1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

The Planetary Imagination: Worlding Practices of American Astronomers

Related Links

  • Reception follows in Brooks Hall Commons 

World-making as social practice describes the ways in which people construct complex networks of place, thought, meaning, and imagination. Attending to acts of worlding invites translocal reflections, while remaining anchored in local origins. Rarely, however, do such worlds encompass entire planets. This talk looks at a community for whom producing worlds at the planetary scale is of central import. Today’s planetary scientists – those studying planets both within and beyond our solar system – are world-makers in the most literal of senses. They transform invisible bodies of rock, gas, and ice into intimate and tangible planetary places. In this talk, I examine the practice of such world-making and its centrality to contemporary scientific work. Planetary scientists at NASA and in universities draw on a variety of techniques – both scientific and discursive – to produce worlds. I will share some of these techniques and, through the lens of science and technology studies, tie laboratory practices to the imaginative venture of world-making. Further, I will reflect on how the ability to think at the planetary scale is instructive for anthropologists, as we strive to make sense of global phenomena.


Event Date: 
Friday, 13 February 2015 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Lisa R. Messeri
Speaker Title: 
Assistant Professor of Science, Technology and Society, University of Virginia