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Anthropologists in Outer Space - SAPIENS
"Today we not only look at the stars, we send spacecraft to investigate outer space and plan for human habitation on other worlds. The United States and the Soviet Union first sent animals up in rockets in the 1940s, and in 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel to space. By 1969, humans had walked on the moon. Soon after, anthropologists were discussing the problem of how to study emerging cultures of space—a place few people had even been to. In the 1970s, anthropologist and futurist Magoroh Maruyama organized a series of discussions on outer space at the annual American Anthropological Association meetings and the International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. These meetings led to the publication of the 1975 book “Cultures Beyond the Earth: The Role of Anthropology in Outer Space.”

In the 1980s, anthropologist Ben Finney turned his eye to space. He combined his experience in the U.S. Navy and the aerospace industry with his anthropological research on how Polynesian people could have crossed the Pacific Ocean. In 1994 anthropologist Roland A. Foulkes drew from this earlier work by Maruyama, Finney, and other anthropologists in his essay “Why Space? An Anthropologist’s Response.” Foulkes even talked about possible names for the field of anthropology that studies space, suggesting astroanthropology, exoanthropology, aerospace-anthropology, or extraterrestrial anthropology.

The call for anthropologists to study outer space was revived in 2009 when anthropologists David Valentine, Valerie Olson, and Debbora Battaglia published a commentary in Anthropology News called “Encountering the Future: Anthropology and Outer Space.” Since “being earthbound is not a limitation” for humans, they argued, it shouldn’t be for anthropologists either.

Over the last decade, anthropologists studying space have written about dozens of topics, including the debate over Pluto’s status as a planet (Lisa Messeri, University of Virginia); how we respond to the threat of an asteroid hitting Earth (Valerie Olson, University of California, Irvine); the diaries kept by cosmonauts while they lived in space (Debbora Battaglia, Mount Holyoke College); new companies and communities in the private space-exploration industry (David Valentine, University of Minnesota); the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Kathryn Denning, York University); and the science of studying extraterrestrial life (Stefan Helmreich, MIT).

There is even an archaeology of outer space. At Flinders University in Australia, archaeologist Alice Gorman studies the debris we leave in space, from old satellites orbiting the earth to spacecraft, robots, and even shadows on the moon. In her TED talk Gorman explains how the stuff we think of as useless “space junk” actually has value as part of our cultural heritage.

It takes imagination to think like this. Gorman uses her expertise in archaeology and anthropology to imagine how a piece of technology from our recent history could be an important artifact in the future. Work like this inspires me to wonder what human culture might look like in the future—in one hundred, one thousand, or even ten thousand years. This kind of future-aware anthropology draws from both science and science fiction. And in turn, science-fiction authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Phillip K. Dick, and Frank Herbert are all doing speculative anthropology when they use their knowledge of life here on Earth to write fictional works about people, cultures, and landscapes elsewhere and otherwise—on other worlds and in possible futures.

Science fiction has also been an inspiration for space scientists and astronauts. Dr. Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in space, was inspired as a child when she saw Nichelle Nichols playing Lieutenant Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise in the original “Star Trek” television series. Science fiction also serves as a way of thinking about some of the anthropological problems of both Earth and outer space. What sort of worlds do we imagine might be out there around other stars? What kinds of life, culture, cities, spacecraft, philosophies, and religions might extraterrestrial civilizations have? I also like the idea of turning this extraterrestrial gaze back toward ourselves to ask, What would Earth look like to us if we were looking at it from another world?"

"Anthropologists have often studied what appear at first to be great differences between human communities living across this planet. There are long-standing and ongoing debates in anthropology about differences and similarities, universals and particulars—about how much we can really know or understand about other people’s lives, beliefs, views, and worlds. Anthropology of space can be another way of thinking about these questions. What might we see if we change the scale of the anthropological perspective, imagine ourselves from elsewhere, and look at Earth as a whole from space? For all our apparent differences, perhaps visitors from another world would look down at this small blue planet we live on and think that we’re all quite similar after all."
michaeloman-reagan  space  anthropology  history  future  2016  culture  carlsagan  scifi  sciencefiction  speculativeanthropology  archaeoastronomy  archaeology  astroanthropology  exoanthropology  aerospace-anthropology  extraterrestrialanthropology  magorohmaruyama  benfinney  polynesia  davidvalentine  valerieolson  debborabattaglia  outerspace  lisamesseri  astronauts  cosmonauts  kathryndenning  stefanhelmreich  alicegorman  spacecraft  maejemison  ursulaleguin  octaviabutler  samueldelany  phillipkdick  frankherbert 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Queering Outer Space — Space + Anthropology — Medium
"It’s time to queer outer space.

Since the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011, the U.S. space agency NASA has turned over much of the work on space transportation to private corporations and the “commercial crew” program. As venture capitalist space entrepreneurs and aerospace contractors compete to profit from space exploration, we’re running up against increasingly conflicting visions for human futures in outer space. Narratives of military tactical dominance alongside “NewSpace” ventures like asteroid mining projects call for the defense, privatization, and commodification of space and other worlds, framing space as a resource-rich “frontier” to be “settled” in what amounts to a new era of colonization (Anker 2005; Redfield 2000; Valentine 2012).

However, from at least the 1970s, some space scientists have challenged this trajectory of resource extraction, neo-colonialism, and reproduction of earthly political economies with alternative visions of the future (McCray 2012). Today’s “visionary” space scientists imagine space exploration as a source of transformative solutions to earthly problems such as climate change, economic inequality, conflict, and food insecurity (Grinspoon 2003; Hadfield 2013; Sagan 1994; Shostak 2013; Tyson 2012; Vakoch 2013).

Elsewhere I’m doing research on all of this as a PhD student in anthropology, but here I want to argue that we must go even further than academically interrogating the military and corporate narratives of space “exploration” and “colonization.” We must water, fertilize,and tend the seeds of alternative visions of possible futures in space, not only seeking solutions to earthly problems which are trendy at the moment, but actively queering outer space and challenging the future to be even more queer.

I’m queering the word queer here — I want to use it to call for more people of color, more indigenous voices, more women, more LGBTQetc., more alternative voices to the dominant narratives of space programs and space exploration. I want to use queer to stand in for a kind of intersectionality that I can speak from without appropriating or speaking on behalf of others, as a queer person. So by saying queer, I’m not trying to subsume other identities and struggles into the queer ones, but calling out to them and expressing solidarity and respect for difference in joint struggle, I’m inviting you all. I also don’t want to write “intersectionalize” outer space but it’s basically what I mean. So, when I use it here queer is not marriage equality and the HRC and heteronormativity mapped onto cis, white, gay, male characters ready for a television show. It’s also not me with my own limited corner of queer, minority, and disability experience. Queer is deeply and fully queer. As Charlie, an awesome person I follow on twitter calls it: “queer as heck.”

So in this way queer is also, if you’ll permit it, a call-out to mad pride, Black power, sex workers, disability pride, Native pride, polyamory, abolitionist veganism, the elderly, imprisoned people, indigenous revolutionaries, impoverished people, anarchism, linguistic minorities, people living under occupation, and much more. It’s all those ways that we are given no choice but to move in the between spaces of social, economic, and environmental life because the highways and sidewalks are full of other people whose identity, behavior, politics, and sensitivities aren’t questioned all the time, and they won’t budge.

In a sense, it’s the old definition of queer as odd — because when they tell you that you don’t belong, you don’t fit it, you’re unusual, then you’re queer. It’s that feeling that you’re walking behind those five people walking side-by-side who won’t let you pass becuase you’re not one of them. Queer is radical, marginal, partial, torn, assembled, defiant, emergent selves — queer is also non-human — from stones and mountains to plants and ‘invasive’ species. I know, you’re thinking: then what isn’t queer? But, if you’re asking that — the answer might be you.


I. Queer Lives in Orbit…

II. De-colonizing Mars and Beyond…

III. Extraterrestrial Allies

IV. Generations of Queer Futures"
michaeloman-reagan  2015  socialscience  space  outerspace  anthropology  colonization  race  gender  sexuality  multispecies  sciencefiction  scifi  science  spaceexploration  decolonization  donnaharaway  chrishadfield  davidgrinspoon  carlsagan  sethshostak  peterredfield  nasa  colinmilburn  patrickmccray  walidahimarisha  adriennemareebrown  frederikceyssens  maartendriesen  kristofwouters  marleenbarr  pederanker  100yss  racism  sexism  xenophobia  naisargidave  queerness  queer  DNLee  lisamesseri  elonmusk  mars  occupy  sensitivity  inclusinvity  inclusion  identity  inlcusivity  inclusivity 
september 2015 by robertogreco

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