Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and Technological Futures

CSREA - Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America
, Petteruti Lounge

The Equilibrium Discussion Series invites scholars whose work examines the intersections of race and STEM fields–science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The inaugural Equilibrium event features Kalindi Cora and Neda Atanasoski, authors of Surrogate Humanity. They will 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.

About the Panelists

Neda Atanasoski is Professor and Chair of the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of Humanitarian Violence: The U.S. Deployment of Diversity (2013), co-author of Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures (2019), and co-editor of Postsocialist Politics and the Ends of Revolution (2023), both with Kalindi Vora. She is currently the co-editor of the journal Critical Ethnic Studies. Previously, Atanasoski was Professor and the founding co-Director of the Center for Racial Justice at UC Santa Cruz.

Kalindi Vora is Professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, of Ethnicity Race and Migration, and of American Studies at Yale University. Dr. Vora’s current research includes ongoing writing and publishing on artificial intelligence and automation through the lens of STS and critical race and gender theories. They are also beginning a book project, supported by a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Studies award (2022-2024) tentatively titled, Autoimmune: Chronic Conditions and Care in a Time of Uncertain Medicine. It places contemporary narratives of illness by patients facing racism and sexism in their daily lives within an analysis of the history of the concept of autoimmunity and contemporary practices of healthcare self-monitoring to understand the potential for patient-physician co-production of medical knowledge. They are author of Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor from the University of Minnesota Press (2015), of Reimagining Reproduction: Surrogacy, Labour and Technologies of Human Reproduction (2022) and co-author with Dr. Neda Atanasoski of Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures from Duke University Press (2018) and of Technoprecarious from MIT Press (2020) as a member of the Precarity

Moderated by Suresh Venkatasubramanian, Professor of Data Science and Computer Science at Brown University.