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Cambridge Reproduction SRI

 

In recent years, the phenomenon of techno-companion robotics, especially “sex bots,” has received significant attention in news media, dominant sci-fi narratives, and documentaries. The academic engagement with techno-companions has, however, been comparatively lacking. The care work and emotional work performed by devices such as sex robots, disability assistive robots, and elderly care robots, has yet to be adequately theorised as a result. The emotional, caring, and enabling forms of work which these products are designed to replicate descend from genealogies that are deeply gendered, racialised, profit-orientated, and heteronormative. Through examinations of the nuclear family, the pursuit of capital, the valuation of labour, the hierarchisation of social roles, the sociogenetic construct of ability, and the function of affect in cisheteropatriarchal white supremacist capitalism, this project situates techno-companion devices in the context of these genealogies.

I propose “loveability,” the title of my thesis, as a critical theory examining stratified assignments of humanity on a biopolitical basis. The theory is designed to identify and examine orientations and affective responses to particular traits, deemed socio-politically “loveable” or “unloveable.” I propose that techno-companions are created not only to embody loveability (as “ideal companions”), but to enable their users to become more loveable in turn through emotional work. I question the indebtedness of techno-companions’ design and usage to the structural construction of which Beings are deemed most worthy of love, empathy, and protection. Through an examination of the ways in which techno-companions simulate a colonial-capitalist articulation of “love,” I ask how loveability is (re)produced by the techno-companion industry.