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Heavenly bodies: gender and sexuality in extra-terrestrial culture

Deerfield, Katherine 2016. Heavenly bodies: gender and sexuality in extra-terrestrial culture. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis explores how gender and sexuality are conceptualised in human spaceflight. The culture of outer space has received relatively little critical attention, and even less on the subjects of gender and sexuality. In this thesis I aim to expand upon this limited field and to investigate how the cultural dimensions of outer space can be used to productive critical ends. The history of gender in human spaceflight is a troubled one. For decades, women were systematically excluded from most spaceflight endeavours. I argue that in addition to this, more insidious forms of exclusion have continued despite increasing representation of women in the global astronaut corps. Representations of gender in space culture are drawn from a long history of traditional conceptualisation of masculine and feminine bodies, particularly in spatial theory. Additionally, using the particular spatiality of extra-terrestrial spaces, I argue that traditional notions of gendered bodies and spaces can be uniquely destabilised by human spaceflight experience. The gendering of outer space is often entangled with sexual culture in space discourse,as discussions of women in space are often conflated with discussions of sexuality, reproduction, and human futures in space. I analyse these ideological connections alongside feminist and queer theory to argue that while space culture is primarily heteronormative, it also holds great potential for destabilising narratives of heteronormativity. Discussions of the future, in particular, often revolve around heteronormative ideas of family and procreation, however the temporality of space culture is not as straightforward as these narratives would suggest. It is my contention that the critical potential of outer space both necessitates and facilitates a radical shift in understandings of spatiality and temporality. Ultimately, I argue that the extremity associated with extra-terrestrial exploration can inform broader theoretical discussions of gender, sexuality, cultural space, time and the future.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 July 2016
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2019 14:37

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