Cultural Studies Adjunct: DeWitt Douglas Kilgore
My general field is twentieth century American literature and culture. I am particularly concerned with exploring the political (utopian) hopes expressed by our society through its projects in science and technology. Race, as both a social and an analytic category, stands for what is most often at stake in the histories I engage and the readings I produce. My first book, Astrofuturism: Science, Race and Visions of Utopia in Space, is an incisive engagement with the science writing and science fiction produced by the modern spaceflight movement. As a history it takes seriously the (sometimes progressive) hopes of those scientists and engineers who wrote the space age into being as a great cultural project. As a critique it turns a cold eye on those narratives of disciplined futurism to which I, as an ordinary native of the 1960’s and ‘70’s, was (and still am) vulnerable. My general research agenda is to recoup the liberatory potential of sciences and narratives ordinarily prescribed as closed to non-white, non-male, non-middle-class people. My current project is concerned with philosophical and social narratives emerging from SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence), a relatively new science founded by astronomers and astrophysicists in the late 1950s. SETI science brings my research down to earth, so to speak, focusing on the expressive work of writer-scientists who explore the universe from home, building both new knowledge and the audiences for it. This work follows the general thrust of Astrofuturism, which investigates the process of how new sciences emerge from and speak to the cultural circumstances and political imperatives of our time. However, this work is less concerned with the making of the future and more with the genesis, structure and meaning of the evolutionary narratives, particularly those of race and empire, we employ to explain its emergence.