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Gygi, Fabio (2018) 'Robot Companions: The Animation of Technology and the Technology of Animation in Japan.' In: Astor-Aguilera, Miguel and Harvey, Graham, (eds.), Rethinking Relations and Animism: Personhood and Materiality. London, UK: Routledge, pp. 94-111. (The Vitality of Indigenous Religions)

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Contemporary Japan is often described in utopian terms as a place where humans and nonhumans live and work together in harmony. This acceptance of nonhuman others is explained by some anthropologists as stemming from an “animist unconscious” (Allison 2006) that allows people to attribute “life” to robots and other artefacts, a notion that is explicitly linked to the “Shinto universe” of “native animist beliefs” (Robertson 2010). Contrary to the darker tone of robot fantasies in the EuroAmerican tradition, this “techno-animism” turns technological objects into non-alienating allies, or so the narrative goes. This chapter critically examines the ideological underpinnings of these claims. Instead of attributing “modern techno-animism” to a native and naïve ontology, the author argues that all forms of animism are “techno-animism” because they are based on a technology of animation. In turn, this technology of animation is based on what Bird-David (1999) understands as “relatedness”, but which the author hesitates to call a “relational ontology” because what enables animation is often a relation that emerges from an unexpected and surprising encounter. Drawing on the work of Japanese roboticists and anthropologists of technology, this chapter proffers the heuristic device of an “animation continuum” to better apprehend the broad range of relations that result in animation.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Anthropology & Sociology
ISBN: 9780203709887
Copyright Statement: © 2018 the contributors. This is an Accepted Manuscript of a chapter published by Taylor & Francis in 'Rethinking Relations and Animism: Personhood and Materiality' on 09 October 2018, available online:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 22 May 2019 09:38
Related URLs: ... 4/9780203709887 (Publisher URL)

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