The Insentient Companion: Some Thoughts on Dolls, Robots and Significant Otherness
Play • 1 hr 18 min
[Recorded 18th November 2015] What does it mean to speak of dolls, robots and relationship simulation games as significant others? A recent revival of interest in notions of Japanese animism have been fueled by post-human concerns in anthropology on one hand and the so-called ontological turn on the other. This paper critically examines these discourses by looking at what kind of otherness is recognized when we speak, for example, of "techno-animism". Using my own fieldwork material on disposal, I attempt to reverse-engineer an understanding of sentient/non-sentient relationships with reference to Donna Haraway`s notion of "companion species" and "significant otherness". I shall argue that insentient social others must be understood in a context of what Anne Allison calls "orphanism" and that we celebrate Japan as a post-humanist utopia at the cost of excluded human others that are deemed not significant enough. Fabio Gygi was born and raised in Switzerland, but spent his formative years in Japan, Germany and England. After receiving an MA in European Ethnology and Japanese Studies from the University of Tübingen, he was awarded a PhD in social anthropology by UCL. Before joining SOAS he spent three years as an assistant professor of sociology at Doshisha University in Kyoto. This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 18 November 2015.
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