"Robo sapiens japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family, and the Japanese Nation" by Jennifer Robertson


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book cover with image of robots
Participants : 
  • Jennifer Robertson, Professor of Anthropology, History of Art, Women's Studies, and Art and Design; Affiliate Faculty, Robotics Institute

  • Joy Rohde, Associate Professor of Public Policy and History

  • Alexandra Stern, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Culture, History, and Women's Studies; Chair, Department of American Culture

Event Date: 
December 5, 2018
Event Time: 
3:00pm to 4:30pm
2239 Lane Hall
Event Accessibility : 
Ramp and elevator access at the E. Washington Street entrance (by the loading dock). There are accessible restrooms on the south end of Lane Hall, on each floor of the building. A gender neutral restroom is available on the first floor.
book cover with image of robots

Japan is arguably the first postindustrial society to embrace the prospect of human-robot coexistence. Over the past decade, Japanese humanoid robots designed for use in homes, hospitals, offices, and schools have become celebrated in mass and social media throughout the world.  In Robo sapiens japanicus, Jennifer Robertson casts a critical eye on press releases and public relations videos that misrepresent robots as being as versatile and agile as their science fiction counterparts. An ethnography and sociocultural history of governmental and academic discourse of human-robot relations in Japan, this book explores how actual robots—humanoids, androids, and animaloids—are “imagineered” in ways that reinforce the conventional sex/gender system and political-economic status quo. In addition, Robertson interrogates the notion of human exceptionalism as she considers whether “civil rights” should be granted to robots. Similarly, she juxtaposes how robots and robotic exoskeletons reinforce a conception of the “normal” body with a deconstruction of the much-invoked Theory of the Uncanny Valley.

This event is part of IRWG's Gender: New Works, New Questions series, which spotlights recent publications by U-M faculty members and allows for deeper discussion by an interdisciplinary panel.

Read an excerpt from the book.
Attendees will have the chance to win a free copy of the book! There will be at least 5 winners. You must be present to win.