Professor Jennifer Rhee from Virginia Comonwealth University gave a book talk entitled The Robotic Imaginary: The Human and the Price of Dehumanized Labor (Minnesota University Press, 2018). This talk was held on 17 April 2019, Wednesday, at 5:00-6:30 p.m. in Washington Hall Room 315.
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This talk draws on her book, The Robotic Imaginary: The Human and the Price of Dehumanized Labor (University of Minnesota Press, 2018). She will trace connections between robotics technologies and cultural forms at the sites of dehumanization and devalued labor. She will argue that the figure of the robot in contemporary culture and technology is largely shaped by the conceptions of the human, and more importantly of the dehumanized. Looking specifically at the labor of drone operators and what she calls “drone art,” or contemporary artistic responses to drone warfare, she will characterize drone warfare as the labor of racial dehumanization. Drawing on the racialized dimensions of early cybernetics military research, she will look at drone art that responds to drone victims’ dehumanization by examining the limits of identification as a means to ethical response. Instead, drone art, as she will discuss, points to an understanding of the human through unrecognizability, difference, and unfamiliarity, rather than recognition, familiarity, and knowability.
Jennifer Rhee is an Associate Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University. She works in media studies, feminist science studies, and literature and science. Her book, The Robotic Imaginary: The Human and the Price of Dehumanized Labor was published in 2018 with University of Minnesota Press. She is currently working on her next book on counting technologies. In this project, she traces counting technologies’ entanglement with race, from statistics’ role in eugenics in the 19th century to the contemporary digital counting practices of big data, predictive policing software, and biometric surveillance. She is a recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) fellowship in 2019.
This talk was sponsored by the Chinese program, and Arts and Sciences. It was organized by Professor Calvin Hui in Chinese Studies.