AP/ANTH 3270 3.00
THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF OUTER SPACE
The Anthropology of Outer Space offers an anthropological voyage of exploration to other worlds, through human culture, popular imagination, science, and technology. Outer space is full of human paradoxes. Human beings have so far physically travelled only as far as our Moon, and the most distant human artifact, the interstellar probe Voyager 1, has barely left our solar system; yet, the reach of our imagination and technologically-mediated viewing extends to the edge of the known universe.
We have been a space-faring species for only 40 years; yet our past and future are full of dreams of colonizing our solar system. No life of any kind has so far been discovered off Earth, despite the efforts of the sciences of astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence; yet, our popular culture is full of imaginary extraterrestrial Others. When Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon, it was touted as "one giant leap for mankind", and the ground beneath his feet has been suggested by the UN to be the "common heritage of mankind"; yet, the flag he planted was American. A substantial fraction of North Americans don't know that the earth orbits the sun, rather than vice versa; and yet, the website for NASA's Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, had 6.5 billion hits in the six weeks after their landing.
This course will explore these contradictions and more, through an anthropological gaze. Throughout, the course will deal with modern science but will be grounded in the human experience of space, as mediated through technology, culture, and politics. Particular topics covered will include: discourses of exploration; the cross-cultural history of scientific speculation about other life in the cosmos and the implications of detection; the use of Moon/Mars analog sites on Earth; simulations of space voyages; near-term plans for crewed explorations of Mars; long-term plans for the colonization of the solar system; Mars rovers, the experiences of telepresence, and websites like GoogleMars; the material culture and sites of space exploration; the private spaceflight revolution; space tourism; space and nationalism; and the connections between space exploration, transnational corporations, and the machinery of war.
Format: Three seminar hours