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Gravity Matters: Terrestrialism, Colonial Ontologies, and Racialized Bodies Off-Planet

When: Monday, February 27, 2017
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM  

Where: 1810 Hinman Avenue, 104, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Nancy Hickey   847.467.1507

Group: Anthropology Department

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Anthropology Department Colloquium: David Valentine, University of Minnesota

What universalizing explanations of human histories and futures emerge in imaginations of the future colonization of the multiple places of outer space? Concomitantly, what relational differences—social, historical, embodied, geological—may be introduced by encounters with particular nonterrestrial sites? For outer space-settlement advocates, nonterrestrial settlements promise renewed freedoms and possibilities for an unmarked "human race"; for their critics, they portend the inevitable extension of stratified, racialized, exploitative, and extractive terrestrial histories. For both, the stakes of these imagined futures bear enormous gravity. Drawing on ethnographic research with space settlement advocates, engaging their critics, and reaching to quasi-ethnographic sites beyond Earth, this paper opens up the dynamics of universal/particular and difference/relation among and within cosmic sites through the metaphor and materiality of gravity. I argue that examining historical and potential human engagements with such sites—and the multiple differences between them—throws into question terrestrially-sourced explanations of non-terrestrial ontologies, politics, and futures. I contend that the differences and relations introduced by the multiple places of outer space are not like terrestrial differences and relations, and that examining those particulars upends universalizing accounts of human futures—utopic and dystopic—opening to new ethical and political possibilities.

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