Jennifer Robertson - Online Lecture Th Feb 25: Gendering AI and Robots: Robo-Sexism in Japan 

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

5:30-6:45 p.m., Zoom Webinar

Free and open to the public. Registration required.



The USF Center for Asia Pacific Studies welcomes Prof. Jennifer Robertson (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) to campus for a discussion of the sex/gender dynamics of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots in Japan.


In humans and humanoid robots alike, gender—femininity, masculinity—constitutes an array of learned behaviors that are cosmetically enabled and enhanced. These behaviors are both socially and historically shaped, and are also contingent upon many situational influences, including individual choices. Robertson explores the sex/gender dynamics informing the design and embodiment of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots, especially humanoids and androids. Although her focus is on Japanese robotics, Robertson makes some comparisons with the design of humanoid robots in the United States. The Japanese government promotes the robotization of the labor force, including child- and elder-care, and contends that robots will save the Japanese economy and liberate (married) women. However, as Robertson shows, advanced technology does not necessarily promote social progress and can be deployed to reinforce conservative models of sex/gender roles, ethnic nationalism, and "traditional" family structures.


Jennifer Robertson is Professor Emerita of Anthropology and the History of Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is also an Affiliate Professor of Anthropology and Japan Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her area focus is Japan where she has lived for over two decades. Robertson is a Co-Editor of Critical Asian Studies. Among her books are three published by the University of California Press: Native and Newcomer: Making and Remaking a Japanese City (1991), Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan (1998; Japanese translation, Gendai Shokan, 2000), and Robo sapiens japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family, and the Japanese Nation (2018). (