Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Ph.D., MIT – History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society, 2011
10 Sachem Street, Room 308
My research focuses on the practices, imaginaries, and influences of contemporary science and technology. I am interested in how scientists transform our understanding of what it means to be in the world. To study this, I think about the role of place and place-making in scientific work. My first book, Placing Outer Space: An Earthly Ethnography of Other Worlds, is about planetary scientists and how they transform planets from scientific objects into worlds. In so doing, Mars scientists and exoplanet astronomers are re-shaping our understanding of the universe, presenting a cosmos filled with places and destinations instead of an empty void. Earth, as a planet and a place, is implicated in this changing cosmology. My research asks how the planetary imagination developed by scientist looking outward might be turned inward and used to comprehend Earth on a planetary scale, necessary for confronting today’s environmental and political crises.
Currently, I am investigating the re-emerging technology of virtual reality. As a technology of immersion, VR promises to transport us to existing and fictitious places. This research is supported by an NSF Scholars Award, and I will be conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Los Angeles to study how the particular mix of entertainment, academic research, and industry development shape VR and its attending community.
Through reading, teaching, and writing, I endeavor to link conversations in sociocultural anthropology with other fields of inquiry, including science and technology studies, media studies, cultural geography, environmental humanities, and history of science and technology.
2016. Placing Outer Space: An Earthly Ethnography of Other Worlds. Durham: Duke University Press.
2017 “Gestures of Cosmic Relation and the Search for Another Earth.” Environmental Humanities.
2017 “Resonant Worlds: Cultivating Proximal Encounters in Planetary Science.” American Ethnologist. 44(1): 131-142
2017 “Extra-terra Incognita: Martian Maps in the Digital Age.” Social Studies of Science. 47(1): 75-94
2015 “Beyond the Anthropocene: Un-Earthing an Epoch.” Environment and Society: Advances in Research 6(1): 28-47. With Valerie Olson.
2015 “The Greatest Missions Never Flown: Anticipatory Discourse and the ‘Projectory’ in Technological Communities.” Technology and Culture. 56 (1): 54-85. With Janet Vertesi.
2014 “Earth as Analog: The Interdisciplinary Debate and Astronaut Training that took Earth to the Moon.” Astropolitics 12(2-3): 196-209.
2010 “The Problem with Pluto: Conflicting Cosmologies and the Classification of Planets.” Social Studies of Science 40(2): 187-214.