Subversions of Time in (Outer) Space
Outer space, throughout the research and speculation on human spaceflight, is principally constructed as a space of the future. This is not, however, straightforward, nor is it unproblematic. In Space Travel and Culture, David Bell and Martin Parker describe America's Apollo programme as 'a future that never happened, or a history that seems not to connect with our present'. I argue that this convoluted construction of time in space is underlain by heterosexist assumptions about reproductive kinship and normative timelines. Visions of a future in space are often couched in narratives of reproductive heterosexuality, and space programmes both assume this and actively work to replicate such stories. There is a sense of temporal disorientation in the view of a future which has ‘never happened’; however, rather than subverting normative time, this works to root narratives of astronautics in traditional ideals of procreation and family, such as we associate with the era of spaceflight's early heyday. The astronaut’s body is, I argue, primarily conceptualised as a male body, an able body, and a fertile heterosexual body. The nostalgic quality of the complex temporality contributes to the marginalisation of other bodies, while the ideal body (with its near-ideal, and historically excluded, female counterpart) propels narratives of reproductive futures. Within the same temporal inconsistency, however, I argue there is opportunity to reread stories of space exploration to allow better representation of diverse humans, and to imagine manifold presents and futures, both on and off Earth.
I am a second-year PhD researcher in the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University. My current project explores sociocultural aspects of outer space exploration, with an emphasis on constructions of the body in astronautics. My research interests broadly centre on embodiment, science and technology, and theories of space and time. More specifically my research has involved gender and LGBT representation, queer temporality, feminist geography, spatial sexualisation, and ideas of health, risk, and the natural.
Key words: astronautics, embodiment, feminism, queer, technology
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013