Inaugurated in the spring of 2021, NYU Space Talks is a lecture series convened by Alexander C. T. Geppert at NYU's Center for European and Mediterranean Studies and NYU Shanghai with the Department of History in New York City. Each semester, established and upcoming scholars present the latest research on the history and politics of outer space, extraterrestrial life and astroculture, both in Europe and around the globe.
All NYU Space Talks are held on Zoom. Everybody is welcome but advance registration is required.
History, Politics, Astroculture
When Did Space Turn Dark?
Vladimir Brljak (Durham University)
Thursday, 23 September 2021, 14:00–15:30 EDT
The universe is a vast sphere of everlasting daylight, and night, as experienced on earth, is merely a shadow cast by the planet with the sun behind it — 'the circling canopy,' as John Milton put it, 'Of night’s extended shade,' beyond which there are only 'happy climes that lie / Where day never shuts his eye.' Mounting evidence suggests that Milton was not an exception: that although not universal, belief in bright space was common in European premodernity, and that widespread acceptance of dark space is a much more recent phenomenon than we might think. When did space turn dark? The talk draws on textual and visual sources extending from Empedocles to the Space Shuttle to shed new light on this question and its cultural implications.
Playing Utopia, Performing Nostalgia? The Contemporary Appeal of Space Race Science Fiction Cinema
Natalija Majsova (University of Ljubljana)
Thursday, 21 October 2021, 14:00–15:30 EDT
During the Space Race, space science fiction cinema on both sides of the Iron Curtain was often a tool for articulating visions of the future; today, this cinematic subgenre is a site of – often nostalgic – memory. Soviet science fiction cinema is an especially interesting case in point. Once a prophecy of 'great things to come' under the auspices of the Soviet state and its space program, it is now a reminder of a state that no longer exists, a Space Race that was not won by that state, and of the naiveté of that state’s future projections. This talk explores how popular cultural production, communities of practice (e.g., online fan communities), and media industries in the post-socialist space negotiate the imaginary of the past and future of space exploration.
/ FALL 2021
The Limits of Human Reality and the Senses of Outer Space: Philosophical Anthropology and the Study of Astroculture
Brad Tabas (ENSTA Bretagne)
Thursday, 11 November 2021, 14:00–15:30 EST
Astroculture abounds in prognostications inspired by the conviction that extra-terrestrial exploration informs our understanding humankind. The Apollo moon landings inspired reflections on the status of the human. Yet rather than discuss what going to space means for our understanding of humankind, I will discuss what being human — understood as living as a being possessing of a specific and limited embodied grasp on reality and specific (but also limited) epistemic and cognitive capacities — means for studying the stars, the planets, and the humans who observe them with wonder. Exploring this altered perspective on the connection between philosophical anthropology and outer space is of particular and even foundational importance for the study of astroculture.
Rocket Stars in the Global Space Age: Clarke, Qian, Sarabhai, Jähn, Merbold and Tamayo
Roundtable with Alexander Geppert (NYU/Caltech), Maritza Gómez (Colegio de México), Lu Liu (Georgia Institute of Technology), Haitian Ma (University of Amsterdam), Asif Siddiqi (Fordham University), Tilmann Siebeneichner (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) and David Skogerboe (Utrecht University)
Friday, 3 December 2021, 12:00–14:00 EST
Oft-repeated but rarely questioned, the notion of the ‘founding father’ has long been a conspicuous trope in outer space historiography, with patriarchal figures and popular techno-celebrities being credited for large-scale technical achievements. This roundtable will discuss the making, function, and popularity of such rocket stars and Space Age ‘father figures’ in a global setting: Arthur C. Clarke (Britain/Sri Lanka); Qian Xuesen (China); Vikram Sarabhai (India); Sigmund Jähn and Ulf Merbold (East and West Germany, respectively); and Arnaldo Tamayo (Cuba).
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Professor Alexander C.T. Geppert
New York University
King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center
53 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012