In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Donna Haraway

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Major Works

Anthropology Donna Haraway
Matthew Watson, Li Cornfeld
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0284


Donna J. Haraway (b. 1944–) counts among the most creative—and provocative—of cultural theorists today. Her gifts to critical thought have tracked from work on the history of biology, to the place of technology in feminist and socialist debates over objectivity, to the politics and ethics of genetic interventions into life forms, to expressions of multispecies companionship, kinship, and flourishing. For more than four decades, she has helped to develop realist, pragmatist, feminist, and antiracist problematics, continuously asking squirm-inducing questions about the politics and aesthetics of knowing. Originally trained in biology and the history of science, Haraway’s scholarship has altered the terms and debates of multiple fields, including anthropology, science and technology studies (STS), feminist studies, cultural studies, philosophy, literary theory, ecocriticism, animal studies, and disability studies, among others. Here, we focus chiefly on her influences on anthropology. Since publishing her first book in 1976, Haraway has offered prescient contributions to anthropological questions of what biology and culture (as well as aesthetics, technologies, and languages) might be. At the same time, our exploration of Haraway’s anthropological contributions will necessarily engage overlapping areas of inquiry, as she has helped channel rich transfusions of critical discourse across boundaries dividing STS, feminist theory, and sociocultural anthropology. This boundary-crossing amounts to something of a biographical imperative for Haraway, who has consistently channeled her Roman Catholic socialization as a child and her scientific socialization as a biology graduate student into imaginative, mythic refigurations of the cultures of technoscience. A figure deeply committed to the tropic powers of figures themselves (e.g., the cyborg, OncoMouse, the companion animal), Haraway has long fashioned herself as a border-crossing, canine-loving, chimerical human companion honing a quasi-ethnographic vision as she situates and resituates sciences, including one corner of biological anthropology’s kinship chart: primatology. Relentlessly committed to the generative effects of situating science as a complex of worldly material and semiotic practices, Haraway routinely supplants abstracted constructions of knowledge—often termed the “view from nowhere” or the “god’s eye view”—with fleshy, situated, self-aware accounts of knowing, as a contingent, often fragile, open-ended process. Through her singular, experimental, and passionate prose, Haraway refashions and re-mediates cultural, technological, and scientific systems, re-envisioning facts, values, technologies, signs, mythologies, and organisms as historically contingent, thoroughly entangled, often bumptious forms. These critical interventions have been widely received, debated, and extended within anthropological discussions of feminism, laboratory studies, technoscience, biopower, and multispecies ethnography, among other areas.

General Overviews

In resonance with much of the historicist legacy of Franz Boas’s US cultural anthropology, Haraway’s work is deeply committed to the contingency and inseparability of biological and cultural forms. Like Boas, Haraway was initially trained in the sciences. She completed a PhD in biology at Yale University in 1972. As the interview Haraway and Goodeve 2000 reveals, she came to this training as the daughter of a working-class Irish Catholic mother, who died when Haraway was sixteen, and a father who was the sportswriter for the Denver Post, having spent much of his childhood bed-bound with a case of tuberculosis that resulted in lifelong physical disabilities. At Yale, Haraway found herself in a department and lab peculiarly open to a student eager to contribute to emergent conversations within the history and philosophy of science. She wrote a thesis on authorizing metaphors within developmental biology, published as Haraway 1976 (cited under Major Works). It established Haraway’s credentials not as a biologist, but as a historian of science willing to grapple sensitively with prevailing critiques of the sciences’ progressiveness authored by thinkers such as Thomas Kuhn and Mary Hesse. Across the next few decades, Haraway’s work would become increasingly anthropological. As she put it in Haraway 1997 (cited under Major Works): “Trained in molecular and developmental biology, I identify professionally as a historian of science. I have applied for a visa for an extended stay in the permeable territories of anthropology—as a resident alien or a cross-specific hybrid, naturally” (p. 49). Her influence across the history of science, anthropology, and companion fields is evident in diverse interviews and overviews of Haraway’s life and scholarship. Two interviews offer particularly helpful guides to this professional work and trajectory: Haraway and Goodeve 2000 and Potts and Haraway 2010. In turn, Schneider 2005 and Haraway 2016 trace the development of Haraway’s research through particular attention to the path leading from her work on cyborgs to her work on companion species, while Dumit 2014 offers a particularly apt reading of Haraway’s method—against that of Gilles Deleuze—for anthropological audiences.

  • Dumit, J. 2014. Writing the implosion: Teaching the world one thing at a time. Cultural Anthropology 29.2: 344–362.

    DOI: 10.14506/ca29.2.09

    Extends a core method for Haraway—here termed the “implosion method” – into a pedagogical frame. The implosion method asks students to trace how objects enfold and reflect heterogeneous forms of labor, matter, desire, and politics. Dumit frames this method through a cross-reading of Haraway and philosopher Gilles Deleuze, who shared Haraway’s commitment to re-envisioning forms of art, language, and writing through attention to their proliferating conditions and connections.

  • Haraway, D. J. 2016. Manifestly Haraway. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

    DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816650477.001.0001

    Volume that bookends reprintings of Haraway’s two manifestos, on cyborgs (Haraway 1985, cited under Major Works) and on companion species (Haraway 2003, cited under Multispecies Anthropologies), with an introduction by Cary Wolfe and a conversation between Wolfe and Haraway. The conversation touches the implicit Catholic religiosity of Haraway’s work, with attention to the notion of “the word made flesh.”

  • Haraway, D. J., and T. N. Goodeve. 2000. How like a leaf: An interview with Thyrza Nichols Goodeve. New York: Routledge.

    Expansive, funny, thought-provoking interview that opens space for Haraway to trace her intellectual formation, and the broader implications of her critical attachments to primatology, feminism, technology, and the cyborg, among other key concepts.

  • Potts, A., and D. J. Haraway. 2010. Kiwi chicken advocate talks with Californian dog companion. Feminism & Psychology 20.3: 318–336.

    DOI: 10.1177/0959353510368118

    In this interview conducted by animal studies scholar Annie Potts, Haraway distinguishes her critical studies of the representation of primates from her later “zooethnographic” work with companion species. Haraway further characterizes her engagement with more-than-human kin as indebted to anthropologist Gayle Rubin’s essay “The Traffic in Women.”

  • Schneider, J. 2005. Donna Haraway: Live theory. New York: Continuum.

    This contribution to Continuum’s series of short introductory books on contemporary critical theorists offers an affirmative guide through Haraway’s work. The book integrates Schneider’s self-reflexive interview of Haraway with chapters that offer expository readings, including an effort to track across Haraway’s manifestos, from the cyborg (Haraway 1985, cited under Major Works) to the companion species (Haraway 2003, cited under Multispecies Anthropologies).

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