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Neda Atanasoski in conversation with Kalindi Vora
April 25, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
discussing the subject of their new book
Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures
published by Duke University Press
(part of the Perverse Modernities Series edited by Lisa Lowe and Jack Halberstam)
In Surrogate Humanity Neda Atanasoski and Kalindi Vora trace the ways in which robots, artificial intelligence, and other technologies serve as surrogates for human workers within a labor system entrenched in racial capitalism and patriarchy. Analyzing myriad technologies, from sex robots and military drones to sharing-economy platforms, Atanasoski and Vora show how liberal structures of antiblackness, settler colonialism, and patriarchy are fundamental to human—machine interactions, as well as the very definition of the human. While these new technologies and engineering projects promise a revolutionary new future, they replicate and reinforce racialized and gendered ideas about devalued work, exploitation, dispossession, and capitalist accumulation. Yet, even as engineers design robots to be more perfect versions of the human—more rational killers, more efficient workers, and tireless companions—the potential exists to develop alternative modes of engineering and technological development in ways that refuse the racial and colonial logics that maintain social hierarchies and inequality.
Neda Atanasoski is Professor of Feminist Studies and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of Humanitarian Violence: The U.S. Deployment of Diversity.
Kalindi Vora is Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Davis, and author of Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor.
Perverse Modernities transgresses modern divisions of knowledge that have historically separated the consideration of sexuality, and its concern with desire, gender, bodies, and performance, on the one hand, from the consideration of race, colonialism, and political economy, on the other, in order to explore how the mutual implication of race, colonialism, and sexuality has been rendered perverse and unintelligible within the logics of modernity. Books in the series have elaborated such perversities in the challenge to modern assumptions about historical narrative and the nation-state, the epistemology of the human sciences, the continuities of the citizen-subject and civil society, the distinction between health and morbidity, and the rational organization of that society into separate spheres. Perverse modernities, in this sense, have included queer of color and queer anticolonial subcultures, racialized sexualized laborers migrating from the global south to the metropolis, nonwestern desires and bodies and their incommensurability with the gendered, national or communal meanings attributed to them, and analyses of the refusals of normative domestic “healthy” life narratives by subjects who inhabit and perform sexual risk, different embodiments, and alternative conceptions of life and death. The project also highlights intellectual “perversities,” from disciplinary infidelities and epistemological promiscuity, to theoretical irreverence and heterotopic imaginings.