Fellows & Grantees

Jennifer Robertson

Abe Fellowship 2010
Project Title
Safety, Security, Convenience: The Political Economy of Service Robots in Japan
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award)
Professor, Anthropology and History of Art, University of Michigan


Jennifer Robertson is professor of anthropology and the history of art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has non-budgeted appointments as professor of art & design and professor of women’s studies, and is a faculty associate in the Anthropology/History program. Robertson is a former director and member of the Center for Japanese Studies, and an associate in the Science, Society and Technology Program, Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and Center for South Asian Studies. She is also on the faculty of the Robotics Institute. She earned her PhD in anthropology from Cornell University in 1985, where she also earned a BA in the history of art in 1975. The recipient of many fellowships and awards, Robertson was an invited fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (1996-1997) and a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2011-2012). ACLS, SSRC, NEH, Japan Foundation, Wenner Gren, and Fulbright are among her other fellowships. 

Robertson is the originator and general editor of COLONIALISMS, a (now closed) book series from the University of California Press. Books in the series explore the historical realities, current significance, and future ramifications of imperialist practices with origins and boundaries outside of “the West.” She is also a co-editor of Critical Asian Studies (http://criticalasianstudies.org). Her seven books and over eighty articles and chapters address a wide spectrum of subjects ranging from the 17th century to the present, including nativist and social rectification movements, agrarianism, sex and gender systems and ideologies, mass and popular culture, nostalgia and internationalization, urbanism, the place of Japan in Anthropology, sexuality and suicide, theater and performance, votive and folk art, imperialism and colonialism, eugenics and bioethics, and robotics. Her publications have been translated into German, Finnish, French, Hebrew and Japanese. Robertson is currently researching, writing, and editing articles on the cultural history of Japanese colonialism, eugenics, bio-art and contemporary art, ideologies of “blood,” and service robots in Japan and elsewhere. Her newest book is Robo sapiens japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family and the Japanese Nation (University of California Press, 2018).