You are here

Lecture: Territorial Insecurities

April 20, 2016
Price Auditorium
Free; limited seating

In her lecture, Felicity Scott, Columbia University, discusses proposals for space colonies in the mid-1970s and their connection with anxieties about urbanism, geopolitics, U.S. counterculture, and the United Nations.

Scott is associate professor of architecture, director of the PhD program in architecture (history and theory), and co-director of the program in Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture (CCCP) at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University. Her work focuses on articulating genealogies of political and theoretical engagement with questions of technological and geopolitical transformation within modern and contemporary architecture. She is the author of Architecture or Techno-Utopia: Politics After Modernism (MIT Press, 2007), among other books.

Scott’s presentation takes off from closing remarks in her forthcoming book, Outlaw Territories: Environments of Insecurity/Architectures of Counterinsurgency, published by Zone Books (March 2106). After briefly outlining the key stakes and content of "outlaw territories," which are situated at the intersection of architecture, territorial insecurity, and human unsettlement in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Scott follows these concerns as they quite literally take off into outer space. Focusing on Gerard K O’Neill’s proposals for human space colonies, which first gained visibility in the mid-1970s, she details the ways in which the history of his colonization project was symptomatic of the period’s widespread anxieties about urban insecurities in America and the rapidly transforming global geopolitical situation. She explores how this was connected both to the U.S. counterculture and the developmental agenda of the United Nations. Paying attention to a series of remarkable renderings and a short film produced by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), Scott reads the purportedly utopian visions of space colonies as code for an unchecked neoliberal future. For these images, and their mobilization speak, in retrospect, to the political underpinnings of the period’s rising interest in environment; they remind us that it was not natural processes (or even nature’s relation to humans as a species) that was at stake both in an emerging framework for global environmental governance and in space colonization as such, so much as how questions of climate, nature, weather, and resources were framed as socioeconomic and political concerns, and hence participated in what Foucault termed “the calculated management of life.”

Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

This lecture is presented by Chicago Women in Architecture and the Architecture & Design Society.