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Launching Europe

Launching Europe: An Ethnography of European Cooperation in Space Science

Stacia E. Zabusky
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Launching Europe
    Book Description:

    In this first ethnographic study of the European Space Agency, Stacia Zabusky explores the complex processes involved in cooperation on space science missions in the contemporary context of European integration. Zabusky argues that the practice of cooperation does not depend on a homogenizing of interests in a bland unity. Instead, it consists of ongoing negotiation of and conflict over often irreconcilable differences. In this case, those differences are put into play by both technical and political divisions of labor (in particular, those of big science and of European integration).

    Zabusky shows how participants on space science missions make use of these differences, particularly those manifest in identities of work and of nationality, as they struggle together not only to produce space satellites but also to create European integration. She argues that the dialectical processes of production include and depend on conflict and contradiction to maintain energy and excitement and thus to be successful. Participants in these processes are not, however, working only to produce tangible success. In her epilogue, Zabusky argues that European space science missions can be interpreted as sacred journeys undertaken collectively, and that these journeys are part of a fundamental cultural project of modernity: the legitimation of and aspiration for purity. She suggests, finally, that this project characterizes not only the institution of technoscience but those of bureaucracy and nationalism as well.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2160-0
    Subjects: History of Science & Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  7. Introduction Multiple Cooperations
    (pp. 3-16)

    This book is about cooperation. Substantively, it is about cooperation in Europe, as well as about cooperation in science and technology. Analytically, it is about cooperation as a form of structure and as a kind of practice. I explore these multiple cooperations—their intersections, antagonisms, and resonances—ethnographically, as they are manifest in the process of space science mission development at the European Space Agency (ESA).

    Those participating in space science mission development are involved in cooperation on a grand scale. The organization that is ESA represents the joint effort of European governments, industries, and universities on a wide range...

  8. One The Study of Cooperation: Theoretical Issues
    (pp. 17-46)

    The anthropological approach to cooperation I undertake in this book stresses social and cultural dimensions rather than individual motivations or interests; it therefore includes considerations of context—social, cultural, political—as critical parts of analysis. Such emphases distinguish this study of cooperation from those undertaken by scholars in other disciplines, such as social psychology or decision making. The latter types of studies make use of experiment and computer modeling, rather than ethnography or textual analysis, to address, for instance, the social parameters that generate cooperative behavior, the psychological traits correlated with cooperativeness or helpfulness, or conditions under which self-interested individuals...

  9. Two The European Space Agency and the Structure of Cooperation
    (pp. 47-68)

    ESA is one of the most significant instantiations of the structure of cooperation to which people have recourse in their daily practices. Through the various political agreements and bureaucratic regulations that brought it into being it, ESA establishes the ground state of working together by serving as its instigator. It provides the social, cultural, and sometimes physical space within which members of a variety of groups can come together to work on space missions. In this way, ESA creates both the context of and the medium for local negotiations, simultaneously delimiting the scope for action and providing many of the...

  10. Three The Practice of Cooperation: Working Together on Space Science Missions
    (pp. 69-102)

    As I suggested in the preceding chapter, ESA is offered as the proof that cooperation can work, that it can produce the unity and autonomy needed and expected by Europe. The question remains, however, how such cooperation can be produced out of the multitude of differences implicated in daily work on space science missions, differences arising from a division of labor that extends beyond the functional tasks of technoscience to include the demands of political and economic integration. Some high level administrators and political supporters of ESA suggest that the Agency’s success at cooperation is a result of “political will,”...

  11. Four Struggling with Diversity: The Social and Cultural Dynamics of Working Together
    (pp. 103-124)

    The structures of cooperation define the outer parameters of practice, as I have indicated, but they do not thereby render participants either silent or passive. Cooperation is, in fact, a site of struggle, a struggle for individuation as well as for connection. This struggle is brought into being by the division of labor itself. It is the division of labor that establishes the permanent, if ever-shifting, ground of working together; in so doing, it defines the social shape and cultural contours of the process itself.

    The social shape of working together is one of dispersal; participants are spread out all...

  12. Five Evasion and Responsibility: The Politics of Working Together
    (pp. 125-152)

    In the preceding chapter, I showed how the division of labor is experienced in the practice of cooperation—as a field of diversity out of which participants must build social cohesion even while maintaining the integrity of differences. The integrating moments of working together are bound up in particular with the making of decisions, because each depends on establishing connections. But to establish such connections, it is not enough simply to be together, hoping that out of simple contact things will emerge. The making of things requires the exercise of both power and control; these are, fundamentally, political issues.


  13. Six Existential Worries: Excitement and Boredom in the Experience of Working Together
    (pp. 153-178)

    In the preceding chapters, I have shown how the structure of the division of labor comes alive in the practice of cooperation, as people invest such structures with meaning in the very act of dismantling them. To do this, I have explored the social, cultural, and political dimensions of working together on ESA space science missions, revealing the tensions between integration and dispersal, harmony and conflict, hierarchy and equality, evasion and responsibility. These tensions keep everything moving, and as I suggest in this chapter, such movement is the most fundamental quality of working together, one that participants will go to...

  14. Seven Working Together Transformed: The Production of Technology and Cooperation
    (pp. 179-195)

    In working together, people sustain themselves through the excitement of contradiction and disagreement, circularity and negotiation, diversity and dynamism. In these practices, people come together, pull apart, argue, celebrate, resist, evade, grow enthusiastic, and fight boredom. There is no end to this process; every assertion, every action generates a response that in turn leads to another response, and so on. There seems to be no escape from these interdependent, mutually implicating practices; so it is that inside the disorderly tensions and ambiguities which constitute the social system of working together it seems impossible for anything ever to get done. Yet...

  15. Epilogue Sacred Cooperation and the Dreams of Modernity
    (pp. 196-220)

    The story I have told in the preceding pages is a story about a struggle, a struggle whose requirements can exhaust and overwhelm participants. That people keep traveling through the labyrinth of cooperation—from harmony to conflict and back again, from hierarchy to equality and back again, from boredom to excitement and back again—is remarkable and seems to require explanation. What is it that keeps people participating in this amorphous, vexing, and sometimes threatening project? Why not just give up altogether, leaving behind the arguments, the compromises, the enervating details? Why not just “stay home”?

    In the pragmatics of...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 221-246)
  17. References
    (pp. 247-258)
  18. Index
    (pp. 259-261)