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“Human or machine?”

Publication date
Monday, 2 Oct 2023
Two hands reaching out that are almost touching. One hand is human while the other is a robot/machine.

“Human or Puppet?” A once popular, now forgotten performance routine explored this question on the popular stage. Concentrating on rare historical materials, this paper uncovers how “Human or Puppet?” performances looked like and how they built on and added to the early twentieth-century cultural discourse, and trope, of the human machine. Extending the notion of “popular modernity” this paper provides a better sense of the stories, cultural work, and aesthetic achievements emerging from the interplay of popular arts and (imaginaries of) technology, and clarifies how the braiding of (an idea of) machinery and clowning contributed to creating new comic forms.