Armstrong, Week 9: Haraway, Habermas & Benthall: Don’t Forget Us Guys, Lady–– Also, Some Doing for Me


So I’ve been sitting with Haraway the past week and trying to grasp it more, but I was startled (though not really, and isn’t that just sad?) when I read a “polite” scathing critique of it by Sebastian Benthall. Benthall keeps reiterating that Haraway is a talented writer, which I’m sure her response would be a very dry, “Thanks.” It’s basically the equivalent of a throwaway “No offense, buuuuuut…” before saying some incredibly insensitive BS.

That’s exactly what he did.

Starting off by bringing in Jurgen Habermas, he is saying that Haraway is “mostly right” but not so right as Habermas.

“In 1981, Habermas published his Theory of Communicative Action in German. 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: there is no trancendent subject or god’s point of view to ground science; rather, science must be grounded in the interaction of perspectives through communicative action aimed at consensus.

Despite their similarities, there are some significant differences between these points of view. Importantly, Haraway’s feminist science has no white men in it. It’s not clear if it has any Asian, Indian, Black, or Latino men in it either, though she frequently mentions race as an important dimension of subjugation. It’s an appropriation and erasure of non-white masculinity. Does it include working class white men? Or men with disabilities of any kind? Apparently not. Since I’m a man and many of my scientist friends are men (of various races), I find this objectionable.”

Gotta love that italic feminist right? Haraway doesn’t include men… I don’t even… Oh, my sweet summer child.

This makes me think of Haraway’s passage on 580, “Science has been about a search for translation, convertibility, mobility of meanings, and universality–– which I call reductionism only when one language (guess whose?) must be enforced as the standard for all the translations and conversions.”

He even mentions Wikipedia definitions of bias, which Adeline Koh discusses in her “Introducing Digital Humanities Work to Undergraduates: An Overview.” In this, Koh talks about Wikipedia’s “verifiability, not truth” and the fact that the majority of its editors are white, around 30, middle-class, college educated, and English speakers.

Benthall is doing exactly what Haraway talks about in her essay: “romanticizing and/or appropriating the vision of the less powerful while claiming to see from their positions.”

This all culminates in his most misogynist claim, “So I have to conclude that teaching people Haraway as an epistemology is really bad for science, because it’s bad for diversity in science. That’s a little sad because obviously Haraway had the best of intentions and she is a really interesting writer. It’s also sad because a lot of STS people who base their work off of Haraway really think they are supporting diversity in science. I’ve argued: Nope. Maybe they should be reading Habermas instead.”

He literally is advocating to completely ignore Haraway and read this white man instead. Diversity my foot, Benthall.


I was also thinking this week, thanks to Adeline Koh, about incoorperating Digital Humanities into my own classroom. Next semester I’ll be teaching ENGL 2051 (introductory Fiction) and I want to do something other than have them make a traditional chapbook, not that there is anything wrong with that.

The course description, roughly, will be Mapping Your Histories through Flash and Short Stories.

So I’ve been thinking, and if anyone has any good resources then I would be so grateful, that I want them (for their final project) have an interactive map of their hometown, where they feel like they’ve grown the most, what Place means to them, etc. which will have a corresponding story attached. People, or themselves, from their hometown could add pictures of that place, music from local artists, that sort of thing.

Benthall, Sebastian. “Comments on Haraway: Situated Knowledge, Bias, and Code.” Digifesto. Web.

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

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