the ability to be completely biased and unattached from the subject is much more complicated than that. Haraway’s thesis states, “I want to argue for a doctrine and practice of objectivity that privileges contestation, deconstruction, passionate construction, webbed connections, and hope for transformation of systems of knowledge and ways of seeing” (584-585). Haraway’s thesis is defended by the use of re-defining individuals and their position. She goes on further to state, “where partiality and not universality is the condition of being heard rational knowledge claims…the view from a body, always a complex, contradictory, structuring and structured body” (589). In other words, Haraway is arguing that the partial is more credible than the unattainable totalized explanation.

For example, Haraway calls attention to what she defines as “feminist objectivity…[which is] about limited location and situated knowledge, not about transcendence and splitting subject and object” (583). This way of viewing narratives, especially historical narratives, suggests a new way of interacting with colonizer/colonized, slave/master, citizen/state, power/powerless etc . This way of reading or analysis blurs binaries and may suggest agency to subjects that changes the position of these actors.

The term situated knowledge is crucial in understanding what Haraway’s article. Situated knowledge can be understood as a relationship between the binary of colonized/colonizer, not as a top down dynamic (592). Instead it is a blurred, symbiotic, and complicated relationship.

This type of analysis adds to a new way in seeing object and subject relation; in the case of nation and its citizens complicates the historical narratives. It also pushes back at scientific and historical ways of othering and objectifying subjects. This is a helpful theoretical underpinning in academic discussions on how history is told as well as how the nation interacts with its citizens and vice versa. Haraway’s essay is also helpful in grappling with academic discussions on nation building, legacy of empire, and the paradox of contradiction in colonial histories. A new way of looking at the world and a new way at re-imagining the story– a must read!