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Developing/development cyborgs

Abstract

The paper takes as its starting point Donna Haraway’s suggestion, “The actors are cyborg, nature is coyote, and the geography is elsewhere”. It discusses first the understanding of the cyborg promoted by Haraway as illustrating an ontological non-humanist disposition, rather than a periodizing claim. The second part of the paper examines some instances of low-tech cyborg identities, which have emerged in developing countries (elsewhere) as a consequence of development initiatives. The paper argues that the quite literal attempts to develop cyborgs in such countries gives rise to developments not foreseen or controllable by the development industries. If cyborg identities are developing and minds and bodies shaped in the frictions between culture, technology, economy, and development projects and activities then what are the implications for cognitive studies. In the final part of the paper this question is considered and it is suggested that cognitive studies would do well to expand their analytical foci to take into account cyborg bodies and minds found “elsewhere”.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Or the “outerspaces” detailed by Debbora Battaglia (e.g. 2007).

  2. 2.

    See the excellent edition by Downey et al. (1998).

  3. 3.

    An evocative example of this idea is provided by the 1998 World Development Report “Knowledge for Development,” which argues that “Knowledge is like light. Weightless and tangible, it can easily travel the world, enlightening the lives of people everywhere”. Available at: http://www.worldbank.org/html/extdr/gc/knowledge/knowledge.htm

  4. 4.

    I note that that my specific choice of examples is not based on the usage within those cases of the term cyborg, although the analyses do pay considerable attention to the constitutive intertwinement between bodies, minds and materialities. Along with their attention to the quite different ways in which development organizations impinge on bodies and minds this forms my rationale for choosing these examples. Other relevant analyses are found in e.g. Fortun (2001), Hayden (2003), Petryna (2002).

  5. 5.

    It would have been obvious to make use of an example from Tsing’s magnificent recent contribution Frictions, which thematizes the sociotechnical links between the supposedly global and local quite explicitly (Tsing 2005). Here I show how such an ambition also animated her earlier work.

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Correspondence to Casper Bruun Jensen.

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Jensen, C.B. Developing/development cyborgs. Phenom Cogn Sci 7, 375–385 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-008-9101-7

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Keywords

  • Embodiment
  • Cognition
  • Cyborg
  • Development
  • Ontology
  • Technology