The worldwide absence of aliens: An anthropological perspective

This week in the CRESIDA seminar series, the speaker is Istvan Praet (University of Roehampton), who is sharing his research on astrobiology, metaphysics and conceptions of alien life.  Come and join us on Thursday, October 24th at 4.15pm in Room G070 at Parkstead House to learn more.


Based on ethnographic research with astrobiologists and planetary scientists, this paper examines what one could describe as ‘the modern ban on terrestrial aliens’. Under the rules of modern metaphysics aliens on Earth are an impossibility, a contradiction in terms. Yet a whole range of animals, often referred to as ‘extremophiles’, are frequently presented as ‘aliens among us’: octopuses, flamingos, tardigrades, peacock spiders (such as the one pictured). The latter are habitually understood as ‘proxy-aliens’ — but where is the line between ‘proxy’ and ‘true’ aliens, if such a line exists in the first place? In this paper I will investigate the tendency, very prominent within astrobiology, to understand terrestrial life as a disunity of convergent aliens rather than as a unity of divergent species.

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