Accepted Paper:

Terracentric ontologies/epistemologies and the limits of thinking outside and beyond the Earth  


Craig Jones (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

Terracentrism has typically been applied within astrobiology yet is relevant to STS when considering the making of outer space. I attempt to extend the term to include our ontological and epistemological positionings in relation to outer space and query whether we can escape terracentrism.

Paper long abstract:

Discussions of terracentric modes of thought have typically been applied within the field of astrobiology, referring to the various expectations of otherworldly life based solely upon what we know of life on Earth. However, this concept has purchase outside of astrobiology and can provide us with useful modes of thought when considering the 'making of outer space'. Indeed, Valentine (2017) uses the idea of outer space and the bodily relation to/in it to consider questions of humanness and being, troubling our understanding(s) of humanness and the manner(s) in which we relate to our environment(s). In a similar fashion, I seek to use the concept of terracentricity and apply it to our ontological and epistemological understanding(s)/relation(s) to outer space and consider what this means for debates on the construction of outer space.

This talk will attempt to extend the definition of terracentricity to include the process(es) through which one takes Earthbound (or Terran) experiences, expectations, and understandings and projects them onto thoughts of, and relations with, extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena (e.g. asteroids, other planets with different masses, atmospheres, and gravity). These considerations will engage with different imaginaries of outer space, asking whom they serve and the expectations they draw upon - from power relations, to the histories they draw upon - to examine the ontological and epistemological assumptions they make and to ultimately ask whether the way(s) in which we engage with and construct outer space can ever escape the trap of terracentrism?

Panel A17
Making Outer Space