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A site about the ephemerality of the socio-urban world


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CfP RGS19 – The Final Frontier? The Enclosure of a Commons of Outer Space

The Final Frontier? The Enclosure of a Commons of Outer Space

CfP for the RGS-IBG Annual Conference at the Royal Geographical Society, Exhibition Road, London, 28 to 30 August 2019.

 

Musk’s Roadster car mounted on Falcon during his orbit of Earth in 2018; Earth in the background

“Space: The final frontier” (Star Trek TV Series, Opening Monologue)

“Capitalist production constantly strives to overcome these immanent barriers, but it overcomes them only by means that set up barriers afresh on a more powerful scale. The true barrier to capitalist production is capital itself” (Marx, 1894: 176)

In February 2018, when Elon Musk sat aboard the Falcon Heavy and blasted off into space, a new age of space exploration took off with him. His company, SpaceX, is now part of a range of corporations (funded by white male billionaires) that are competing with one another to claim the right to colonise space, Mars, the moon and even asteroids. The financial might of these corporations eclipses some of the State-led space agencies (such as NASA, who themselves are increasingly looking to private suppliers) and work is well underway here on Earth that is preparing these corporations to be the gatekeepers to the heavens.

Geographical inquiry has, in recent years, begun to shift from its traditional etymological base of ‘earth writing’, to consider the ways in which outer space is embroiled within our notions of the geographical imagination. Recent contributions from Dickens and Ormod (2016) and Dunnett et al. (2017) have attempted to shift the geographers gaze from our immediate Earthly surroundings to consider how the space of outer space inflects the way we conceptualise the myriad of geographical concerns. In addition, feminism, labour geographies, warfare, time-space compression, environmental catastrophe; they are all traditional geographical concerns that have been used in these recent writings as frames to analyse the cosmos, but they have been shown to be intimately affected by the processes of current space exploration. And from the broader social sciences, work has begun to extend the idea of the global commons into outer space (Buck, 2017).

This session therefore starts from a simple premise: if geography has its roots in ‘earth’ writing, what can the discipline contribute to the current race for near space? We are seeking contributions from a range of disciplines (geography or not), that critically examine how this new age of capitalism-inflected space exploration is changing the way life will evolve here on earth. We envision contributions that speak to the following themes (but of course, are not limited to them)

The enclosure of the commons of near space
Militarisation of the cosmos
Environmental impacts of space exploration
The planned zoning of the solar system
The geopolitics of claiming near space
Space junk and the limits of materiality
Labour geographies of space work
Political economy of asteroids
Intersectionality in outer-space

Along with the threat of thermo-nuclear war and enslavement by AI, ecological catastrophe is one of the most dangerous threats to our species; so space exploration is vital. But as critical scholars, we can’t leave this up to a powerful capitalist system that seems to be more concerned with enclosing a potential vast commonwealth that any emancipatory venture for our species. After all, do you think Elon Musk will let just anyone on his Mars colony…?

Please send a 300-word abstract to oli.mould@rhul.ac.uk, peter.adey@rhul.ac.uk and rachael.squire@rhul.ac.uk by 5pm UK time on February 6th 2019. We anticipate issuing acceptance notices shortly thereafter.

 

 

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Don’t be surprised, mobilise

The Anti-Trump Protest in London, July 2018

When President Trump called refugees coming into the US ‘animals’ on live TV, it wasn’t a surprise.

When Roseanne Barr, a prominent Trump supporter likened a Valerie Jarrett – an African-American advisor to Obama – to an ape, it wasn’t a surprise.

When it broke that the UK government has been deporting the Windrush generation as part of a wider ‘hostile environment’ that the Home Office has created for migrants, it wasn’t a surprise.

When Trump’s ICE team locked children in cages in conditions likened to prison camps, separating them from the asylum-seeking parents, this wasn’t a surprise.

When Victor Orban made it an illegal act to help refugees in Hungary creating a toxic and dangerous environment for vulnerable people, it wasn’t a surprise.

When the Trump administration declared the global temperatures would rise by 7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, but then shrugged their shoulders, it wasn’t a surprise.

When Brett Kavanaugh got nominated to the Supreme Court for life, thereby cementing a patriarchal, homophobic, ablist, white supremacist hegemony at the heart of American life for the next generation, it wasn’t a surprise.

When Brazil votes in Jair Bolsonaro and he goes on to install a military dictatorship in the country that systemically and violently oppresses minorities, it won’t be a surprise.

When it becomes fully exposed that Brexit was merely a ruse by hyper-capitalists to turn the UK into, a) tax haven where oligarchs can park the blood money they’ve earned via plundering the (human and physical) resources of the Global South, b) a destination with such deregulated labour conditions that corporations can exploit workers to death, and c) a bargain basement bin of once prized and globally-envied public assets to the hawked to the highest bidder; it won’t be a surprise.

When whatever comes next in 2019 that’ll be far worse than all 2018 had to offer, it sadly, won’t be a surprise.

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Walking Heathrow: Exploring the fissures of infrastructure

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Landscape Surgery

2016-11-24-07-52-46

As I’m sat in my car, parked in the Hatton Cross Station Car Park, I watch as the dark blue hue of the cold November morning sky slowly turns to a light grey, as the sun struggles to pierce the thick blanket of cloud above. Planes rumble up the runway, the end of which is about 100m in front of me separated by three rows of chain-link, razor-wired fence and a buttress of thick orange scaffolding supporting runway lights. These slender machines soar over my head, jetting off into the turning sky, roaring their ascent to the awakening population beneath them. In a few minutes, I was due to meet a traveller from New York. He had a 6-hour lay over and wanted to walk the perimeter fence of Heathrow, roughly 13 miles or so. The banality of such an undertaking bemused many when I told them I was doing…

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Happy 8th Birthday!

Today is the 8th birthday of this blog. My blogging style and content has changed substantially in those 8 years (as you can tell from my first ever post) although, I’d like to think you can see the critical human geographer scratching at the surface in those words. Below is a word cloud of all my posts, which for me at least, shows that urban life, creativity and of course film have always been at the forefront of my work. Anyway, thought that a quick bit of nostalgia would  be a nice deviation from today’s more pressing political issue. As you were…Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 09.26.57


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The Dystopia of Sodor: Thomas the Tank Engine and Neoliberalism

Landscape Surgery

Thomas - the perfect neoliberal subject Thomas – the perfect neoliberal subject

Thomas the Tank Engine, the popular children’s book and TV series, has been with us for 70 years, and still captures the imagination of children around the world. As a father of two rapidly growing-up children, trains seem to have some sort of mystic fascination with the preschool demographic. So it is no surprise that Thomas the Tank Engine is one of the world’s most recognised toy brands.

Thomas lives on the Island of Sodor, a mythical, small countryside island in the Irish Sea, just off the coast from Barrow-in-Furness. The trains are colourful, largely happy and busy, while the people go about normal lives in school, on the farm or on the railways. The trouble is, though, this surface-level utopian English-countryside-mid-twentieth-century idyll belies a far more sinister neoliberal allegory that pervades the daily minutiae of Thomas and his friends. The more of Thomas…

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Being Human // Human Being – Ex Machina

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Join us for an event which seeks to explore what it means to be human, or simply alive, in a world in which the digitally processed virtual is increasingly experienced in the actualities of everyday life.

gallery-1429903608-ex-machina-alex-garland
Curated and hosted by digital geographies PhD students Mike Duggan and Pip Thornton, and featuring Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller EX MACHINA (2015), the event aims to question binary definitions of virtual/real, nature/culture and human/non-human, engaging with critical debates around artificial intelligence (AI), law & ethics, gender, techno-capitalism and virtual geographies, while challenging the representations of these subjects in the film and other media.

Ex-Machina Trailer

The event will include short talks and a panel discussion involving Dr. John Danaher, lecturer in Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway and author of the blog Philosophical Disquisitions, Lee MacKinnon, lecturer in the Theory and History of Photography at Arts University Bournemouth, whose book chapter…

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Upcoming Event: Passenger Films and Precarious Geographies present “Nightcrawler”

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Join us on Tuesday 19th of January for a screening and exploration of Dan Gilroy’s fascinating film ‘Nightcrawler’ presented by Passengerfilms in collaboration with ‘Precarious Geographies’ and Genesis Cinema.

Precarious Geographies and Passenger Films Present Nightcrawler Poster -page-001

Set in the hyper-precarious world of contemporary LA, Nightcrawler is a disturbing critique of the neoliberal urban condition. Its protagonist, Lou Bloom, is a young man frustrated by an impenetrable labour market in which even unpaid internships are inaccessible. Bloom embarks on a mission to make his own fortunes by forging a career in crime journalism. Lou’s willingness to cross boundaries others won’t in order to get the goriest footage means his career rapidly gains momentum. His merciless pursuit of uncomprehendingly brutal footage is met by both horror and admiration by TV stations. But this is not just a film about a sinister individual; Lou’s prioritisation of ambition and commercial success at the expense of compassion and humanity…

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