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CJS Thursday Lecture Series | Cyborg Able-ism: Critical Insights From the Not So ‘Uncanny Valley’ of Japan

Jennifer Robertson, Professor of Anthropology & History of Art, University of Michigan

Photo Caption: Jennifer Robertson in a HAL exoskeleton climbing a staircase at Cyber Studio, Tsukuba, Japan (November 2015). Photo Caption: Jennifer Robertson in a HAL exoskeleton climbing a staircase at Cyber Studio, Tsukuba, Japan (November 2015).
I explore and interrogate the development and application in Japan--with cross-cultural comparisons--of robotic prosthetic devices that effectively transform disabled persons into cyborgs. Included here is a critical reassessment of the so-called theory of the “uncanny valley.” My paper focuses on both the anthropological and the phenomenological dimensions of what I call “cyborg-ableism.” In Japan and elsewhere, wearable robotic devices proceed from and depend on a corporeal aesthetics of cyborg-ableism. I examine the types of human bodies that are privileged in the discourse of machine-enhanced mobility, and also analyze the modes of sociality that robotic devices and prosthetics are imagined to recuperate.

Jennifer Robertson is Professor of Anthropology and the History of Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is also on the faculty of the Stamps School of Art and Design and the Robotics Institute, and a faculty associate in the Science, Society and Technology Program, among others. Robertson earned her PhD in Anthropology from Cornell University in 1985, where she also earned a B.A. in the History of Art in 1975. The author of seven books and eighty articles, her new book, Robo sapiens japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family, and the Japanese Nation, is forthcoming from the University of California Press. http://www.jenniferrobertson.info/

Photo Caption: Jennifer Robertson in a HAL exoskeleton climbing a staircase at Cyber Studio, Tsukuba, Japan (November 2015).
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When and Where

Map Weiser Hall - Room 110

September 2017

11:30am - 1:00pm

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