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