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Grant number like: FA-50575-04

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Despina Kakoudaki
President and Fellows of Harvard College (Cambridge, MA 02138-3800)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$24,000 (approved)
$24,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2004 – 7/31/2004

The Human Machine: A Cultural History

I am requesting support in order to revise my book manuscript and submit it for publication. "The Human Machine: A Cultural History of Artificial People" is a historical and theoretical analysis of why we imagine artificial people (from objects, paintings or statues that come to life, to automata and robots), how we represent them in visual and literary media, and what we "do" with them in our culture. My study emphasizes historical context and cultural instrumentality, and provides a new approach to this discourse. Artificial people, also described by many 19th century texts as "human machines" are both animate and constructed or mechanical. They thus combine and literally embody an ancient discourse of animation, and a modern discourse of mechanical motion. The book traces the history of artificial people from ancient to medieval, Renaissance and modern versions, makes specific distinctions between the pre-modern versions of the artificial person and the modern ones, and also explores the way emergent technologies (for example electricity at the turn of the century) affect the narratives of artificial humanity we create. Since the fantasy of animation depicts objects emerging into subjectivity, it is indelibly linked to how we understand the arrival of disenfranchised populations into human status, and it also allows us to represent technological innovation as life-giving or as life itself.