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Robots and Reproduction: The Eugenics of Japanese Modernity – A Lecture by Jennifer Robertson

Jennifer Robertson is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan and, among other works, the author of Native and Newcomer: Making and Remaking a Japanese City (California, 1991) and Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan (California, 1998).

Japan accounts for nearly 52 percent of the world’s share of operational robots and leads the postindustrial world in the development of humanoid robots designed specifically to enhance and augment human society. The five-year Humanoid Robotics Project (HRP) was launched in 1998 by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) with the mandate to develop a first-generation robot that could work in human environments and use human tools. Jennifer Robertson, University of Michigan, will explore the cultural epistemology behind the popularity of self-reproducing, evolutionary humanoid robots in Japan. She identifies historial continuities in Japanese attitudes toward nature, machines, and human bodies and lays some groundwork for future ethnographic fieldwork. Her presentation also aims to generate some big-picture philosophical questions for collective pondering.

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