The Department of Literature and Linguistics welcomed Edward Jones-Imhotep to campus on Tuesday, March 5, to give a lecture titled “Black Androids: History and the Technological Underground.” Jones Imhotep, director of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto, presented a research project on the history of black androids and the relationship between black people and technology.

Although the project expanded to include other concepts, Jones-Imhotep's research began with the history of black androids. While researching his book review, “Ghost Factory,” about automatons representing white individuals and the ways in which they reflect the formation of self-made white identities, Jones-Imhotep discovered this theme. was my first time touching it. Along the way, Jones-Imhotep discovered several references to black androids, automatons that present racist depictions of black people.

Black androids, by portraying these androids in stereotypical primitive roles, contribute to the construction of what Jones-Imhotep calls the “myth of black technological ingenuity,” in which black people are seen as innovators and It was incompatible. Jones-Imhotep distinguished between black androids and later Afrofuturist androids. The former opposes black liberation, while the latter actively promotes it. Jones-Imhotep noted that the culmination of black android production coincided with historical moments of slave revolts and abolitionist movements.

Jones-Imhotep's initial research on black androids was conducted with a group of undergraduate students, and later coalesced around the idea of ​​a “black technological self,” leading her to consider larger themes of technology and race. developed. His talk briefly outlined topics for research projects based on this idea, including the electrification of Harlem and the formation of a network of black mechanics in Manhattan at the turn of the last century. From there, Jones-Imhotep delves deeper into black revenge plots against the steam technology industry, focusing on the story of Joseph Barton, a young black man involved in the sabotage plot.

In 1914, a threat was made to a Cunard Line steamship, declaring that it would conceal coal torpedoes within the RMS. Aquitania Unless the ransom is paid. These threats “locate the pinch points of 19th-century capitalism” and reflect a strategic plan to target steam engines. At the designated money drop point, detectives caught and arrested one person, Joseph Barton.

After his arrest, news focused on Barton's race and personality traits. Police found patent documents for an electric dynamo with Barton's name on it, and he is considered a black man with technical skills who poses an “imminent intelligence threat.” However, although the police claimed that the patent was official, there was no record of such a patent being issued.

The research team's investigation went beyond official police and court records to reconstruct Burton's private life. Jones-Imhotep told how Burton wanted to use the ransom money to “fund the development of seaplanes and generators.” Burton worked at a printing press, and Jones-Imhotep theorized that he may have forged his patents there. This counterfeit patent represents how Burton established his identity through his relationship with technology, how he “imprinted himself on a historical moment” and “inhabited the world as he imagined it.” Ta.

Jones-Imhotep concluded her talk by situating her research within the broader framework of technological history, in which black androids have not previously appeared. He warns against “the dangers of concealing technology as a separate category” and instead brings technology into dialogue with race to reveal a “counter-history” of technology that counters mainstream narratives. Positioned. Considering both the history of black androids as a racial construction by white supremacy and the use of technology for black liberation purposes, Jones-Imhotep asked her audience, “What does it mean to live underground?” That left me with a question.

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