National Association of Student Anthropologists
Anthropology of Consciousness
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Since its inception in the 1920s, the concept of the robot has held a pervasive presence in the United States; from the term’s origin in the play Rossum's Universal Robots (1921) to the Hanna-Barbera classic The Jetsons to The Terminator (1984), robots have fulfilled many different relational roles to humans. The robot challenges and reveals perceptions of reality and truth with regard to race, class, gender, and human-ness. The robot began as a metaphor for slavery in Rossum’s Universal Robots and was co-opted in the U.S. as, among other things, a method of invisibilizing blackness in depictions of a perfect nuclear future. The progression of robots into being virtually indistinguishable from humans, functionally unkillable, and further, their weaponization (marked most notably in Philip K. Dick's book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) and The Terminator) reveal a cosmological anxiety in the construction of selfhood and a transhumanist twist in which robots extend the body and reach of humanity. In considering the progression of the Anthropocene, what role does the robot play in ideas of the human, the self, the other, and “making kin”, harkening to Donna Haraway’s slogan for the Cthulucene “Make kin, not babies”? How might the robot, as an embodied liminality, spell a future and past, ideal or otherwise, for its organic counterparts?