Apparently, the first three episodes of Orphan Black season 4 are:

  • "The Collapse of Nature"
  • "Transgressive Border Crossing"
  • "The Stigmata of Progress"

Since each previous season took its episode titles from a specific work (The Origin of Species, then Novum Organum, then Eisenhower's farewell address), it seems likely that this one does as well. Unfortunately, my google-fu is not strong enough to figure out what it is; googling, e.g., ["the stigmata of progress" -orphan] doesn't give me any particularly suggestive hits.

What work, if any, are all these phrases taken from?

2 Answers 2


According to BBC America, the titles are inspired by the works of Donna Haraway, Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness Department and Feminist Studies Department at the University of California

All of the titles were taken directly (or inspired by) various elements of her seminal works;

As to why such an eclectic author was chosen, the writers of the show were apparently heavily influenced by her writings when they were trying to understand how the moral and ethical implications of human cloning would impact on their (female) lead character's personal development:

Many years ago when Graeme was conceiving and developing the ideas for Orphan Black he asked me what kinds of works — not other works of science fiction, but rather historical or philosophical texts — I would personally read, recommend, and use to think about clones and a feminist approach to science (and science fiction) more generally. The first that came to mind at the time was an essay by biologist and philosopher of science Donna Haraway called “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” It was, and still is, one of my favorites. To be honest, I didn’t actually think he’d read it, but sure enough her book now sits on his shelf, proudly dog-eared and worn.

According to Haraway, “A cyborg is a cybernetic [feedback controlled] organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction. […] The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women’s experience in the late twentieth century. […] Contemporary science fiction is full of cyborgs — creatures simultaneously animal and machine, who populate worlds ambiguously natural and crafted. Modern medicine is also full of cyborgs, of couplings between organism and machine, each conceived as coded devices, in an intimacy and with a power that was not generated in the history of sexuality.”

  • The first few titles (The Collapse of Nature, Transgressive Border Crossing, and The Stigmata of Progress) aren't anywhere in that collection of essays. Do you have references for those?
    – Zaxvo
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 18:17
  • @Zaxvo - I've re-written this from the ground upwards. The BBC link mentions that the titles were "influenced by" her works as well as directly quoting it. There are a huge number of mentions of cyborgs trangressing the border between machine & humanity but the actual quote "transgressive border crossing" is nowhere to be found.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 18:29
  • Nice, thanks! IMO it's a shame they departed from the direct quotes like they had in Seasons 1-3, but cool nonetheless.
    – Zaxvo
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 19:19

The direct quote "Transgressive border-crossing" is discussed on page 60 of Donna Haraway's 1997 book Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience:

Western intellectuals, perhaps especially natural scientists and philosophers, have historically been particularly likely to take their cultural stories for universal realities. It is a mistake in this context to forget that anxiety over the pollution of lineages is at the origin of racist discourse in European cultures as well as at the heart of linked gender and sexual anxiety. The discourses of transgression get all mixed up in the body of nature. Transgressive border-crossing pollutes lineages - in a transgenic organism's case, the lineage of nature itself - transforming nature into its binary opposite, culture.

  • I added the exact quote for you. But is there any evidence that this book is where the title of the Orphan Black episode comes from?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 21:08

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