Cyborgs as Racialized Others in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder (Angelika E., Amber R.)

In Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, human life is surrounded by cyborgs and androids, who are classified as subhuman and treated as less important than fully human people. There are strong parallels between the cyborgs in Meyer’s universe and American people of colour. The cyborgs are treated as the “racialized other” because of bodily differences, in ways that are similar to how skin colour has been a marker to be treated differently. Their bodily autonomy is taken from them by those who have power over them. In examining various elements of the world that Meyer presents us with, such as the medical draft, the medical examination process, and attitudes regarding cyborgs, this post will be arguing that cyborgs in Cinder are treated as racialized, othered bodies.

One parallel between cyborgs and black people is their forcible involvement in medical testing. In Cinder, cyborgs are drafted to be test subjects to find a cure for the disease letumosis, as they are considered more expendable than humans. Similarly, black slaves were forced into being medical test subjects. There are several cases where black slaves were bought by doctors and subject to deadly and torturous procedures in the name of science. One example of this parallel is how Dr. Sims in the 1840’s bought black female slaves and experimented on their genitalia without their consent (Washington, 2007, p. 2). In addition, they were denied anesthesia because they were thought not to be human enough to feel pain. This idea is paralleled in Cinder when Cinder’s stepmother asks, “Can you feel anything at all, or is it just… programmed?” (Meyer, 2012, p. 63). This suggests that in both cases, they were used because they were not considered human enough to be treated like humans, but human enough to be useful to the “real humans”. Attitudes regarding both the real-life and fictional doctors is similar; to one group they are heroes, to the other, monsters.

Another way to examine the parallels between cyborgs and people of colour is considering the ratio detector examination as a rape scene, and comparing that to the experiences of female slaves. Consider the following passage in terms of the lack of consent and the violence of the med-droids:

“Perhaps if she fought hard enough they would knock her out again. She wasn’t sure if that would be better or worse […] Her heart galloped as the android undid the latch in the back of her head. She shut her eyes, trying to imagine herself anywhere but this cold, sterile room. She didn’t want to think about the two metal prongs being inserted into her control panel– her brain– but it was impossible not to think about it as she heard them being maneuvered into place.” (Meyer, 2012, p.80)

As a cyborg, Cinder’s control panel is where she is most vulnerable. We can read this as a rape scene because Cinder is nonconsenting, both verbally and with her body language, while the med-droid is forcefully inserting prongs into her control panel. Cinder describes nausea and inability to feel anything. She screams and counts with the scanner, waiting until it’s done. If one were to replace the mechanical terms with body parts and clothes, it would literally be describing a rape scene.

Cinder is clearly traumatized, and has been traumatized before in the initial surgery that made her a cyborg: “a fact never forgotten, always ignored… someone had altered her” (Meyer, 2012, p. 80). This trauma she deals with can compared to the experiences of black slaves because many of them suffered the same fate. It is a well-known fact that female black slaves were frequently raped by their masters. In terms of medical rape, slave owners would bring doctors to conduct full body examinations to assess their slave’s health and suitability to their needs. In a similar example, a Mormon physician named Frederick Gardener describes a scene he witnessed:

“Then he finally discovers a bright mulatto, who appears about 16 years of age and is quite good looking. She is ushered into a private room where she is stripped to a nude condition and a careful examination is made of all parts of the body by the Dr. and is pronounced by him to be sound.” (Washington, 2007, p. 25)

It does not have to be explicitly stated to be understood that this would be a violating experience of having your naked body assessed. It is also evident that this was not an uncommon scene. Similarly, Cinder’s control panel is exposed and is subjected to the violating experience of having her cyborg to human ratio tested to assess if she would be suitable to their needs.

The people of Meyer’s universe are not fond of those who are not fully human, resulting in cyborgs being treated as subhuman. Frequently, Cinder hides her mechanical parts to pass as fully human. Black people have always been viewed with fear and disgust. It appears that cyborgs are treated similarly. For example,  “Chang Sacha didn’t serve cyborgs” (Meyer, 2012, p.19). This calls to mind the common signs posted in segregated US of “No Colored Allowed”. As it parallels race-based discrimination, it is not far-fetched to consider cyborgs experiencing racialized bodies in similar ways. It is also similar to the experience of biracial individuals; the more an individual can pass for white, the less racism they are subject to. For cyborgs who can afford skin grafts, and for those who do not have many modifications, there is a passing privilege.

Thus, it is evident that cyborgs in Cinder are treated as a racialized group. In understanding the similarities between Cinder’s experiences and black people in both the past and present, we can see how the violence that she is subject to is inspired by real-life forces. Like enslaved black people, cyborgs are subject to medical examinations and discrimination, as a result of being labeled dehumanized. Meyer carefully incorporated history into a future setting, potentially as a dystopian warning not to let the past repeat itself.

Discussion questions:

  1. Did you draw the same parallel when reading the novel? Can you think of any other ways in which the cyborgs are racialized within the novel?
  2. Do you think Meyer wrote this as a dystopian in an attempt to criticize the treatment of racialized bodies?

References

Meyer, M. (2012). Cinder. New York: Rampion Books.

Washington, H. A. (2007). Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. New York: Harlem Moon Broadway Books.

21 thoughts on “Cyborgs as Racialized Others in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder (Angelika E., Amber R.)

  1. I found it interesting the way you argued that cyborgs are racialized others in this novel. I also read them this way and drew similar conclusions. When I read this novel I read cyborgs as mixed race – part machine part human and I drew parallels between their experiences and that of raced individuals. I never thought of the scene where they assess her machine to human ratio as rape but I like the way you argued this and the proof you provided made is an interesting and valid interpretation. Furthermore, the way you connected it to female slaves of the past made it a very powerful connection.
    Another connection I made in regards to cyborgs was the way they were too treated as slaves in the way in which they – or specifically Cinder – were expected to serve at the will at their ‘guardian’ in ways that slaves have to do in the past with no autonomy over their bodies. Also when Prince Kai reacted to disgust when he found out Cinder was a cyborg also reminded me of how disgusting coloured people were seen in the past as: if they were subhuman.
    The idea of Cinder attempting to look human to others reminds me of the idea of racial passing. Black people – especially the light skinned or mixed raced ones would often attempt to pass as white in order to avoid being targeted by white people and treated as subhuman. There is a book about Philip Roth entitled The Human Stain that is based around the experiences of a black male passing as a white university professor in the 1990’s. When reading about Cinder as her struggles as a racialized other in her society it immediately reminded me of Coleman Silk from Roth’s novel, he also passed so he could get his education easily and lead a successful academic life that was not tainted by hate and disgust. This is how I see Cinder when she hides her mechanical parts to be seen as a human. Which at the end of the day she is, she simply had a procedure done so she could live a relatively normal life rather than be constrained by the injuries she sustained in the fire as a child.

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  2. I have mix feelings about cyborgs being racialized within Cinder. It doesn’t make sense to me why someone who isn’t born a certain way but becomes a certain way would be discriminated. Then I think about LGBT*community and how a lot of people believe that they chose to be queer and so are discriminate for being unnatural and breaking the norm. I try to apply the same mentality to Cinder, but it doesn’t work as well. I don’t recall cyborgs being seen as breaking the social order of New Beijing if they do please correct me. Which means that the situations aren’t the same, especially since someone is born queer, but people become cyborg for medical reasons. Which means that the government funds research to allow people to have robot parts to ensure that they can still live. The more I think about cyborg as a race the more I get confused by the possibility, someone is born a race that should be different than becoming a cyborg. In Cinder’s case, it wasn’t a choice, she woke up and was a cyborg she couldn’t do anything about it. But does that mean that every cyborg was forced to become one? If so why are they discriminated? Why are they seen as less human if it is humans that made them become cyborgs?
    Although the parallels you draw are scary accurate and Meyer might very well be trying to criticise racialized bodies, cyborg being racialized makes no sense to me especially because of the medical history surrounding them. The medical treatment of black slaves as well as situations like the Treblinka medical experiments on Jews where based on the concept that these people are born less human. As in, God made them vermin’s to be disposed of and treated as pleased. In fact, religion is one of the bases for the cause of slavery concerning Africans, and situations like the Holocaust. Correct me if I am wrong, I don’t think Cinder uses religion as the justification for “racism”. Also, I simply don’t understand why a society set in the future where technology has advanced to the point of having almost sentient androids would think that having robot parts would make them inhuman. Especially since our current society is developing towards something similar. Although some people will find it uncomfortable, I have a hard time imagining that those people would be racialized. It seems as if Marissa Meyer is taking the history of marginalised people because it makes for an interesting story. I don’t necessarily think she is commenting on the treatment of racialized bodies because she doesn’t go into detail as to the reason Cyborgs are seen as subhuman. I guess since I don’t fully understand why cyborgs are treated the way they are, I can’t agree with the possibility of their treatment being seen as a message. With all that said, your analysis was very interesting, I enjoyed it a lot and made me question the treatment of race and history in Cinder.

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    1. I understand your confusion in why it is that Cinder is considered racialized, especially when she lives in a world that is highly dependent on machinery and technology. The reason for this, I believe, is because all the robots and droids that we see are established as below humans. They are given jobs like house-slaves (Iko) or plague medics—all jobs that humans don’t want to do. This enforces the idea that robots and droids are below humans, in the same way that Blacks, or POC in general, were/are considered below Whites. In Cinders case, she is a hybrid of two different classes; the lowest, the robots and droids, and the highest, the humans. While I can see why the authors of this post claim that she is racialized in the same way that Black people were/are, I think she fits more so into the category of mixed children. Cinder mentions often that she doesn’t know where she belongs because she doesn’t wholly fit into either category. The humans look down upon cyborgs because they are impure and have been modified to include parts of robots and droids.
      I think that we can read Cinder’s struggles in her society as ones that mixed children in our society often face: feeling lost, like they don’t belong, and not being wholly accepted into either half that makes them.

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      1. I really like your interpretation of this as it isn’t really something I had considered. We argued that Cinder and the other cyborgs were essentially treated as the racialized “other” in the novel, because in this world both cyborgs and androids are treated as essentially subhuman. I really like your interpretation of it though, that cyborgs are more similar to mixed children, not really fitting into either category. I think this is especially evident in the fact that Cinder doesn’t really know anyone else like her, and therefore has to feel like she doesn’t belong. I think it’s true that she is left to feel lost and that she’s not wholly accepted into either half that makes her, as you pointed out. In the context of the whole world though, I think she would identify more with the andriods based on the treatment they receive for being classified as subhuman, though treatment aside she would probably identify more as human because she actually is human, just with some mechanical parts. Very interesting take on the discrimination and loneliness Cinder deals with!

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  3. “Do you think Meyer wrote this as a dystopian in an attempt to criticize the treatment of racialized bodies?”
    For me, it’s a yes and no. I completely agree with the idea of them being treated as a racialized other, however, there are some discrepancies.
    In response to the illegal procedures, Dr. GB gave us in class the history of hysterectomies, and how these were performed without consent to women who were thought to be crazy.
    For instance, you reference the Cyborg Draft. We learn later on that this is actually Dr. Erland’s work to try and find Princess Selene. Cyborgs are chosen because he knew that Princess Selene lost some of her skin/bones in the fire. Thus, they aren’t actually being a racialized other here. However, only Meyer could answer as to whether or not if the draft had been created anyway if it would’ve been a cyborg draft.
    I also think your point about the testing being a rape scene is a great one, however as statistics tell us rape is not contained by one race. So, I think this may be a little far-fetched in terms of it showing that Cyborgs are racialized others.
    Overall, I think that Meyer touches on the idea without making it a concrete one. She gives scenes that can be easily read as racism, but these types of torture are not limited to racism and I believe she does this as it is a difficult subject to try to grasp in full when writing.

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  4. When reading this novel, I too could not help but recognize the similarities between racist behaviour and the way that the cyborgs are treated. The cyborgs in this novel are treated as if they are less than the other members of the society. Despite their appearance being out of their control, humans fear the cyborgs and act as if their “wires are contagious”. Cinder is not ignorant to what people think of her and she even tries to modify her actions and the way her body functions in order to more closely resemble a human. The implementation of the cyborg draft deems the cyborgs as “pieces of property that can be bought and sold”. The fact that Adri, Cinder’s mother is able to force Cinder to become an antidote for compensation reinforces the idea that the cyborgs are considered objects. This reminds me of slavery and human trafficking, where humans are treated as mere objects that can be traded for monetary value. Cinder is involuntarily subjected to the cyborg draft, much like the Jewish people were subjected to gas chambers against their will during the Holocaust. I think it is also important to note that this novel also touches upon the topic of gendered racism. Due to the fact that the cyborgs are considered subhuman, unfortunately their gender also becomes irrelevant. Cinder’s stepmother refers to her as “this thing”. Cinder does not take much pride in showcasing her gender and does not concern herself with common feminine duties such as finding a dress for the ball. Cinder is essentially only allowed to exist because she provides a service and has a purpose. Similarly, oppressed individuals are often designated fulfill a certain task within society and serve a specific purpose.

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    1. When reading this book, specifically the scene about Cinder being given away for the draft, I definitely saw the parallels of slavery. I didn’t however, make the connection with the holocaust. I think that analysis is very interesting!
      I found that there was a similarity with how Cinder was used for experimental studies and how Aboriginals here in Canada were used for studies as well. In residential schools, the youth were put under diets focused only on taking supplements to see if that would sustain a human being. This resulted in malnutrition of many students and of course this was done without their consent, just like Cinder.
      I think one can find a lot of similarities between Cinder’s position in society and how she is treated, to many other populations in history or present day.

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  5. I really enjoyed your analysis. I think you made a strong argument for how the ratio detector examination parallels the history of medical rape and violation against communities of colour. In regards to your first question, I definitely made the same comparison between cyborgs and racialized people as I was reading the novel. The similarity especially stuck out when Cinder mentioned she is Adri’s property and none of her money is her own. Cinder connects this to the fact that she is the primary breadwinner of the household and the only one creating wealth for the household. This is similar to how African slaves in North America were considered property but were generating all the wealth that made white slaveowners prosperous.

    I don’t know if Marissa Meyer wrote Cinder to function as a commentary about racial oppression, but if so she missed a lot of nuances. As we discussed in class, while the experiences of cyborgs clearly echo oppression against black people and other racial minorities, real life racial difference is diminished. All of Asia is melded into the Eastern Commonwealth, which echoes the way that European colonizers homogenized Asia into the image of the Orient. The representation of Lunars is also contradictory in many ways. The concept of Lunar shells who don’t have their powers and must flee from the Moon under great hardship to escape death seemed to make a comment on refugees and illegal immigrants in our current context. However, Lunars as a whole are seen as violent, greedy and aggressive, and Queen Levana fits the trope of an exotified femme fatale. As a novel, Cinder does some interesting things regarding race, but it could go a lot further to create a complex world.

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  6. I really enjoyed reflecting on your blog post, as it brought up ideas and comparisons that I hadn’t made while reading. For instance, while reading the laboratory scene that you compare to a rape I had thoughts along the same line, but I had not connected it to race or slavery. I think the allusion to rape is clear, especially on page 81 when Meyer writes, “She choked on a scream that tried to burble out of her…Someone was in her head. Inside her. An invasion. She tried to jerk away but the android held her firm”. This passage depicts the force of being pinned down against your will, and having something violate you. Once you made the connection to the slave trade I started to consider this more. I don’t think you mention another element that supports this comparison, which is Adri, who has been referred to as having ownership over Cinder, sells Cinder without hesitation for monetary gain. I think that Cinder’s sale being the way that she ended up being tested on, and almost killed, is especially relevant to the comparison to the medical testing performed on slaves.

    Your second question also got me to thinking. You refer to Cinder as a dystopia, and it is included in this course on dystopian fiction, but I wonder how it fits the formula of how a dystopia is created; that is, the ideals of a theoretically utopian society being pushed to the point of having negative effects. What utopian ideals have been drawn out in this way to create the society described by Meyer? My one thought is that it reflect the rapid advancement of technology, especially as this relates to medicine. However, except for the forced testing of the Cyborg Draft, medical advancement of this kind does not seem to be negatively portrayed. Except for the discriminatory views of many citizens, such as the baker, the creation of cyborg’s seems to be positive in that it saves lives of those who have been severely injured. It’s interesting, in this sense, that you compare cyborgs to racialized others. Unlike race, cyborg’s are a man made creation. It seems almost like a more advanced version of organ transplants or hip replacements. Despite this, I think you’re right that they do represent an other for the majority to discriminate against, and with your comparison to African American slavery, race does seem like it fits.

    You have given me a lot to think about!

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    1. I agree with your point Marilyn. I think that although Cinder is labelled as dystopian fiction, it definitely went against many of the typical dystopian clichés. First and foremost, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the setting of this book was in Asia rather than a futuristic version of the USA, which is the common setting of most dystopian literature. Secondly, Kai, the “leader” of the government in Cinder actually cared about the people he was ruling and unlike President Snow in The Hunger Games, his intentions were not fixated on causing the society distress and maintaining power. He was willing to sacrifice his own life for what he considered was the greater good. In fact, when Cinder is thrown into jail Kai seems very distressed. However, the fact that Cinder and many others are taken against their will for letumosis research characterizes this society as dystopian. Just like the reaping in The Hunger Games, the cyborg draft forces participation among the cyborgs. The cyborgs are treated as objects, merely used as guinea pigs to benefit the rest of society. This can again be compared to The Hunger Games, as the tributes are competing to benefit the community by winning resources for their specific district. To play devil’s advocate, being turned into a cyborg is essentially what saved Cinder’s life. Although Cinder wishes she was fully human, without her cyborg parts she would not have survived the terrible accident she was in as a child.

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  7. I really enjoyed reflecting on your blog post, as it brought up ideas and comparisons that I hadn’t made while reading. For instance, while reading the laboratory scene that you compare to a rape I had thoughts along the same line, but I had not connected it to race or slavery. I think the allusion to rape is clear, especially on page 81 when Meyer writes, “She choked on a scream that tried to burble out of her…Someone was in her head. Inside her. An invasion. She tried to jerk away but the android held her firm”. This passage depicts the force of being pinned down against your will, and having something violate you. Once you made the connection to the slave trade in North America I started to consider this more. I don’t think you mention another element that supports this comparison, which is Adri, who has been referred to as having ownership over Cinder, sells Cinder without hesitation for monetary gain. I think that Cinder’s sale being the way that she ended up being tested on, and almost killed, is especially relevant to the comparison to the medical testing performed on slaves.

    Your second question also got me to thinking. You refer to Cinder as a dystopia, and it is included in this course on dystopian fiction, but I wonder how it fits the formula of how a dystopia is created; that is, the ideals of a theoretically utopian society being pushed to the point of having negative effects. What utopian ideals have been drawn out in this way to create the society described by Meyer? My one thought is that it reflect the rapid advancement of technology, especially as this relates to medicine. However, except for the forced testing of the Cyborg Draft, medical advancement of this kind does not seem to be negatively portrayed. Except for the discriminatory views of many citizens, such as the baker, the creation of cyborg’s seems to be positive in that it saves lives of those who have been severely injured. It’s interesting, in this sense, that you compare cyborgs to racialized others. Unlike race, cyborgs are a man made creation. It seems almost like a more advanced version of organ transplants or hip replacements. Despite this, I think you’re right that they do represent an other for the majority to discriminate against, and with your comparison to African American slavery, race does seem like it fits.

    You have given me a lot to think about!

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  8. Thank you for your essay, I found it very interesting! To answer your first question, while I was reading Cinder, I did not draw the parallel immediately, although I definitely did recognize her as being ‘othered’, and as a lower class citizen. Looking back, and after having read your paper, the parallels have become much clearer. I could not think of other specific ways in which cyborgs were racialized, however, I think it is interesting to think of cyborgs as ‘othered’ in different ways as well. For example, while I was reading the novel, I drew the parallel between cyborgs and people with disabilities. I saw the dystopian society that was created in Cinder as a warning to us that this is a potential outcome if our society continues to treat and marginalize individuals with disabilities in the way it does. The added technology and mechanics were simply a more futuristic spin on it.

    To answer your second question as well, I’m not sure if Meyer was explicitly trying to draw a parallel between the cyborgs in her fictional society and people of colour in our society, simply because the way she ‘othered’ cyborgs could also closely parallel other historically marginalized groups in the United States. However, I definitely do not think it is out of the realm of possibility.

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  9. 1. Did you draw the same parallel when reading the novel? Can you think of any other ways in which the cyborgs are racialized within the novel?

    This post made me reflect on the racialized other within the context of our own societies. I started to think about how our society has internalized these marginalization’s over time specifically in Western culture, and how sometimes people who are marginalized begin to believe these things as well. While this is not stating every person believes this, it can definitely be related to someone who is seen as the ‘other’ in any context of our society, especially young children and adults. For example, I think back to school and bullies, and when someone tells you something over and over again, you might end up believing it yourself. I was told I was not smart by my classmates, and some teachers, and I began to believe it and did not want to try in school. The same could be said for Cinder in the beginning of the novel. She discusses how she is not as beautiful as Poeny, as she is not feminine. She talks about herself as a “metal monstrosity.” While society continues to tell her she is an ‘other’ only on the basis of what she looks like, she internalizes these ideas of her self and others similar to her.

    Where I believe there could be parallels with race comes in when Cinder is one a slave in her own house, as well as the Cyborg draft. She has no choice in either paths of her life, and it comes down to her owner. She believes she belongs to Adri just like the androids, and when Adri ‘volunteers’ her for the draft, she has no choice but to go as they force her. The draft tells cyborgs that they are “giving their lives for the good of humanity” but Cinder knows that it was “just a reminder that cyborgs were not like everyone else.” Cinder internalizes the structures of her society, because she really has no other option until she is seen as valuable.

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  10. I enjoyed reading your blog post as I too thought of how the cyborgs could be compared to racial minority groups while reading Marissa Meyer’s, Cinder. Your analysis of the cyborg to human ratio testing as a rape scene was something I had no considered while reading and is a very interesting idea. The cyborgs have the ability to ‘pass’ as human by either getting skin grafts or covering their cyborg parts. The idea of cyborgs representing racial minorities gets complicated if they have the ability to appear as invisible minorities. I can agree with your point that biracial people who can ‘pass’ for white might experience less racism. However, many biracial people view their ‘passing’ as a negative thing. Books such as Allyson Hobbs’, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America, shows how ‘passing’ as a white person means that a person of colour could have to give up their racial identity. As Nick Douglas wrote in an “Afropunk” article, “For some people of color who pass into whiteness, it is not an easy process. They feel they must change everything about their lives, not only their racial identity. This means cutting all ties to their of color family members. They must sever their ties with their whole culture” (Afropunk). Historically, a person of colour who decided to live their life permanently ‘passing’ for white might have had to leave their community, lose contact with their family, and give up their ties to the racial community and culture. This has the potential to have traumatic effects. Allyson Hobbs inspiration for her book was learning the story of a cousin she did not know about who had moved to Los Angeles to ‘pass’ as white and did not come home for her own father’s funeral since she was afraid her new family would find out about her racial identity.

    The potential trauma of ‘passing’ is not evident in Cinder, since the cyborgs do not seem to have a cultural identity that they all feel connected to. The impression I get is that a cyborg who could ‘pass’ as fully human would not mourn the loss of connection to any type of cyborg culture or be saddened by the loss of their cyborg identity. In this way, the comparison between a cyborg’s ability to ‘pass’ as human and a person of colours ability to ‘pass’ as white is not a very strong comparison as Meyer does not give cyborg’s a cultural identity to which the cyborg’s identify with. People of colour feel connected to their racial identity in a way that cyborgs do not seem to be. Therefore, the ability to ‘pass’ between these two group cannot be understood as analogous since they do not experience ‘passing’ in the same way. The ‘passing privilege’ in Cinder, is more of an actual privilege than it is to people of colour.

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  11. I agree with you on the view that the Cyborgs are racialized creatures as they get treated differently from others by those ruling them. Apart from the elements of attitudes, the medical draft as well as examination process, the novel uses more examples to explain the idea that the Cyborgs are discriminated by race as they are subhuman. To expound on the medical draft element, the fact that the Cyborgs are required to act as guinea pigs when undergoing the antidote testing reveals their harsh treatment by those above them. It is not possible for a creature to act like another and this is an aspect that makes humans discriminate the Cyborgs and treat them as objects in Cinder. The way those in power treat them to reveal that Cyborgs are oppressed creatures and always dominated by humans.

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  12. I agree that in Cinder, Meyer appears to criticize the treatment of radicalized bodies. I would like to propose how Cinder’s dystopian setting allows Meyer to further explore this concept in relation to the merger of biologic and digital intelligence.

    By incorporating cyborgs in a dystopian setting, Meyer addresses one of the fundamental concerns in modern science: the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI). Amongst the fear of AI-induced job displacement to full AI takeover, several corporations have begun to focus on the development of safe AI and its regulation, including Elon Musk’s and Sam Altman’s OpenAI. These corporations believe that as AI develops, humans will need to evolve to remain relevant. Even today, if we consider the pairing of the limbic brain and cortex with external portable smart devices, humans can be considered tertiary cyborgs. This merger of biological and digital intelligence raises several practical and philosophical issues. How do we regulate this merger? What does it mean to be human?

    In Cinder, racializing the other is presented as a method of control. As Jeremy suggested in class, being human is depicted as a static state and anyone who doesn’t fit this definition is “othered”. This dichotomy allows for humanity to be sold as a commodity (e.g. skin grafts), and promotes a binary, oppressive system of regulation. Hence, Meyer simultaneously critiques the treatment of racialized bodies while warning the reader of the consequences of employing this method of control in AI regulation.

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  13. I can see how the treatment of Cinder is similar to racialized othering towards people of colour, but I’m uncertain whether or not the degree of discrimination is equal. To answer the first question, “Did you draw the same parallel when reading the novel? Can you think of any other ways in which the cyborgs are racialized within the novel?” I did not draw the same parallel when reading the novel. The way I saw cyborgs as “racialized” or othered was the perspective humans had towards cyborgs. The discomfort towards people who were no longer fully human, or completely “natural” was apparent in the novel through Adri’s comments to Cinder. Because Cinder was in an accident that resulted in her need for a cyborg hand and leg, those around Cinder questioned her ability to experience human emotions. The use of technology was ingrained in the society in which Cinder lived, and the use of technology was normalized. However, the personal need for technology in the form of mechanical limbs and cybernetic abilities was feared in the novel because it leads people to become “unnatural”, something I found very interesting in the novel.

    “Do you think Meyer wrote this as a dystopian in an attempt to criticize the treatment of racialized bodies?”, I do not believe so. Racialized bodies to me cannot compare because cyborgs are not fully human, and their connection to machinery is where the fear comes in. Human beings are still fully human no matter what their race is, so therefore, I did not make such a connection.

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  14. I found the parallels that you drew between the cyborgs as being racialized, ‘othered’ bodies to be an interesting analysis. I liked how you drew specific examples from the text and found historical evidence to back up your point, making your theory difficult to disprove. For example, when you discussed the medical testing that the cyborgs are forced to participate in and the Dr. Sims experiment with black female slaves. The specifics that made this parallel stick out to me is the reference to how both the women forced into the experiment and the cyborgs were supposed to not feel anything – both insinuating that they were too far human in order to feel any sort of human pain. While this specific reference aid your thesis about cyborgs being racialized, this is only one instance in history, whereas other races have also experienced unauthorized testing. I think the instances you reference in history that lay claim to the evidence in the novel are relatable to your argument since both the cyborgs and the individuals of colour happen to be under oppressive states. However, I think the fact that we are discussing cyborgs is somewhat problematic since you are referring these cyborg’s as othered bodies, when they cannot be fully human.

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  15. When I read the comment you had about the rape-like scene, I was shocked. I didn’t read it that way when I was first reading the novel, but it makes sense. It also helps with your reading of the novel about cyborgs being the racialized other. Something is being done to her without her consent. Like the treatment of slaves and even just discrimination can be seen in a similar way. People are being controlled by someone else and have no say in their actions, just like Cinder has no say in the poking around in her control panel and the things that this causes her to do. It almost reminds me of the scene with the doctor as well, when he touches the sensitive area on her back that causes her to writhe in pain. It may be an experiment to see if she really has the type of technology that she believes her to have, but it is the same kind of violation of her body and her senses.

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  16. I really enjoyed this analysis of the presence of cyborgs in Meyer’s Cinder. I do think that you two made a valid point in comparing the cyborgs to racialized bodies, however I do not think that this was her initial intention. Although the parallel can be drawn, I see Meyer’s use of technology more as a statement towards the future of humanity, and how prevalent technology is becoming in our lives. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are already becoming reliant on technology to perform everyday activities. One example of this is our use of programs such as Google Maps or other navigation technologies. Gone are the days when you would need to go out and buy a map if you were lost. Now, it is as easy as pulling out your phone, typing in a location, and then being guided there by Siri: our very own form of artificial intelligence. Additionally, we rely on technologies much simpler to fulfill our lives. Something las simple as glasses extend our ability to see, transforming us into a type of cyborg. These merges have become normalized within our society, so it is not as harshly analyzed as Cinder is in her own world. The fact is that one day we might reach the point of being part-machine – we are already part way there. I think that Meyer was attempting to generate a fantasy world, that could in fact allude to a distant reality where human and machine merge as seamlessly as it does in the book.

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  17. Angelika and Amber,

    I am going to respond to your first part of your first discussion question, “Did you draw the same parallel when reading the novel? To be completely honest I did not draw that same parallel. I was aware of how Cinder and other cyborgs were treated as lesser than “real” humans. With that being said, I think it is a strong stance to take to compare them to racialized bodies and slavery. Personally, I do not feel like I am educated enough on the history of coloured individuals and slavery to agree with you guys that they are being treated the same as Meyer’s fictitious cyborgs. There are a couple things in the book that make it hard for me to agree with your comparison. First, Cinder still has the freedom to go work at the market, in a career path that she is clearly talented in and she enjoys. From my understanding, her basic living conditions are taken care of, and she has a roof over her head. Obviously throughout the book we see how poorly Cinder’s family and the rest of society treats cyborgs, as you guys have mentioned in your post. Cinder, was free enough to be able to travel to the junk yard, the palace and the quarantines up until the end of the novel when Adri finds out about her whereabouts. During slavery, coloured individuals were not able to chose a career path that they were interested in or have as much freedom as Cinder has. I do find your comparison interesting. It shows how much the both of you have thought about the book and how it can reflect our society, which is indicative of dystopia’s tropes. With that being said, I am hesitant to agree with your comparison.

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