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On the subterranean and the orbital as sites of struggle

Authors: Julie Michelle Klinger*, University of Delaware
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: outer space, lithosphere, satellite, geology, mineral, extraction, state, capital, territory, emancipation
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Engaging the subterranean and the orbital as sites of political struggle presents several epistemological and practical predicaments that hinge on questions of agency. This paper presents findings from expeditionary reading and fieldwork on subterranean and orbital spaces. The quest has been to identify varieties of agency in the production of contemporary territorial orders as exercised through claims to outer space and underground resources, with critical attention to enduring North-South divides, and a practical concern with environmental (in)justice. Conceptually linking the subterranean and the orbital is recent scholarship on 'the volume,' informed by inquiries into spheres, dimensionalities, depths, and planetarity. Within 'the volume' live the beings and processes that characterize 'the critical zone,' generally conceived as bracketed by the lithosphere below and outer space beyond. Insights from STS, ecocriticism, and activist praxis have troubled this bracketing, considering the permeability between human bodies, sensorial technologies, biogeophysical processes, and political flashpoints. This reflects an evolving sensibility of subterranean and orbital spaces as dynamic domains through which power is exercised and with which multiple territorial orders are created and destroyed. One conclusion is that they are therefore terrains of emancipatory struggle, which requires, depending on the author, democratization, institutional fortification, decolonization, and/or aesthetic critique to counteract the devastations of hyper-militarized and fossil-fueled surveillance capitalism. In service of these ends, this paper reviews multiple forms of agency and ideology expressed in and in relation to subterranean and orbital spaces.

Citations removed to meet abstract word limit.

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