In Cinder, Marissa Meyer wrote Cinder’s character to inhabit a cyborg body. We argue that this has only resulted in her racialization. Coming away from the understanding of race as colour, we are analyzing racialization under a different lens. A lens that sees the outcomes of racialization constructing bodies as expendable and less than. Because of Cinder’s cyborg body, she is racialized and therefore, inhabits these two outcomes.
We began by looking at Cinder’s cyborg body like a soldier’s body. Foucault had described a soldier as an “inapt body, the machine required can be constructed… calculated constraint runs slowly through each part of the body, mastering it, making it pliable, [and] ready at all times…” (135). In this sense, Cinder’s cyborg body is very similar to a soldiers’. She was created by scientists who constructed her into a machine that literally has calculated constraints running through her; “…inner workings — from the metal vertebrae to her bunched wires to her perfectly intact ovaries” (123). Due to the cyborg draft and her legal guardian, she has no option but to be taken against her will in order to be made pliable and ready at all times, because she “owes [her] existence to those who created [her]” (27). A cyborg’s body and a soldier’s body are “…subjected [and] used” (Foucault, 136). Cinder is involuntarily subjected into the cyborg draft. She is used “…like a guinea pig for antidote testing” for the disease letumosis, “…the blue fever. Worldwide pandemic. Hundreds of thousands dead. Unknown cause, unknown cure” (26, 48). The cyborg draft, just as Cinder claims, was made as a “reminder [that] cyborgs were not like everyone else” (27).
The outcome of racialization that construct Cinder’s cyborg body as expendable can also be justified in Foucault’s concepts of “principle of enclosure” and the “… technique of [subjecting] a new object [to be] formed” (143,155). When those infected are discovered they are taken away to a place of enclosure. While Cinder is taken away against her will to this place of enclosure, she becomes a new object to be formed. Dr. Erland and Fateen are analyzing and taking multiple blood samples from Cinder, and this is done in a room where her hands and legs are “locked in place” (75). Cinder, as well as many other cyborg bodies are locked in this room of enclosure and “attached to one of the machines by wired sensors on [their] chests and forehead” (76). Foucault described the place of enclosure as a “[d]isciplinary space divided into as many sections as there are bodies (143). We imagine that unto each cyborg Dr. Erland and Fateen conduct experiments, there is a place for this analytical testing. For each cyborg body there is a divided space for them to become a subject. Regarding Foucault’s technique of subjecting a new object to be formed (155), Dr. Erland has made an even greater discovery using Cinder’s cyborg body. Foucault described how the technique of subjecting creates “new mechanism of power and [is] offered up to new forms of knowledge … a body manipulated by authority” (155). Cinder is well aware that Dr Erland “[h]ad not intention of letting her walk out forever” (121). Cinder and Dr. Erland had come into agreement that her new found volunteer position “would only last if she did return” (125). Since Cinder is a “cyborg and she is immune to the plaque, she has become [Dr. Erland’s] new favorite guinea pig” (121). Dr Erland is in a place of authority to manipulate Cinder because she is now valuable in helping him find what he needs. With that being said he promised Cinder that she will receive payment in a separate account from her legal guardian and that her sister will be the second to be given the antidote (101). With all of this, we find racialization under a different lens, coming away from the understanding of race as colour, we see the discrimination of Cinder’s cyborg body constructing outcomes in a number of ways where her identity is considered expendable.
It could be argued that Cinder’s character is considered “less than” by those around her, such as her stepmother Adri who refers to her as a “mutant” (64) or Dr. Erland who doesn’t hesitate to conduct supposedly fatal tests on her, despite her blatant protests. Her “less than” status is evident even to Cinder herself, who constantly monitors her own body and actions to resemble a “human”. Hale notes, “She uses clothing … in order to conceal the fact that she is a cyborg, and she often pulls at her gloves when she becomes nervous that someone might discover her true identity” (10). Cinder recognizes the inconvenience and irregularity of her own body, and accepts the identity of being “lesser” when she aspires to the dystopia’s idea of normality.
Although she is discriminated against, she is still able to exist and participate in society under the guise of a human because she is servicing others. Her identity as an active individual relies heavily on her role as a mechanic. This is because she is validated – as a person – through her civic duty to those superior to her. She is set back in ways that her sisters aren’t; she must constantly prove her “humanness” and usefulness to others, while this is assumed for anybody else by default. Nonetheless, her cyborg body still obstructs her from experiencing the full benefits of the society she lives in. Her “less than” status is still intact, especially when it becomes clear that despite Adri’s promise, she will not attend the ball. While characters in the novel (Iko, Cinder) experience prejudice and discrimination in a very real way, the dystopian society itself falsely presents that it is above any type of “racism”. Iko even claims about the ball, “It’s prejudice not to let androids attend” (40). This statement could suggest that androids and cyborgs would be welcome, but that is not the case because there are still active, oppressive forces working to prevent them from participating. In Cinder’s case, her position as a lower class citizen prevents her from buying a dress to attend an event clearly designed for those above her social and economic standing.
When we examine the cyborg body as one that is racialized, its expendability and less than status in the world of Meyer’s dystopian New Beijing is quite clear. There is a disturbing lack of concern for the lives of cyborgs. As shown through the political agenda that uses these bodies as tools to be poked and prodded in order to cure those “purer” in human genetic makeup. Coming away from the understanding of race as colour, it is clear that racialization under a new lens has aided in constructing Cinder’s cyborg body as expendable and less than.
Foucault, Michel. “Docile Bodies”
Hale, Sierra. “Post-Racial Futures and Colorblind Ideology: The Cyborg as Racialized Metaphor in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chornicles.” Raced Bodies, Erased Lives: Race in Young Adult Dystopian and Speculative Fiction. Eds. Miranda A. Green-Barteet and Meghan Gilbert-Hickey. Anthology Under Review.
Meyer, Marissa. Cinder. Ch. 1-11. Rampion Books. 2012
We argue that Cinder herself is convinced that she is “less than” and subhuman. In what ways does she show awareness of how she is disadvantaged by others? Does she generally fight back against it or submit to it?
Do you think that we should use another word than racialization when presenting this concept? Or does the fact that we say we are looking at racialization under a different lens make this concept easier to understand? Do you see expendability as what the physical cyborg body represents and less than as more abstract and fluid to examples of what comes out of this representation?