Thesis ID: CBB194032912

Fortress Science: The Spatialities of Radio Astronomy (2021)


The production of space as an internal condition to the scientific production of knowledge is an under investigated and seldom theorized process within the studies of science, technology, and society (STS), and the spatial disciplines. Through a comparative study of the world’s four leading radio telescopes (the Arecibo Observatory, the Atacama Millimeter/submillimeter Array, the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, and MeerKAT), I examine the territorial, concentrated, and contingent spatialities of these scientific sites through the multidisciplinary lens of fortress science. Each telescope embodies differing spatial formations as a product of their institutional makeup, scientific goals, and political contexts, but exhibits similar spatial formations with regards to territorial transformations and human material concentrations. We can read these formations through the metaphor of the glacis, an historical fortress technology that acts as an obscuration in which apparent ‘emptiness’ conceals significant influence and connectivity. I draw on this analogy as an embodiment of the conceptual tools underlying the dissertation – that of technology and infrastructure, and landscape and territory – and I use these tools to position fortress science as structuring an analytical fusion of space and science. Spatial process is found to be enmeshed in the structure of scientific research itself, and as a result scientific production is found to alter, structure, and restructure space as an active force.

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Authors & Contributors
Orchiston, Wayne
Slee, Bruce
Wielebinski, Richard
Goss, W. M.
Wendt, Harry
Bailer-Jones, Daniela M.
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
Historical Records of Australian Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
History of Physics Newsletter
European Physical Journal H
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Harwood Academic Publishers
Cambridge University Press
Radio astronomy
Instruments, astronomical
Professions and professionalization
Science and politics
Payne-Scott, Ruby
Berkner, Lloyd Viel
Brown, Robert Hanbury
Nordmann, Charles
Christiansen, Wilbur Norman
Wild, John Paul
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, late
21st century
20th century, early
19th century
Virginia (U.S.)
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (Australia)
Paris Observatory
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie
Universität Bonn
National Radio Astronomy Observatory (U.S.)
Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) (Study group: U.S.)

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