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Making Martians

Aiken, Jonie; (2020) Making Martians. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Martians are being made through the everyday activities and artifacts of life at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This thesis explores the identity of a particular group of future Martians, current American astronauts, whose identity is molded and realized within the NASA organization. The research presented reveals that astronaut identity is largely constructed outside the extreme environment of space, greatly influenced by the organizational culture of the space agency. With a focus on the seemingly mundane, this thesis explores organizational doxa through three banal, Earthly astronaut identities. First, it engages the everyday activities of astronauts as employees, setting the stage for a flattening out of their identity. Then, the research explores astronauts as users of space technologies, and their everyday practices of machine interactions are brought to the forefront. Finally, the astronaut identity is explored through their belonging to a corps of peers, as members inheriting and reproducing their identities as extraterrestrials. As ethnographically evident, it is within the seemingly mundane aspects of the astronauts’ identity that we find the likewise banal, undiscussed, or glossed-over aspects of the organizational culture of an American space agency. Indeed, the majority of an astronauts’ job is spent on Earth, and, therefore, a significant part of their identity is formed not in space but on the ground. The undiscussed, doxa of the organization brings into focus the notion of failure within NASA and questions the extreme, popular notions of humans living and working in outer space. Future Mars inhabitants are undoubtedly exotic by Earth standards, yet their identity is being created long before they set foot on Martian soil. This thesis puts forth an anthropological discourse on the consubstantiation of identity that acknowledges failure and reconciles, without disregarding, the everyday and the extreme – the human and the Martian.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Making Martians
Event: UCL
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2020. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10097160
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