The Worldwide Absence of Aliens: An Anthropological Perspective - Dr Istvan Praet

13 November 2019, 1.00 PM - 13 November 2019, 3.00 PM

Dr Istvan Praet, University of Roehampton

G.10, 43 Woodland Road

The Worldwide Absence of Aliens: An Anthropological Perspective

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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