Asteroid Mining and the Enclosure of Outer Space : New Space Economy Discourses and Ethnofuturist Critique

Jones, Craig and Clark, Nigel and Childs, John (2022) Asteroid Mining and the Enclosure of Outer Space : New Space Economy Discourses and Ethnofuturist Critique. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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The burgeoning involvement of private actors in Outer Space has led to the term ‘NewSpace Economy’ (NSE) being coined in 2005 (Valentine, 2012) and has seen the emergence of several high-profile asteroid mining companies within the last decade. These companies and associated actors have sought to position themselves and their speculative industry as foundational to creating and maintaining a permanent human presence in Outer Space, averting a climate apocalypse, and producing a ‘trillion-dollar industry’. They do this through (re)imagining Outer Space, mobilising asteroid mining as a focal point for off-world imaginaries. The discourses espoused by these private actors perpetuate and extend capitalist and Eurocentric imaginaries that draw upon colonial histories and the ‘frontier’ imaginary. However, despite the seeming dominance of this Outer Space futurity, these imaginaries are not going unchallenged. Instead, the seemingly hegemonic imaginary of EuroAmerican futurism is disrupted and challenged via the provocations and (re)conceptualisations offered by Ethnofuturists and their work(s): producing futurisms that destabilise capitalist and Eurocentric imaginaries that implicitly and explicitly draw upon colonial, ‘frontier’ imaginaries. This work theoretically and empirically engages with the nascent asteroid mining sector, seeking to decentre capitalist, Eurocentric, and terracentric imaginaries. It uses empirical data generated through a multiple method approach: interviews, participant observation, textual analysis, and grey literature combining to produce an empirically-grounded examination of asteroid mining and the means by and through which this is problematised. Through this corpus of data, it critically examines the way(s) NSE actors are ‘opening’ Outer Space for capitalist exploitation, how this domain is being ‘enclosed’ to secure and maintain private ownership, before moving on to explore how the asteroid mining ‘frontier’ is being critiqued and reimagined by Ethnofuturists.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? outer spaceethnofuturismasteroid miningpostcolonialismterracentrism ??
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01 Jun 2022 16:15
Last Modified:
11 Apr 2024 23:29