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Accepted Paper:

From Outermost to Outer Space: French Guiana's Trajectory from Penal Colony to Launch Site  
Karlijn Korpershoek (Jagiellonian University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how French Guiana became the official launch site for the European and French Space Agencies. It traces the transition from penal colony to launch site in less than two decades and demonstrates that space infrastructures are dependent on and reinforce inequal power structures.

Paper long abstract:

The longest land border of France is not within continental Europe; it is in South America. French Guiana, a French oversees region, shares a 730km border with Brazil. It is the only European Outermost Region that is not an island, but that is not the only thing that sets it apart. The region houses the official space port of both the French Space Agency (CNES) and European Space Agency (ESA), making it a key infrastructure for ESA’s mission to: ‘ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world’ (ESA, 2022). This paper explores how much the Guianan perspective is taken into account in these visions of the future for Europe through a literature review, archival research and media analysis. It traces the historical trajectory of the region from colony where the French government sent their convicts, to where they send their rockets to launch in less than two decades. The paper follows other scholars who centralise ‘the periphery’ of the space industry, like Australia (Gorman 2005), Brazil (Mitchell, 2017) and French Guiana itself (Redfield, 2000). The author explores how the concept of ‘outermost’ enabled the justifications for French Guiana becoming access point to ‘outer space’ as it is logistically well situated, classified as ‘remote’ and politically strategic. This paper is written in preparation for field work in French Guiana, commencing October 2022, for the Anthropological Research into Imaginations and Explorations of Space project at the Jagiellonian University.

Panel P10a
Exclusion by design: technology and the shaping of inequalities
  Session 1 Tuesday 7 June, 2022, -