Organized Panel Session
As semiotic systems, robots open up questions about the unique ways of cultural embodiment and social embeddedness of social machines and humans. These processes are specific to particular contexts and are also, very often, part of state visions and government agendas. This paper contributes a genealogical perspective to the social sciences study of robots in Japan. The author discusses the corporate and governmental strategies and mechanisms in shaping a national robot culture through establishing robot “lineages” and a national robot history which can have significant implications for both humans and robots. The paper contributes discussions on monozukuri (manufacturing) and Nihonjinron (theories on “Japaneseness”) to the existing anthropological consideration of robots, by examining links between monozukuri and robots; robot genealogy, popular culture and robots; and different social rituals and sites that help the enculturation of robots. The paper thus aims to discuss the making of a single, dominant, robot culture and the making of a social genealogy of robots. Both are important for Japanese society because they emphasize the cultural embeddedness of robotic objects, often perceived as neutral dead matter, and the regimes of power that animate these inanimate machines. Another reason why this matters is because robots are in the process of becoming a normative part of society, not as objects but as actors – and not only because they are acted through but also because they act upon.