NYU Space Talks: History, Politics, Astroculture | Spring 2023 program

Alexander C.T. Geppert's picture

Your network editor has reposted this from H-Announce. The byline reflects the original authorship.

February 22, 2023 to May 11, 2023
New York, United States
Subject Fields: 
Contemporary History, Cultural History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Intellectual History, World History / Studies

Now in its fifth season, NYU Space Talks is a lecture series convened by Alexander C.T. Geppert at NYU's Center for European and Mediterranean Studies and NYU Shanghai with the Department of History in New York City. Once a month, established and upcoming scholars present the latest research on the history and politics of outer space, extraterrestrial life and astroculture, both in Europe and around the planet.

All NYU Space Talks are held on Zoom. Everybody is welcome but advance registration is required. For details and to RSVP, please visit www.space-talks.com.


1. Historicizing the European Space Agency: An Archival Overview, 1987–2000

Gherardo Bonini (Historical Archives of the European Union, Florence)
Wednesday, 22 February 2023, 10–11:30 EST/16–17:30 CET/23–00:30 CST

Since 1989, the Historical Archives of the European Union (HAEU) in Florence have appraised, inventoried and made available a wealth of ESA’s historical records. In-depth research carried out by a team under the direction of John Krige as well as successive projects have extensively examined these archival resources covering the years up to 1987 but more recently processed holdings remain largely unexplored. This presentation offers an overview of what the archival collection concerning ESA's external relations has to offer for space historians. Special attention will be given to ESA‘s collaboration with the European Union and the so-called Big Four: France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.


2.  Rocket Boys: Space Enthusiasm in Early 1960s France

Catherine Radtka (Conservatoire national des arts et métiers, Paris)

Wednesday, 22 March 2023, 10–11:30 EDT/15–16:30 CET/22–23:30 CST

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, astronomy and discussions about spaceflight were popular in France. But, contrary to Germany or the USA where the promotion of space travel and amateur experimentation developed, interest in amateur rocketry remained limited. It took off only in the late 1950s and through the form of an educational program capitalizing on children’s enthusiasm for outer space to foster scientific education. This talk discusses a specifically French path by exploring the homemade rocket craze of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The case study sheds new light on a particular subset of astroculture, mostly consisting of experimental practices. In doing so, it examines an important, though little-explored, topic: the relationship between youth culture and astroculture.


3. Remaining in the Cradle: Amateurs and Children in Space

Denis Sivkov (Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow)
Wednesday, 19 April 2023, 10–11:30 EDT/16–17:30 CEST/22–23:30 CST

The practices of contemporary Russian amateurs challenge the assumption that space can only be accessed by nation states and transnational corporations. In contrast to state-led space research and exploration, amateur cosmonautics reframe outer space as the domain of local, unaffiliated, and ordinary people. Children are the main space dreamers and consumers of space-branded goods, even though not a single child has traveled off-Earth yet. How do space amateurs address and imagine the role of children and teenagers in the creation of collective (extra)terrestrial futures? Drawing on an ethnography of space amateurs I argue that space nonprofessionals do not see children as merely the biopolitical industry’s workforce, but rather as the cosmopolitical co-creators and companions in inspiration. 


4. Planetizing History

Alexander C.T. Geppert (NYU/NYU Shanghai) and Brad Tabas (ENSTA Bretagne)
Thursday, 11 May 2023, 10–11:30 EDT/16–17:30 CEST/22–23:30 CST

The expansion of the human sphere beyond Earth has larger repercussions for understanding the present than is usually acknowledged. The outcome of a collaboration between a historian and a philosopher, this paper takes up a term originally coined by Teilhard de Chardin in 1946 and proposes ‘planetization’ as a key analytical concept. Planetizing history amounts to situating the space of history within an extra-global horizon, emphasizing the significance of technological infrastructures positioned in outer space including robotic spacecraft and orbital infrastructures for the environmental, social, and political histories of what has been classified as globalization. To planetize history, then, is to show that the history of the globalized present cannot be written from an exclusively terrestrial point of view.



Contact Info: 

Professor Alexander C.T. Geppert
New York University & NYU Shanghai