Visitor or Artefact! An Experiment with a Humanoid Robot at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris

  • Denis VidalEmail author
  • Philippe Gaussier
Part of the Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics book series (STAR, volume 130)


In recent anthropological debates, it is accepted—sometimes rather hastily—that ‘naturalism’ represents the prevalent ontology within Western modernity. The ethnography of the contemporary world does not necessarily require us to contest this statement in a fundamental way; but it does compel us to put into perspective the scope of such a claim. This is particularly true if we consider what is taking place in the domain of humanoid robotics and the way in which the actors in this field explicitly seek to challenge certain ontological presuppositions that supposedly characterise our era. After briefly introducing the stakes of such a debate, I will demonstrate why an unprecedented experiment with a humanoid robot in the collections at the Musée du Quai Branly offers the opportunity of an ethnographic study to reflect upon the role that ontological presuppositions play in the way in which the visitors comprehend the robot and, more broadly, their environment.


Ontology Robotics Naturalism Musée du Quai Branly Humanoid robot 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IRD, URMIS-Université de ParisParisFrance
  2. 2.ETIS-ENSEA, Université de Cergy Pontoise, UMR CNRS 8051CergyFrance

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