University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term > Societies in Orbit: Historicizing the European Space Age, 1942-1972

Societies in Orbit: Historicizing the European Space Age, 1942-1972

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  • UserAlexander Geppert, Emmy Noether Research Group Director Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin"
  • ClockWednesday 12 February 2014, 13:00-14:00
  • HouseCombination Room, Wolfson College.

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Outer space is not just a place; it also has a history. Over the course of the twentieth century, the dark, infinite and unfamiliar void that surrounds planet Earth has stimulated the human imagination as never before. For several decades, anticipation of human spaceflight was intimately bound with futuristic visions of technoscientific progress, and space exploration became key to societal self-images. Travelling to remote planets, ‘conquering’ the unknown and ‘colonizing’ the universe, it was commonly assumed, would in turn uplift society and transform ourselves.

Analysing the cultural significance of outer space in post-war Western Europe, this lecture charts the rise and fall of the so-called Space Age and discusses the ways in which it can be historicized. Ultimately, I argue, the emergence of our globalized present cannot be explained without the thrust into outer space, whilst the historical project of space exploration itself has long expanded into an endeavour of global dimensions. The increasingly planetised and miniaturized world of today is a consequence of that Space Age, but a Space Age very different from what its creators envisioned.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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