Modest witness: Feminist diffractions in science studies. Donna Haraway. In Peter Galison & David J. Stump (eds.), The Disunity of Science: Boundaries. The reading of Donna Haraway’s “Manifesto for Cyborgs” () has But worthy endeavors are not always fun, and, on balance, Modest Witness very much. Drawing upon Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer’s book on Robert Boyle and modern conceptions of scientific objectity, Donna Haraway explains the central.

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Reading Tolkien Through Donna Haraway: The Modest Witness in Middle-earth. For Haraway, the cyborg is not merely a descriptive category; it is the situation donnna the modern human condition. If this definition is accepted, then the notion that the boundary between human and machine has become irretrievably blurred in this technological era must also be confronted.

Although this may have certain benefits, allowing the human self to be externalised in such a way brings with it an inevitable loss of control, a problem Tolkien explored through the symbol of the Ring in a letter to Rhona Beare in Sauron has created the ring and filled it with his potency, so that his own power sitness be strengthened.

New technologies that are meant to enhance our lives have been created. In both cases, there are side effects some unpredicted that may create problems. Should we adopt the solution proposed by the Council of Elrond and destroy them? Or should we follow the advice of Boromir and try to use them to our advantage? Schick compares the problem of the Ring to three twenty-first- century technologies: All three have perceptible potential benefits, especially perhaps in the field of medicine, but they are viewed with equal trepidation by those who fear the direction in which such scientific developments might take humanity.

Haraway looks to the seventeenth-century scientist, alchemist and inventor Robert Boyle, and in particular his experiments with the air pump, to uncover the emergence of the modest witness in early scientific discourse, first identifying and then deconstructing this central figure. Finally, he founded a literary technology, through which those who were not physically present at his demonstrations could still be witnesses to the phenomenon.

The modest witness is a figure in the stories of science studies as well as of science. His subjectivity is his objectivity. Uaraway doing so, Haraway offers the reader, through the tropes of OncoMouseTM and the FemaleMan, a new understanding of what it means to witness. In particular, it is the three Hobbit Ring-bearers who seem to play a witnessing role within their stories. In fact, Bilbo has not yet finished the work when the Ring is destroyed some seventeen years later, when he gives the still incomplete manuscript to Frodo.

As Bilbo plays little part in the quest to destroy the Ring, he wjtness no longer act as witness and must pass the duty of the recounting of events to another. Frodo continues Bilbo’s task as witness to what has occurred in Middle-earth, recording the details of his journey to and return from Mordor in the Red Book of Westmarch, bequeathed to him by Bilbo. In addition to all his actual experiences during the course of The Hwraway of the Rings, Frodo also has what can only be described as visions, or dreams, which are used as foreshadowing.

On its top stood the figure of a man The figure lifted his arms and a light flashed from the staff that he wielded. Here, Frodo is seeing Gandalf, and his escape from Orthanc, despite the fact that he will not actually be told about this incident until he reaches Rivendell. It is not only Frodo who has these experiences, which occur on numerous occasions throughout the text. Amendt-Raduege counts nearly one hundred references to dreams or visions within The Lord of the Rings These undoubtedly metaphysical visions are all key elements in the experiences of the characters who encounter them, as virtually every event and detail is significant; they are therefore also important ingredients not only in the story, but in how it is told.

Donna Haraway, Modest witness: Feminist diffractions in science studies – PhilPapers

Sharing these visual events with Frodo, for example, enables the reader to be more emotionally engaged with him whilst his extraordinary position is developing within the narrative. Brian Rosebury picks up on this point in Tolkien: Bilbo has already warned Frodo, many years before he sets out to destroy the Ring, that it is the road that is the most important element of any adventure: He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: Do you realise that this is the very path that goes through Mirkwood, and that if you let it, it might take you to the Lonely Mountain or even further and to worse places?


Unlike the other members of the Fellowship, neither Frodo nor Sam takes part in any of the great battles within The Lord of the Rings.

Their task is more modest in size, although certainly not lacking in importance. Sam is the one who witnesses most the insidious nature of the Ring and its contaminating effect on its bearers, as he sees both what Gollum has become, and what Frodo is becoming, due to their close contact with the Ring.

Modest witness: Feminist diffractions in science studies

As a result, he is able donba give Frodo the kind of help and support that enables the two Hobbits to fulfil their task; without Sam, Frodo would almost certainly have failed to reach the Sammath Naur. Frodo, who witnesses so much whilst on his journey, neither seeks recognition for his achievements, nor celebration of his actions. This setting down of the story is, however, a duty of equal significance to that performed by Sam in his efforts to rebuild the Shire.

If, as Gandalf hints in The Return of the King, evil will return one day to Middle-earth, then the histories that are witnessed and recounted by Frodo will have great importance.

Frodo may not have gained the kind of honour and respect from other Hobbits that Sam felt he was due, but this is not what the vir modestus seeks. Instead, the modest witness simply ensures that information is passed on, so that others may know.

Sam is the other modest witness of significance within The Lord of the Rings. He perceives the damage that has been caused by Sauron and the Ring but is himself undamaged. Sam witnesses not just the events in the quest to destroy the ring; he also witnesses the effect of the Ring on others.

He remains fonna by the influence of the Ring and is able to give the Ring back to Frodo of his own free will. His lack of contamination means that he is able to complete the writing of the Red Book, as Frodo knows he will.

If Sam is inside a song, then he is literally enchanted by what he sees around wtness.

The second and most notable occasion takes place as he and Frodo are about to enter the tunnel at Cirith Ungol. Folk seem to have just landed in them, usually We hear about those as just went on — and not all to a good end, mind you Sam then wonders if their tale will ever be written down and put properly into words TT, IV, viii, Sam mentions that he and Frodo have chances to turn back but they choose to continue.

It is their choices, once their feet are set upon their path, which make their story one that matters. Neither Frodo nor Sam has undertaken the difficult and dangerous task of carrying the Ring to Mordor with thoughts of glory and self-aggrandisement. They both embody the virtues of the vir modestus — they are modest witnesses who report on the events through which they live.

There are numerous references within The Lord of the Rings to the kinds of songs and stories that recount the histories of Middle-earth. Men, Elves and Hobbits are alike in their ability and desire to pass on the knowledge of past events in a creative form.

This is the tale of Gil-galad, one of the Elves who had played a vital part in the Battle of Dagorlad, over three thousand years before the events of the War of the Ring. In addition to these creative histories, there are a number of references to important events within The Lord of the Rings being both witnessed and recounted so that others may have knowledge of them. As Gandalf does not say that he does not know the story from the very beginning, this would indicate that he is probably one of those lore-masters.

Nevertheless, much of what he does tell Frodo is witnessed by Gandalf himself, or has been told to Gandalf by those who did witness the events.

This is a crucial moment in The Lord of the Rings as Frodo must be persuaded of the dangers of the Ring he carries, by someone who does not dare to relieve the Hobbit of his burden for fear of the consequences. Having been given this knowledge by Gandalf, Frodo is now also a witness and, in turn, must bear witness to others so that they may know.

The entirety of the chapter is given over to exposition, in which many of the participants share knowledge of events that they have witnessed, both so the characters within it may gain full knowledge of the situation regarding the Ring and, vitally, so the reader may also acquire this knowledge. Tolkien, therefore, is cloaking himself in the mantle of one who enables others to read what others have written and therefore pass on the knowledge of the legendarium, a poetic conceit in the construction of his narrative.


This is Tolkien presenting himself as witness, rather than architect, of the histories of Middle-earth. In both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings there is a blurring of the line that exists between the text and the reader. This is more consciously done in The Hobbit, with its more intrusive narrative voice that regularly addresses the reader directly.

In The Lord of the Rings, however, we have located a story-telling technique that evokes the Modest Witness, creating an unusual relationship between the characters, the narrative, and the text as a whole.

In addition, the reader is offered a number of instances, within the narrative, in which the characters themselves demonstrate an awareness that they are situated within a tale of some kind.

In a sense, therefore, Frodo is not really a part of a quest – he is the means by which a quest is fulfilled. The quest itself is much greater than he is and began long before he became involved; there is no promise of success and the Ring is a dangerous burden to bear. Gandalf admonishes Bilbo at the end of The Hobbit: This implies that the characters in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are players in a drama whose outlines they cannot fully perceive; it is important to understand, though, that they are neither the robots of fate nor the puppets of destiny.

Tolkien clearly believes in a patterned and providential universe whose deepest workings are beyond human influence, but also that we choose how we react to them.

When Frodo complains to Gandalf that he wishes these events had not happened in his time, Gandalf’s reply emphasizes that there is always a choice to be made: But that is not for them to decide. Throughout the events of The Lord of the Rings, free will is affirmed and authentic moral choices are made in the face of loss, temptation, fear and danger.

Thus, the characters in The Lord of the Rings are actively witnessing the events of the narrative, setting it down so that others in this case, the reader might know the details of the quest to destroy the Ring.

This form of witnessing emphasises the way in which Tolkien offers the novel as a historical text, with the characters being actively aware of the part they are playing in the narrative. Despite this knowledge, like all the other events within the narrative the part must still be played and witnessed, so that the tale may be told.

From the beginning of her academic career Haraway has avoided categorisation: This may be illustrated by examples ranging from the simple, virtually unnoticed level of fusion — for example the wearing of contact lenses to correct vision — to a more invasive synthesis — such as heart pacemakers, or artificial limbs.

She uses this discussion to introduce a complex series of arguments to illustrate how the world is constituted as a blend of transgressions, mutations, and boundary violations, rather than something analogous to nature corrupted by culture.

She uses the tropes of the FemaleMan and the trademarked OncoMouseTM to explore the construction of the boundaries between technology and culture, humanity and nature, and science, corporatism and social responsibility.

Haraway also discusses the origins of copyrights and trademarks, which have led humans to the state where it is now possible to trademark, market, and profit from a mouse genetically engineered for cancer research. Lastly, she documents how corporations and institutions collude in such products as biology textbooks to promulgate very specific visions of the world to witmess an extent that nature and culture become commodified.

File:Haraway Donna J Modest Witness Second Millennium pdf – Monoskop

The barrier is therefore set between those who know, or who are permitted to know, and those who are simply absent from the scene of action, thus barred from knowledge.

She argues that the seventeenth-century version of the modest witness was necessarily exclusive on the grounds of race and gender and also social status, which is mentioned but attracts less focus in the argumentthus producing a culturally distorted version of science-based knowledge. An Annual Scholarly Review Vol. Cyborg Citizen New York: Routledge Haraway, D.

Routledge Kunzru, H. Scholarship and Critical Assessment ed. Routledge Rosebury, B. A Cultural Phenomenon Basingstoke: