Embattled Heavens: The Militarization of Space in Science, Fiction, and Politics

April 10-12, 2014, Berlin, Germany

For much of the twentieth century, outer space has been envisioned as not only a site of heavenly utopias, but also the ultimate battlefield. Science fact and science fiction celebrated visions of progress and renewal. Astrofuturists imagined a future in which the wonders of space exploration would unite humankind and eliminate violent conflict worldwide. Nonetheless, many of the projects and preoccupations central to Western space thought, such as the efforts to establish a military base on the moon, are testaments to the darker and more violent side of astroculture. Defense interests have historically been driving factors in the development of space technologies. Military and civilian aspects have, however, often been dealt with separately in debates about humanity’s widely anticipated future in the stars.

Concentrating on weapons, warfare, and violence, this conference examines the military dimensions of astroculture in the period between 1942 and 1990. While space history tends to distinguish between military and civilian aspects, this conference examines the ways in which both have been linked in the legitimization and popularization of spaceflight. By highlighting the militarization of extraterrestrial frontiers and conquest in politics and popular culture alike, ‘Embattled Heavens’ addresses the complex processes that oscillate between peaceful and aggressive characteristics of human endeavors in outer space. It aims to decentralize a historiography that often focuses on the two space superpowers, the US and the USSR. While the Space Age is usually associated with the Cold War, this conference complicates established narratives by integrating Western European and global perspectives. Examining astropolitics, technoscientific practices, and science fiction, our goal is to reconceptualize the history of outer space with a view toward its military dimensions.

Posted: February 10, 2014