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Accepted Contribution:

Burs and grounded relations to outer space: aspirations to look up and the stickiness of ground.  
Hanna Nieber (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Contribution short abstract:

Burs at the site of a potential future observatory in Madagascar show the stickiness of grounds. Attending to outer space, my research suggests, is in an irreducible relation to ground.

Contribution long abstract:

Burs. Burs that grow on the vicinity of a telecommunication dish earmarked for conversion into a telescope. Burs that stick to clothes. Burs that cause visitors to bend down while interested in the technologically enhanced potentialities to look up. In my research about astrophysics in Madagascar, I kept being confronted with ground:

(1) the ground of doing research and aspirations to find “common grounds.” Ethnographic research on outer space (away from the ground on which we base our epistemologies, Jue 2020) raises methodological questions.

(2) the ground that intruded into people’s aspirations to study the stars. I became interested in how astro-enthusiasts experience not groundlessness, but an insurmountable pull of locally grounded conditions of austerity. The astrophysicists’ gaze kept being directed away from their object of interest (looking up) and towards the Malagasy grounds

(3) the suitability of grounds for future telescopes. In their ongoing search for ideal grounds for radio telescopes astro-enthusiasts ask how they can minimize the ground’s electro-magnetic influence on data from outer space.

(4) the ground as seen from outer space. satellite images of the ground shape narratives of belonging. Red soil and the ground’s boundedness by an ocean enveloping the island feed into an iconography of Malagasy place.

Burs at the site of a potential future observatory in Madagascar show the stickiness of grounds. Attending to outer space, my research suggests, is in an irreducible relation to ground. For the roundtable, the four points addressed serve as toolkit from which to select when in conversation.

Roundtable RT178
Doing and undoing grounds: rethinking the groundings of anthropocene anthropology
  Session 1 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -