Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Twentieth-century Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser argued in his famous essay “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” that capitalism reproduces itself by interpellating individuals as subjects. For Althusser, the subject has a dual definition: a person who imagines him or herself to be a free subject who then “chooses” capitalism, and a person who, once they have “chosen” capitalism, gives up their free will to the Subject (Law, God, Authority, the State). This dual definition of the subject mirrors the dual definition of “robot.” A robot is both a mechanical being that moves on its own and a person who acts in a mechanical way. By situating humans as “not robots,” I argue that narratives and performances of robots function as tools for the reproduction of capital. This dissertation examines four historical moments in the United States—the 1939 New York World's Fair, the 1960s automation debates, the end of the Cold War, and the turn of the millennium—to argue that robots in performance serve an important ideological function: to convince us that we, unlike robots, are free subjects.
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Phelan, Benjamin Michael, "The Machine Gun Hand: Robots, Performance, and American Ideology in the Twentieth Century" (2017). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 4469.
Sikes, Alan W.