Space Is Not the Final FrontierJulie Michelle Klinger
The status of outer space as the final frontier is a cultural fetish. What a given culture fetishizes reveals the blind spots of power in specific times and places. That outer space should even be considered a frontier is a recent historical phenomenon that reflects the fusion of political power with techno-optimism, and it is far from final. But the temporal horizon of finality speaks to the desires felt among putative winners and losers alike under postatomic capitalism to transcend the brutalities of our age while preserving the status quo.
The invocation of the frontier orients political, economic, cultural, and technological power toward a specific sequence of activities: resource discovery, enclosure, devastation, and abandonment. In this, there is an extractivist intention, driven by the need to capture new resources in order to escape or ameliorate crises in the metropole. Therefore, naming a place a frontier sets it up as a problem to be solved: territories to be conquered or resources to be claimed, both processes as markers of a certain kind of “progress” that leaves the old world, and its old problems, behind. In this fantasy, taming “the final frontier” signifies the transcendence of earthly problems. But more important, it exonerates the protagonists of accountability for those problems: war, pollution, poverty, and that suite of brutalities summed up in passive voice as “the Anthropocene.”
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