Conceptual Cluster 10: Altering Subjectivities

by katja2013


Situating Koolhaas as a feminist objectivist

With situated knowledge, feminist objectivity, Donna Haraway develops an alternative for feminist science, instead of the polarizing positions; feminist empiricism or radical constructivism, which remain within the doctrine they critique. Haraway critiques the Western doctrines of scientific objectivity, based on reductionism, describing and discovering the world by means of deconstructing, constructing, and arguing, with the aim of finding universalities and claims to truth.

In critiquing this claim to scientific objectivity Haraway aims to develop better accounts of a ‘real’ world, not depending on logic of ‘discovery’ but on a power-charged social relation of ‘conversation’. Objectivity and the possibility to make rational knowledge claims, should be based on partial perspective, location, positioning, situating and the activation of the object. Acknowledging that seeing is not neutral, we all actively interpret and translate all we see and have specific ways of seeing, and that infinite vision, seeing all at ones, or from different points of view at the same time, is an illusion, a God trick, “only partial perspective promises objective vision”, means according to Haraway that we need to clarify from which location, position we are viewing, since we have a specific and particular subjective position we have to be clear about it. The objectivity in partial perspective is about being transparent and clear about ones position. “Objectivity turns out to be about particular and specific embodiment.”

Although the marginal and peripheral position, the subjugated position is a favorable one, because they seem to hold the promise of a transformative account of the world, Haraway warns us against the dangers of romanticising and/or appropriating the vision of the less powerful while claiming to see from their positions” Here we also have to be critical, partial and think and act situated.

Haraway believes that in partial perspectives lies the possibility of a rational objective inquiry into the world, but it is not about relativism and an ‘anything goes’, 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 inquiry.” And not just any partial perspective will do,  “We are also bound to seek perspective from those points of view, which can never be known in advance, that promise something quite extraordinary, that is, knowledge potent for constructing worlds less organized by axes of domination.”

A point of view or vision is always about the power to see, the position of one self in this world is always based on contradictions: contradicting point of views and departure, we have to make dirty hands, but, as Haraway, I see opportunities within the contradictory self “The split and contradictory self is the one who can interrogate positionings and be accountable, the one who can construct and join rational conversations and fantastic imaginings that change history. Splitting, not being, is the privileged image for feminist epistemologies of scientific knowledge.”

Vision is also about translation, and “translation is always interpretive, critical, and partial.  Here is a ground for conversation, rationality, and objectivity- which is power-sensitive, not pluralist, ‘conversation.’”  Understanding subjectification is multidimensional, that it is a about a continuous becoming, a continues constructing and stitching together imperfectly, will leave openings and culture for runningroom for the unexpected, the encounter, and possible emancipations.

The partial views, imperfections and unfinishedness, room for surprise and irony as being part of the knowledge production in feminist objectivity, the being part of the world, instead of viewing from a distance, conversations instead of a universal monologues, living with contradictions and opening up the cliché of the binary distinction, by the “activation of the object as knowledge’.

 I would like to call it a kind of ‘opportunistic optimism’. What I believe Haraway shares with Rem Koolhaas, is what you can call an ‘opportunistic optimism’ approach. What do I mean with that: Prejudice, judgment (from an ideal idea, or critique in advance) is delayed (on hold) as long as possible: you analyse; see what is there without prejudice, map it, operate within it to see its transforming possibilities in situ. And you believe, are convinced, that working from within, the everyday, (including its cyborg, artificial, virtual, media, popular transformations) can give situated freedom a chance to blossom. Not negotiation, but possibilities from within are mobilised. Not the formulation of ideas, that once applied in reality can only disappoint, but what reality has to offer can change the world. Like what happened in New York retroactively, through a lived experiences, they way the market works and enlightened developers. In fact, polemically stated, Delirious New York is the Cyborg City Haraway talks about.

While Diller Scofidio + Renfro deconstruct and make visible, Koolhaas (and Haraway) accept the schizophrenic and paradoxical reality of the modern everyday. They understand that we need to deal with this reality and even that we have to work for it to arrive at possible emancipation.


Donna Haraway , ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspectives’, in Feminist Studies, pp. 575–599, 1988.