We cannot rely on the archival methods that have well served many others engaged in the history of technology to serve the study of race and technology.

–Carolyn de la Peña, 2010

Almost anyone who has seen the original trilogy can immediately place the iconic line, spoken in a familiar yet iconic voice to Luke, by the man he knows as the one who killed his father, “No. I am your father”. Luke replies, “No, that’s not true. That’s impossible!”. Suddenly, everything you thought you knew, much as it is for Luke, is in chaos. How can this black cyborg, with one of the most iconic black male voices in cinema history be the white savior, Luke’s father? It is not possible that Luke is part darkside! I acknowledge that I might be bordering on extreme in this example. In fact, when I spoke with a black science-fiction fan who saw the films during their original release in the 1970s, she assured me that every black person she knew assumed Darth Vader was white. Still, this is an interesting starting place as we begin having conversations about technology, race and the imaginary future.

The purpose of this project is to examine the relationship between race and the technological human form as imagined by modern representations of the future, as depicted through cyborg and android bodies. I will purposely push this analysis to the limits in an attempt to generate a conversation that asserts there is a relationship between blackness and technological representations of bodies.

The Machine in the Garden prompted this thought process. While the idea had long lingered in the back of my mind as I watched films and read books and articles that had to do with cyborgs and androids, The Machine in the Garden was the first instance I asked where the people who worked to ensure existence of the gardens? Were they not also seen as machines that were part of the landscape? While Marx did address this absence in the afterward, noting that his book is a product of the time it was published, race remains invisible in many discussions of technology, especially technologies of representation.

In terms of a methodological approach, this project employs the Barthesian tradition. Androids and Cyborgs and their relationship with humans are part of an ongoing cultural narrative about how we imagine our symbiotic relationship with technology. As everything in
a narrative signifies to different degrees (Barthes 89), we have to ask how and what these specific representational forms are signifying. Androids and cyborgs exist in the space of third, or obtuse meaning (Barthes 56-65). They exist in disguise and serve as a way for us to
discuss the relationships we enter into with other humans that we find difficult to discuss or comprehend. If, as Nina Lerman States in Categories of Difference, Categories of Power, technology is a term that hides conflict by presenting itself as devoid of dirty politics (900), then what is disguised in representations of subjects that exist outside of humanity, subjects that are purely or partially technological beings?


No comments yet.

Post a Comment