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Automaton Religion and the National Body: Ajeeb in Brazil

Automaton Religion and the National Body: Ajeeb in Brazil Cabinet card of chess automaton “Ajeeb the Wonderful,” Eden Musée, New York, 1886. Photograph by Falk, published by F.O. Chamberlain. Detail. TCS 1.183, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University. 56 https://doi.org/10.1162/grey_a_00349 Automaton Religion and the National Body: Ajeeb in Brazil PAUL CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON A giant “Turk,” a chess-playing automaton, sits atop a compart- ment announced by a beckoning door. Such near-human attrac- tions proliferated in late-nineteenth-century urban life, tagged with exotic orientalist titles. Most famous among them was Wolfgang von Kempelen’s chess-playing Turk, which enjoyed multiple lives, including matches against Napoleon and sev- eral tours across the United States. Von Kempelen’s machine, purchased by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel, found success in Paris (1817), London (1818), Amsterdam (1821), and other European metropoles before arriving in New York. An even later model named “Ajeeb” was brought to Brazil and set to work in 1896. This article shows how the work the automaton did in Brazil was different from its roles in Europe and the United States. It amused and bemused, but it also helped to set new religious agents and practices into motion. Despite their role in leisure and entertainment, automatons gave off an uncanny frisson. Of Maelzel’s figure, set up in 1826 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Grey Room MIT Press

Automaton Religion and the National Body: Ajeeb in Brazil

Grey Room , Volume (88): 22 – Jul 1, 2022

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Publisher
MIT Press
Copyright
© 2022 Grey Room, Inc. and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
ISSN
1526-3819
eISSN
1536-0105
DOI
10.1162/grey_a_00349
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Cabinet card of chess automaton “Ajeeb the Wonderful,” Eden Musée, New York, 1886. Photograph by Falk, published by F.O. Chamberlain. Detail. TCS 1.183, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University. 56 https://doi.org/10.1162/grey_a_00349 Automaton Religion and the National Body: Ajeeb in Brazil PAUL CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON A giant “Turk,” a chess-playing automaton, sits atop a compart- ment announced by a beckoning door. Such near-human attrac- tions proliferated in late-nineteenth-century urban life, tagged with exotic orientalist titles. Most famous among them was Wolfgang von Kempelen’s chess-playing Turk, which enjoyed multiple lives, including matches against Napoleon and sev- eral tours across the United States. Von Kempelen’s machine, purchased by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel, found success in Paris (1817), London (1818), Amsterdam (1821), and other European metropoles before arriving in New York. An even later model named “Ajeeb” was brought to Brazil and set to work in 1896. This article shows how the work the automaton did in Brazil was different from its roles in Europe and the United States. It amused and bemused, but it also helped to set new religious agents and practices into motion. Despite their role in leisure and entertainment, automatons gave off an uncanny frisson. Of Maelzel’s figure, set up in 1826

Journal

Grey RoomMIT Press

Published: Jul 1, 2022

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