Our researchers

Leading academics in the field of space anthropology

Anna Szolucha

Space technologies, resources and “multi-planetary” communities: Space exploration and the imaginaries of living in a climate-changing world

Anna’s project examines developments in space exploration and traces their relationship with how people imagine life and living on a climate-changing Earth. She is particularly interested in studying the varied and sometimes contradictory impacts of concepts, tools and technologies designed for space exploration across different sites, scales and communities in India and the United States.

The narratives, science and technologies of space exploration and living on a climate-changing planet are becoming increasingly intertwined through the ideas and imaginaries spurred by the recent space programmes. This process can influence the ways in which we will tackle the climate crisis and shape our social, political and environmental futures for years to come. A new perspective is emerging that connects space exploration and the ways in which people relate to living on Earth. Anna’s work focuses on climate change and resource extraction as two social and environmental processes that generate and challenge new understandings of the interlinking between terrestrial and extraterrestrial activities and social worlds. She is conducting ethnographic research to analyse the cultural and social construction of space technologies, resources and communities.

Anna holds a PhD from the National University of Ireland in Maynooth and an MA (Hons.) in International Relations from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. In the past, her research explored the intersections of energy and society, especially the impacts of natural gas extraction on local communities as well as the role of unconventional resources (such as shale gas) in shaping social and democratic formations at the grassroots as well as state levels. She has also been interested in the transformations of democracy and contemporary social movements.

Chakad Ojani

Infrastructuring outer space, un-earthing anthropology: The making of on/off Earth infrastructures and environments in Sweden

Chakad’s project enquires into Sweden’s ongoing initiatives to develop small satellite launch capability. In this context, he is interested in engagements with outer space as an arena for projection, experimentation, and infrastructural possibility, able to support and/or limit human existence on Earth. In Sweden low Earth orbit is increasingly being framed as a key infrastructural domain for climate research. Yet, the increasing reliance on outer space infrastructures also means that space weather and orbital debris present new risks to critical, ground-based infrastructural systems. It is in response to these and other developments that Sweden now aims to strengthen independent access to low Earth orbit and offer infrastructural services for the international scientific community, space agencies, and commercial actors. This is undertaken for instance by branding the northern city of Kiruna as a ‘Space Town’, which by virtue of its arctic position, relatively unoccupied airspace, and vast geographical surroundings, promises to bring outer space closer to Earth. Through long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Stockholm and Kiruna, Chakad will examine the making and reshaping of on/off Earth ecologies through various forms of infrastructural mediation, asking what happens to social and environmental relations when confronted by the extraterrestrial as an infrastructural phenomenon.

Before joining the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Chakad completed his PhD in social anthropology at the University of Manchester. His PhD fieldwork centred on fog capture and atmospheric attunements in coastal Peru. He enquired into the work of local actors who engaged fog as a material possibility that could be captured and transformed into water, primarily in the context of urban fog oasis conservation, water infrastructure, and informal urbanisation. Chakad’s doctoral thesis was awarded an RAI/Sutasoma Award for Research of Outstanding Merit, and his research has been published in journals such as Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, and Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Karlijn Korpershoek

Making and Negating Futures: Access to (Outer) Space(s) in Australia and French Guiana

Karlijn’s project at the Jagiellonian University focuses on the cultural and social impacts of the space sector on people living in its periphery. Her research zooms into French Guiana and Australia to uncover how (inter)national narratives of space exploration put forth by space agencies and corporations are received by and aligned to local imaginations of the future.

In French Guiana, Karlijn will investigate the futures imagined and worked towards by the different actors at Centre Spatiale Guyanais, the official launch site of the European Space Agency (ESA) and French Space Agency (CNES), and how those relate to imaginations of the future by local communities in and around Kourou. In Australia, her focus is on the recently established Australian Space Agency and to what extent local, and in particular Aboriginal, communities are incorporated and cooperated with on visions of the future dis/enabled by space exploration. In short, Karlijn will investigate how futures worked towards by national and commercial agents relate to, enable and/or negate the futures imagined, feared and hoped for by local communities in and around launch sites.

Karlijn’s journey into space anthropology began in 2018, when she focused her master thesis, written for the University of Aberdeen, on the role anthropologists can play in space research. Since then, she has attended the International Space University’s summer courses for two consecutive years. For the program in 2020, her team produced work on the role of space technology in pandemics and she was chosen as one of three to present our work at the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. In 2021, her team’s project focused on designing the technological and conceptual framework for an interstellar message to potential extra-terrestrial intelligence. Karlijn has presented this work at the International Astronautical Congress in Dubai 2021.In addition to her academic work on anthropology of outer space, she is a project coordinator for Star Goddesses: an online platform and documentary series pending production focusing on the role of women in the space sector.

Peter Timko

Imagining New Worlds: A Planetary Ethnography of NewSpace Futures

Peter’s research focuses on contemporary developments within and related to the privatized space sector, also known as New Space. New Space represents a break from the traditional state-driven model of space exploration which emerged in the post-war “space race” era. These enterprises vary in the services offered, yet share a guiding assumption that expanding humanity’s extraterrestrial footprint could potentially address many critical problems associated with the anthropocene—problems such as climate change, food security, and economic development. However, buried within this narrative are concepts which remain far from universal. Latent ideas about which problems deserve to be solved, how, and for whom shape any potential future imagined by NewSpace entrepreneurs. Thus, this project aims to leverage the tools of ethnographic inquiry to understand the ways New Space is currently affecting life in the present as it attempts to build different futures, whatever they may be.

Currently, Peter is completing a PhD at Jagiellonian University through the school’s interdisciplinary program at the Doctoral School in the Humanities. He holds a MSc in urban and cultural geography from Radboud University, where he studied precarious labor in the platform economy, and was a research fellow at the PUTSPACE research project at Université libre de Bruxelles. Before joining the ARIES project he was a public librarian, writer, and on-demand delivery cyclist.

Rashmi M

Exploring the Indian Eco-cultural Imaginaries of Antarctica and Outer Space

Rashmi’s research seeks to identify the key features of the Indian eco-cultural imaginaries of Antarctica and Outer Space in the context of anthropogenic climate change. The project also attempts to suggest measures on how India can foster national imaginaries on Antarctica and Outer space to promote a holistic and inclusive understanding of environmental issues and challenges. Over the last two decades India has witnessed significant shifts in its involvement with Antarctica and outer space. This study makes the maiden attempt to examine the contributing factors for the development of ecocultural imaginaries at the local and the national levels in the country, with respect to both Antarctica and Space in the backdrop of climate change.

Rashmi completed her Doctoral programme at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology.  She has gained academic and research experience of more than four years in the relevant fields during her tenure at the Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India. Rashmi has also attained the Inspiring Women of the Year 2021 award for her contributions in the field of Sociology which was presented by the International Multidisciplinary Research Foundation, India.