May 23, 2006
Race online, or "cybertypes"

A review of Cybertypes by Lisa Nakamura.

From: Kali Tal - Reviews: Lisa Nakamura: Cybertypes:

Nakamura gives us excellent coverage of the phenomenon she calls "techno-Orientalism" in her chapter "Race in the Construct and the Construction of Race: The ‘Consensual Hallucination’ of Multiculturalism in the Fictions of Cyberspace." In this chapter she takes a variety of popular ‘cyberpunk’ novels and films –including Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and The Diamond Age– to task for reinscriptions of racism within their texts. Her reading of Andy and Larry Wachowski’s The Matrix is most interesting for its incorporation of George Lipsitz’s notion of "the possessive investment in whiteness"(78), upon which her analysis of the character Cypher is founded: "the only white man on the crew betrays the humans precisely because he wants to jump the ship of multiculturalism and reclaim his possessive investment of whiteness."(78) Nakamura persuasively argues that "[Cypher’s] claims to being oppressed while he is receiving no less and no more than any other crew member … invokes the ways that a lack of white privilege can be experienced as oppression."(78) The comparison of Cypher to Allan Bakke (famous for his "reverse racism" suit in the late 1970s), filtered through Lipsitz’s lens of possessive investment is downright brilliant, and all by itself is worth the price of admission.
Seriously, was Cypher the only white guy in the crew? I swear there was another white guy.

Edit: yeah, there was another white guy. The idea that Cypher's sellout is an pointer to white privilege is still pretty compelling though.

For some reason the neologism "Cybertype" irks me. Apparently Nakamura also coined "Identity Tourist" for which I am eternally grateful, and so I'll probably let cybertypes go.

Posted by illovich at May 23, 2006 02:57 PM
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