Date Awarded

2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

American Studies

Advisor

Elizabeth Losh

Committee Member

Charles McGovern

Committee Member

Grey Gundaker

Committee Member

Jennifer Rhee

Abstract

“All the Work without the Workers: Robotic Labor in the American Imaginary” critically reexamines American labor history through the ideologies and mechanisms of deskilling and dehumanizing labor. Using a combination of literary and historical analysis to trace the historical relationship between mechanization and human labor in concert with questions of race, gender and design, this project uses the figure of the robot to think through how the post humanism of the past is both raced and gendered. I argue that despite our imagined pre-technological past, America has always been a cyborg nation. The technological and mechanical labor we have come to expect from our machines and robots has always been enacted onto the bodies of American laborers through how they have been trained and taught to work. Connecting different domains of labor within situations of biopolitical precarity, the dissertation utilizes three case studies of the enslaved worker, the migrant worker, the domestic worker to examine human-machine interaction, cooperation, and co-existence. Through these cases studies, this project examines how the processes of mechanization are superimposed onto laboring bodies while at the same time maintaining a continual denial of their mechanized bodies. By looking at who has been marginalized and their labor erased and eclipsed, this project emphasizes colonialism's continued influence to reframe and decentralize bodies of color and the racial and gendered violence done to them. The recognition of our robotic or cyborg self and all its hybridity dismantles the power structures that place the Western subject (and the human itself) at the ontological center of the ecosystem.

Rights

© The Author

Available for download on Friday, August 27, 2027

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