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An Automaton’s Interiority: Ajeeb in Brazil, 1896

Thursday Lecture Series, Supernatural

dateFebruary 8, 2018 timeThursday, 12:15pm EST location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Maria Gonzalez Pendas
  • Audience open exclusively to Columbia faculty, students, and invited guests
  • All others interested in attending, please email SOF/Heyman at [email protected].
Ajeeb the automaton wearing a turban and sitting by a chess board with machinery in chest exposed

The paper considers the attraction to human-like automatons. Center-stage is a machine named Ajeeb as he made his way from Europe to North America and then to Brazil. In spite of Ajeeb’s short career in Rio de Janeiro, from 1896 to 1897, he left his mark--a trail of wonder, but also of polemics on personhood and fraud. I explore the ways that this automaton “Turk” took part in a moment that birthed a new family of spirits, the turcos. The goal of this essay is not to intervene in the already-extensive literature on the automaton whether as thing or concept, but rather reconsider the body of work on the automaton from a distinctive point of view, namely that of the "religious" appeal of nearhumanness.