Raised by Robots: Imagining Posthuman “Maternal” Touch

Amelia DeFalco and Luna Dolezal

Feature image “Collision 2018 – Day Two” by collision.conf is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A chapter by Amelia DeFalco and Luna Dolezal, ‘Raised by Robots: Imagining Posthuman “Maternal” Touch’, has been published in the collection ‘Mapping the Posthuman’ edited by Grant Hamilton and Carolyn Lau (2023).

Posthuman parenting is fast becoming a reality with the development of technologies such as artificial wombs and childcare robots. Debates and concerns about these technologies often centre around questions of the risks and benefits of increased technological intervention into pregnancy and child rearing, while also circling around enduring feminist concerns regarding whether these technologies herald the liberation of women from biologically-determined motherhood, or a dystopian age of patriarchal reproductive control. Our chapter moves beyond practical ethical estimations to consider the potential significance of the experiential dimensions of ectogensis and robot childcare as imagined in a range of media. We take a phenomenological approach that considers the particular, material implications of such technologies and the complex relational networks they are designed to replace and/or augment. We will do this by focusing on the phenomenon of machine/human touch as speculated in depictions of technological gestation and robot childcare. Examining news reports, press releases, as well as science fiction literature and film, we suggest that these technologies, as projected, predicted and imagined, assume a biocentric model of the human that overlooks the relationality of being, treating humans animals (even in infancy) as autonomous, hyperindividual cognitive subjects. In doing so, we question just how far technology can intercede for ‘maternal’ touch. 

Cover image of Mapping the Posthuman
Image courtesy of Routledge


DeFalco, A and Dolezal, L. (2023) ‘Raised by Robots: Imagining Posthuman “Maternal” Touch’. In Hamilton, G. and Lau, C. (editors) Mapping the Posthuman, Routledge. 115-132.