Thursday, January 08, 2015

From the vault: bodies in outer space

Recently I found a old notebook from 2003. It contains various lists of things I need to do, notes for a paper I was writing at the time on the English collector and armchair anthropologist Henry Ling Roth, my photograph catalogue from a visit to the Woomera rocket range, and lots of scribbled ideas and thoughts.

One page was entitled "A paper: bodies in space". This is what I wrote:
  • the moral qualities of bodies in space
  • gender and race of bodies in space
  • how gravity constitutes a body
  • suits - diving/space
  • the national body
  • the ideological body
  • presence/absence
  • view/perspective
  • cameras inside the capsule, outside the capsule
  • prison metaphors
  • the medical body in space
  • male/female bodies
  • contested bodies
  • a new anthropometry measuring bodies - moral, emotional, physical fitness, stamina
  • robots, animal bodies, frontier bodies, spiritual bodies
  • Ransom in space
  • Unstable boundaries between body/ship = cyborg, body/space = vacuum

X ray image of Alan Bean's space suit from the Skylab 3 mission, from the US National Air and Space Museum's exhibition Suited for Space.

You can probably see the directions I was going in by reading between the lines of these sparse dot points. This wasn't so long after I finished my PhD, which was about body modification, so theories of embodiment were still very present in my mind. All the same, I think there are still some interesting things to be explored in a few of these elements, particularly gravity, anthropometry, and boundaries.

Ransom, by the way, is C.S. Lewis' reluctant astronaut in Out of the Silent Planet and Voyage to Venus (also known as Perelandra. I pretend That Hideous Strength doesn't exist). I often find myself using Lewis' words as windows into space, as his vision was so unique and prescient.

Now to wait for a gap in my writing/research schedule ....

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