RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


331 Geographies of Outer Space
Affiliation Historical Geography Research Group
Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Oliver Dunnett (Queen's University Belfast, UK)
Andrew Maclaren (University of Aberdeen, UK)
Chair(s) Oliver Dunnett (Queen's University Belfast, UK)
Andrew Maclaren (University of Aberdeen, UK)
Timetable Friday 02 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Session abstract This session will explore current research into the geographies of outer space. There has been a small but burgeoning field of geographical enquiry into outer space, whereby researchers have investigated the ways in which outer space has provided a focus for a variety of geographical modes of imagination, including whole-earth environmentalism, nationalist / imperialist visions, spaces of scientific and technological rivalry, and domestic cultures of night-sky observation (Cosgrove, 1994; MacDonald, 2007; Lane, 2011; Sage, 2014; Dunnett, 2012). If geographers are to continue to push for nexus thinking in arts and science collaborations, then outer space presents one possible focus for this to happen. Our session seeks to engage with, build upon and challenge current thinking in the geographies of outer space through a diverse range of papers and ensuing discussion. This will include considerations of how outer space relates to visual art, landscape and astronomy; narrative constructions of spaceflight in specific national and historical contexts; the social and technological production of outer space; and reflections on counter-cultural engagements with outer space.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
'The motions of the heavens and the places of the fixed stars': Imaging and imagining the sky at the Royal Observatory Greenwich
Melanie Vandenbrouck (Royal Museums Greenwich, UK)
Marek Kukula (Royal Observatory Greenwich, UK)
The Royal Observatory Greenwich was founded in 1675 for the purpose of 'the rectifying of the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so much desired longitude of places for the perfecting of the art of navigation'. Thus, from its inception, the Observatory has straddled the interface between the celestial and the terrestrial: the mapping of both the Earth and the sky. Now, as part of Royal Museums Greenwich, the Observatory's remit to engage the public also places it at the interface between science and art. In this paper the Observatory's Public Astronomer and the Museum's Curator of Art post-1800 will consider how the visualisation and dissemination of astronomical knowledge has resulted in an intimate and longstanding alliance between art and astronomy, in which the mapping of the heavens draws constantly on our experiences of exploring the Earth. From early telescopic drawings of the Moon to the aestheticized cosmic landscapes of the Hubble Heritage Project, and from navigational star charts to the appropriation of NASA imagery by contemporary artists, the discussion will draw on objects from the Museum's collections and recent exhibitions such as Visions of the Universe, dark frame/deep field and the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition.

Capitalizing the Cosmos
Julie Klinger (Boston University, USA)
Mining has historically been and continues to be fundamental to diverse regimes of accumulation. The latest race to mine outer space is no exception. Space mining pioneers are working hard to transform international legal conventions and capture public research funds to secure the conditions of possibility for mining and mining-related accumulation on the final frontier. The justifications offered for this enterprise are many, as are the technosocial endeavors underway to draw space mining from the realm of science fiction to science fact. Nevertheless, most mining proponents see conflict as an inevitable part of the (also inevitable) expansion of private and public-private space mining ventures. This indicates a significant qualitative shift from the celebrated global ethos of "space exploration for the benefit of all [hu]mankind" as espoused in the foundational 1967 Outer Space Treaty, to which 104 states are party, including all major space-faring powers. From the perspective of critical geopolitics and the critical political economy of natural resources, and drawing from interviews, public documents and participant observation, this paper examines the diversity of perspectives and initiatives within growing global space mining movements.
Contesting The High Frontier: Professor Gerard K. O'Neill, Lieutenant General Daniel O. Graham and the future of American space-capitalism
Thomas Ellis (University of Southampton, UK)
The central political question at the heart of the Cold War was 'What will the future look like?' DeWitt Douglas Kilgore's 2003 work Astrofuturism identified a philosophical and literary tradition that sought to locate a shining American future within the limitless expanse of outer space. Utopian visions of space colonisation collided with the harsh geopolitical realities of the 'Second Cold War', the renewed sabre-rattling and arms build-up that followed collapse of US-Soviet Detente in the late-1970s, in a battle of ideas between two far-sighted Americans who both sought to guarantee capitalist democracy's survival through expansion into the 'High Ground' of space. Professor Gerard K. O'Neill, the 'Guru of space colonisation', advocated a pacifistic vision of elaborate space colonies capable of solving earthly problems such as overpopulation, environmental degradation and the energy crisis. He was aghast to find the name he'd chosen for this vision, 'The High Frontier', being used by former Deputy Director of the CIA Lieutenant General Daniel O. Graham to advocate a bellicose strategy of 'space control' that would simultaneously deter Soviet aggression, whilst fostering a high-tech space economy. O'Neill and Graham's legal and philosophical battle exposed the tensions at the heart of America's pro-space lobby in the era of Reagan's militaristic 'Strategic Defense Initiative'. Nevertheless O'Neill and Graham were united in their faith in liberal democratic capitalism and their Astrofuturist conviction that to fulfil its destiny America had to channel its energies into the 'High Frontier'. This paper will use O'Neill and Graham's often acrimonious debate to explore questions of the political usage of Astrofuturism, the impact of space technology on the Cold War and the concept of outer space as a promised land for capitalist development.
Ethnofuturism: Addressing the Cultural Divide in Space
Craig Jones (Lancaster University, UK)
Human presence in outer space is predicted to increase over the forthcoming decades with the potential to create a permanent, pronounced extra-terrestrial human presence. Conflicting ideologies and narratives permeate the imagined landscapes and societies of outer space, manifested within the Futurist arts, and the political and physical spheres through national and private projects. Astropolitics and future imaginaries have frequently been dominated by the images and narratives espoused by the 'Superpowers' of the Cold War space race, quite often producing discussions reminiscent of the colonial period of the fifteenth century onwards. Yet the socio-political world is not constituted solely of one culture or ethnicity and would benefit from a consideration of the various Ethnofuturisms that exist outside the Euro-American narrative. Ethnofuturism provides numerous ways of construing and constructing (in)human futures differently, challenging the prevalent Euro-American narrative through a diverse range of mediums and bringing the concerns and hopes of 'Others' to the fore of future imaginaries. This paper aims to contrast popular imaginaries with these alternative futures through a review of Ethno/Afrofuturist Science Fiction literature (e.g. books by authors in the collection So Long Been Dreaming) and Ethnofuturist music (which encompasses numerous genres including gospel, R&B, funk and rock), both promoting counter-narratives to the aforementioned Euro-American rubric to relatively large audiences. Ethnofuturism questions a number of popular beliefs within space colonisation imaginaries, both implicitly and explicitly. It questions political systems, humankind's relation with interplanetary environments and technology, how future trans-planetary societies may deal with the residual historical influence of nation states upon their founding, and more. These issues create a larger question, namely: how can we at once look 'back' to the ethno and 'forward' to interplanetary futures?
The Production of Outer Space: a Lefebvrian Perspective
Peter Dickens (University of Cambridge, UK)
James S. Ormrod (University of Brighton, UK)
In The Production of Space, Henri Lefebvre focussed on ‘the spatialisation of the social order’ and he suggested that ‘space’ should now include ‘outer space’. In this paper we pursue Lefebvre’s suggestions, using his three main conceptual categories and showing how they illuminate a wide array of case study material: 1). Outer spatial practices refers to economic and social processes and their role in the production of outer space. Satellite-based technologies are now integrated into GPS systems, surveillance-systems and warfare. How should we understand these developments?; 2). Representations of outer space refers to how outer space is represented in a wide range of discourses. What kinds of representation are offered by, for example, contemporary cosmology and how do these relate to 'outer spatial practices'?; 3). Outer Space as Representational Space refers to imaginings about outer space. The universe has long served as a setting for the utopic and dystopic futures explored by science fiction. How have such visions generated, or even lent support or resistance to, the socialisation and militarisation of outer space? This paper will draw on material from our recent book to demonstrate the value of Lefebvre’s three categories, exploring them in relation to one another. We will also discuss current work. This includes the extension of Lefebvre's notion of 'rhythmanalysis' to understand the relations between the body and outer space. The rhythms of the cosmos, the rhythms of the astronaut's body and the rhythms imposed by ground-based controllers combine to produced tensions and contradictions surrounding the astronaut's body. These pose threats not only to the astronaut's body but potentially to space programs themselves.