Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



My research project asks: in an era of increasing reliance on artificial intelligence, how can fictional androids help us reimagine disability, race, and gender in the context of American labor? My project considers how narratives of android labor posit new ways of imagining the intersection of identity and work in the twenty-first century. By discussing Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) and its adaptations Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049 (2016), I demonstrate how the android suggests opportunities for human-machine collaborations in our futures. The last several years have pointed to the complicated roles artificial intelligence plays in economic and political landscapes, and this project explores how a particular fictional franchise might offer a framework for making A.I. and human labor compatible and sustainable. Through a critical literary lens, I also interrogate how structures of capitalist domination grant or disallow the status of “the human” to certain groups. Arguably, affect and empathy pose a threat to these dominant structures because they foster liminality and connection instead of binary divisions.

I investigate how the Blade Runner franchise explores how definitions of the human are entangled with strategies of corporate capitalist domination such as disenfranchisement, dehumanization, and exploitative labor practices. I examine the position of androids in between the normative and non-normative in Dick’s novel in the first chapter while examining the novel’s treatment of the relationship between (dis)ability and inequal labor practices. The second chapter focuses on the various cuts of Blade Runner (1982) and Dick’s novel and proposes that the Blade Runner franchise uses android narratives as allegories for racism and exploitation under racial capitalism. Further, the third chapter discusses how the androids in the Blade Runner films demonstrate the inequalities of labor and misogyny-premised capitalism, including the control over female reproductivity while calling for a recognition and redefinition of womanhood. The conclusion links the major Blade Runner films to intertexts of the franchise (including comics, videogames, and short films) while discussing the franchise’s legacy and continues to ask how we can change corporate politics of dispossession and envision equitable futures that resist social division.



Committee Chair

Costello, Brannon



Available for download on Thursday, July 05, 2029