Cluster 10: I want to have a conflict with myself

by kajsakorner

cluster 10 bild

Haraway (1991) establishes what she names as a feminist objectivity: situated knowledge. Its prominent character and approach to science is the partial perspective when studying the world, and how ”the world encountered in knowledge projects is an active entity.” (Haraway, 1991: 198). She questions a traditional Western theory of science that claims objectivity, where the world is comprehended as a neutral object, surface etc. The Western tradition of “objective” science studies and observes the world from a distance in order to “discover” facts or reveal an actual truth about the matter of things and the world. Situated knowledge/feminist objectivity is a critic of this traditional Western science theory, and an alternative to social constructivism and feministic empiricism. The two latter approaches to science also emanate from a critic of the traditional Western approach, where objectivity is taken for granted and science is about universality. Instead, Haraway depicts how objectivity can be partial perspectives of the world, where the very objectivity lies in a transparent and clear positioning of from which point I am studying a phenomenon. By this the world becomes something else than just an object for neutral observations and discoveries:

“Accounts of a ‘real’ world do not, then depend on a logic of ‘discovery’, but on a power-charged social relation of ‘conversation’.” (Haraway, 1991: 198)

Haraway’s situated knowledge approach is about acknowledging and renders power to partial perspectives, but it is not a relativistic claim where any perspective will do. Because

”Relativism is a way of being nowhere while claiming to be everywhere equally. The ’equality’ of positioning is a denial of responsibility and critical enquiry.” (Haraway, 1991: 191)

Instead, the partial perspective from a very specific position will give us the possibility to discuss new ways of understanding the world and how it might work. We have

“…to seek the perspectives from those points of views, which can never be known in advance, which promises something quite extraordinary, that is, knowledge potent for constructing worlds less organized by axes of domination.” (Haraway, 1991: 192)

Situated knowledge is about discussing the world from specific positions in order to obtain nonhierarchical knowledge, but also about distinct power-conscious investigations of the world. This is how we can gain rational knowledge. Rational knowledge is a continuous critical process of interpretation of different ‘fields’, where partial perspectives is a mean in order to provide a larger vision and greater understanding of these ‘fields’ (Haraway, 1991).

I understand the different partial perspectives as setting the frame for the possibility to compose an assemblage of mapped knowledge in order to embody the reality we try to understand. It is the inner contradiction which we as humans posses that make this possible. Contradiction is considered as a resource instead as a scientific failure causing inconsistency. Objectivity is about being and producing partial knowledge instead of defining universal rules.

”the split and contradictory self is the one who can interrogate positionings and be accountable, the one can construct and join rational conversations and fantastic imaginings that change history.” (Haraway, 1991: 193)

Haraway (1991) claims that traditional Western science fails in objectivity due to its position as the master of their own universe: you cannot investigate yourself if you are the one to set up the rule for how the world should work. Neither does a subjugated perspective inherit a guarantee for scientific and conscious scrutiny of the world. A multiple seeing of the world from several standpoints at the same time is not possible, according to Haraway. Instead, we have to define how and from where we watch the world. The subjective position of situated knowledge and its “critical positioning” is the premise for producing objective knowledge (Haraway, 1991).

I think that architecture, and how we perceive physical form and spatiality is a very subjective matter. Therefore, a subjective critical positioning is crucial when writing and doing research about architecture. The situated knowledge concept allows for embodying critical perspectives in the very process of studying architecture. It can be applied both as a methodological stance and to inform the actual design of method. In my research on the relationship between walking and spatiality Haraway’ situated knowledge provides a theoretical framework for discussing and producing knowledge based on subjective experiences of walking. Experiences, which might not be, acknowledge if I position myself looking at the world of walking from outside and above, and not participating in the world of pedestrians.


HARAWAY, D. J. 1991. Simians, cyborgs, and women : the reinvention of nature, New York, Routledge.