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Accepted Paper:

Femininity and the Robotic Medium: The Affective Labour of Female Performers on Chinese Live-streaming Platforms  
Siyu Tang (University of Oxford) Annie Felix (University of California - Berkeley)

Paper short abstract:

This paper studies how the performances of the showgirl nvzhubo (female streamer) on Chinese live-streaming platforms, operating under China’s paradoxical post-reform neoliberal politics of “freeing up” and “censoring down,” tend towards robotic and non-human corporealities.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates nvzhubo (female streamers) on Chinese live-streaming platforms, whose performances, while restrained by state media censorship, hold an affective charge meant to excite their audiences. The nvzhubo’s body becomes the site of economic, political, and affective transactionality - of “gifts” from the audience exchanged for performance, of censorship from the state, as well as the expectations imposed by private agencies which hire and train women to become celebrity nvzhubo. Operating under such myriad constraining and enabling structures, both public and private, this corporeality, we argue, consolidates and reproduces an affective regime generated by the nuzhubo’s own labour practices. We take as our object this affective labour, manifested in the charming conversations nvzhubo have with fans, their gestural responses to virtual gifts received (kisses blown at the camera, heart-shaped hand gestures for “I love you,” etc.), and the voice filters they use to enhance their tone to make them sound like anime characters. We consider the consolidation and homogenization of this affective labour--embedded in economic, political, and affective transactionality--as allowing for nonhuman or robotic corporealities. This is seen especially in nvzhubo who use animated avatars, and even AI nvzhubo (computer-generated female personas) that have become popular in China over the past few years. As such, we ask--with Chinese nvzhubo--how does what is constructed under so human a bodily regime, in the explicit authoritarianism of neoliberal China, become non/post-human? How might these mediated subjectivities, tending as they are towards the non-human and the robotic, allow for new techno-political socialities?

Panel P02
Social robots, scientists and the Anthropology of the Post-Human: exploring the entanglements of the social robot industry and the shaping of anthropology, beyond the human.
  Session 1 Thursday 9 June, 2022, -