UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Falling back to Earth: Informal economies of space debris in Central Kazakhstan

23 May 2022, 2:00 pm–3:00 pm

Makar Tereshin

A SSEES Research Student seminar with Makar Tereshin

This event is free.

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Makar's research is grounded in Soviet and contemporary Russian space exploration’s aspirations for human presence in space and its simultaneous entanglement with particular localities, terrestrial infrastructures and the socio-political context of (post-)Soviet Russia and Kazakhstan. His ethnographic focus is the fallout zones of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where rocket boosters are discarded after launches into orbit. The zones have become vast, national inlands, effectively turned into scrapyards littered with space debris from the 1950s on. For the people who live next to the fallout zones, they present a profoundly ambiguous landscape, which simultaneously threatens their health and well-being through invisible pollution, and offers the means to sustain their households by salvaging debris and making claims on the state as communities whose health has been affected.

Following villagers’ encounters with the space debris, Makar plans to investigate if and how such space materials and technologies mediate different techno-political projects at different scales: advancing space exploration, subjecting remote communities to systematic inequality and environmental injustice, and providing a livelihood. In his brief talk he will present how local communities inhabit and negotiate such indeterminate borders, spaces and materials, and what such edgework can tell us about the larger polities to which they belong.

About the speaker:

Makar Tereshin is an anthropologist and documentary photographer, Currently, he is a PhD candidate at UCL, where he is a part of the ETHNO-ISS project. The research team is undertaking an ethnography of the International Space Station and its terrestrial participants. His own doctoral research focuses on space debris and communities affected by space launches in Russia and Kazakhstan.

Image credit: Makar Tereshin