Surrogate Humanity (2019)

Book Review

Atanasoski, N., and Vora, K. (2019). Surrogate Humanity: Race, Robots, and the Politics of Technological Futures. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 240 pp.*

In Surrogate Humanity (2019), gender and critical race scholars Neda Atanasoski and Kalinda Vora argue that present-day racial capitalism sustains prior racial and gender imaginaries through the engineering and coding of technological innovation. They examine the racial logics of categorisation, differentiation, incorporation, and elimination (p. 5), and explore how new technologies, including war drones, sex robots, and domestic AI, serve as a surrogate for a “racialised aspiration for proper humanity in the post-Enlightenment era” (p. 10). Rather than simply “freeing” or “liberating” humans from burdensome and unfulfilling work, the incorporation of new, personalised (they equate the personal with enforced slavery and contract labour) technologies sutures states of freedom and unfreedom together within a “violent process of extraction and expropriation” in the name of universality (p. 11). In short, the authors unpack the colonial, imperial and racial logics encoded within technological innovation and resist technological futures, which they call technoliberalism, that reify contemporary neoliberal capitalism. Surrogate Humanity is an advanced text for students and scholars interested in science and technology studies, neo/liberalism, critiques of Enlightenment, and technical modernities.

*I was commissioned to review Surrogate Humanity for Fantastika Journal in August 2019. Full review forthcoming 2020.