Astrofuturism: Science, Race, and Visions of Utopia in
Space is the first full-scale analysis of an aesthetic,
scientific, and political movement that sought the amelioration of
racial difference and social antagonisms through the conquest of
space. Drawing on the popular science writing and science fiction
of an eclectic group of scientists, engineers, and popular writers,
De Witt Douglas Kilgore investigates how the American tradition of
technological utopianism responded to the political upheavals of
the twentieth century.
Founded in the imperial politics and utopian schemes of the
nineteenth century, astrofuturism envisions outer space as an
endless frontier that offers solutions to the economic and
political problems that dominate the modern world. Its advocates
use the conventions of technological and scientific conquest to
consolidate or challenge the racial and gender hierarchies codified
in narratives of exploration. Because the icon of space carries
both the imperatives of an imperial past and the democratic hopes
of its erstwhile subjects, its study exposes the ideals and
contradictions endemic to American culture.
Kilgore argues that in the decades following the Second World War
the subject of race became the most potent signifier of political
crisis for the predominantly white and male ranks of astrofuturism.
In response to criticism inspired by the civil rights movement and
the new left, astrofuturists imagined space frontiers that could
extend the reach of the human species and heal its historical
wounds. Their work both replicated dominant social presuppositions
and supplied the resources necessary for the critical utopian
projects that emerged from the antiracist, socialist, and feminist
movements of the twentieth century.
This survey of diverse bodies of literature conveys the dramatic
and creative syntheses that astrofuturism envisions between people
and machines, social imperatives and political hope, physical
knowledge and technological power. Bringing American studies,
utopian literature, popular conceptions of race and gender, and the
cultural study of science and technology into dialogue,
Astrofuturism will provide scholars of American culture, fans of
science fiction, and readers of science writing with fresh
perspectives on both canonical and cutting-edge astrofuturist
Subjects: Language & Literature
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