Given the enormous impact that colonialism has had, and continues to have, in the United States, scholars frequently look to our colonial past to understand the American present. This focus on the past, though valuable, has discouraged attention to newly emerging colonial enterprises. Perhaps one of the more conspicuous neo-colonial projects has been the push towards planting human colonies on Mars. In James Wynn’s talk, he explores one of the many problems addressed by the rhetoric of this current colonial moment: How do you persuade people to leave their indigenous communities to start new ones in a foreign and sometimes hostile place? To explore the current rhetorical solutions to this problem, Wynn assesses the strategies used by science fiction writers to help audiences imagine life and human settlement on Mars. By comparing their efforts to lure people to the red planet with the “promotional literature” created by supporters of the English colonization of North America in the early modern period, he shows that though these colonial enterprises face similar rhetorical challenges, the material-historical contexts in which they occur significantly influence the available means for addressing them.
James Wynn is Associate Professor of English and Rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University. His research and teaching explore science, mathematics, and public policy from a rhetorical perspective. His first book Evolution by the Numbers (2012) examines how mathematics was argued into the study of variation, evolution, and heredity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His most recent monograph Citizen Science in the Digital Age explores how the Internet and Internet-connected devices are reshaping the landscapes of argument occupied by scientists, lay persons, and governments. Currently, he is awaiting the publication of Arguing with Numbers, a collection of essays co-edited with G. Mitchell Reyes whose contributors investigate the relationship between rhetoric and mathematics. He is also working on a new book project on the rhetoric of Mars colonization.
Professor Wynn teaches classes in Rhetoric of Science, Rhetoric and Public Policy, Climate Change, Argumentation, and Introduction to Professional and Technical Writing.
The following is a transcript generated by Otter.ai, with human corrections during and after. For any errors the human missed, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vivek Bald 00:47
Welcome everyone to CMS colloquium and today we welcome James Wynn, who is Associate Professor of English and rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University. His research and teaching explores science, mathematics and public policy from a rhetorical perspective. His first book, evolution by the numbers examines how mathematics was argued into the study of variation, evolution and heredity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His most recent monograph, citizen science in the digital age, explores how the internet and internet connected devices are reshaping the landscapes of argument occupied by scientists, lay persons and governments. Currently, Well, today, I think, right saw the publication of arguing with numbers, co edited a volume that that Professor Wynn co edited, a collection of essays co edited with Jean Michel res, whose count– contributors investigate the relationship between rhetoric and mathematics. He is also working on a new book project on the rhetoric of Mars colonization, from what he’ll be drawing in today’s talk. So, welcome, James, and I will pass things over to you.
James Wynn 02:16
Thank you so much for the introduction. I want to I want to acknowledge and thank Ed Schiappa, who is a faculty at MIT. And I also want to acknowledge that the collection that is coming out today, Ed has a chapter in that. So he is also part of that, that wonderful project. So I want to thank him for his participation and for inviting me here today to talk to everybody about another project I’ve been working on. Also, I want to thank you, Andrew, for setting everything up for the logistics, making this all happen, making sure my slides were everything. Thank you for doing that. And be back. Thanks for the introduction, and also for being moderator today in our conversation. So as we’ve mentioned, what I’m going to talk about today is actually some a new project that I’ve been working on, in particular, the first chapter of this book, about Mars colonization. And so what I want to share with you today is a little bit about my research project, my methods and concepts. And also, then a little bit about my findings. so far. Now there are lots of things that I’m interested in, and I’ve I’ve worked on in the book. So you don’t need to sort of, if you have questions about other things, I’m happy to answer them. But you know, I’ll focus today on just one part of the project that I’ve been working on. So I’m going to try, I’m going to share my slides here. And then I think we can go from there. Are these slides visible? Can everybody see them?
Okay, great. Thanks. All right, excellent. So just gonna make sure I can get the full screen.
James Wynn 03:59
So the title of my talk today is promotional narrative science fiction, and the case for colonization. So there are a few things I’d like to talk about today. First of all, why Mars colonization? Why is this particular topic exigent right now? Why is it worth thinking about are talking about also some of the concepts and methods that I’m using to do the analysis that I’m going to share with you today. And, of course, my findings, the the, the, the sort of themes or issues that are developed out of the analysis that I’ve done. And finally discussion. This is going to be on my part very brief, because I want to have a larger discussion with everything, everyone about the topics I’m covering in my talk. I’m thinking that this will probably take about 40 minutes to talk through my slides and to show my evidence and discussion. And hopefully we’ll have a really nice discussion after that. So I wanted to just talk a little bit about the public exigence for this work. In other words, why am I interested in it? Why do I think it’s something that we should be paying attention to right now. So first of all, you know, just two months ago, perseverance landed on Mars. And there’s been a lot of hoopla and discussion about that particular moment of, of getting involved with Mars and taking the next steps towards sending people there into in 2010. So essentially, in the last five years, there’s been a lot of political movement towards Mars colonization. Or actually, I should say that in the last decade, there’s been a lot of movement towards actually devoting government resources towards sending humans to Mars, and making Mars sort of a priority project for NASA. So in a speech in 2010, at Kennedy Space Center, Obama said, for example, that By the mid 2030s, we will be sending humans into orbit around Mars and return them safely. And then landing on Mars will follow. President Trump actually signed the NASA transition Authorization Act, which was developed under Obama and then it was signed is one of the first things that Trump did when he came into office. And within that particular document, that that act, there is an explicit language, that the whole one of NASA’s main goals is to achieve the human exploration of Mars and beyond and just sort of prioritize this and everything it does. So in other words, if they’re going to build technology, it should with it should be built with forethought about going to Mars, and how this is going to impact that project. So in other words, a lot of the planning for NASA is now everything sort of is related to Mars and is about going towards going to Mars. Also, of course, we can’t forget the interest in the private sector in Mars, particularly, of course, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos, who have started their own rocket companies and begun to privatized space travel, which has some important implications, I think for this. of, of these two, of course, Ilan Musk is is very, very interested in Mars causation, and is hoping to see this in his lifetime. If you go to Musk’s web page of SpaceX, there’s a particular section on Mars. And in this section, he has this quote, you want to wake up in the morning and think that the future is going to be great. And that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. I can’t think of anything more exciting than being out there and being amongst the stars. So Elon Musk is very sanguine about Mars. And that’s sort of one of his his main goals and main priorities in the development of his technology and his company. Before I sort of get into the data and the methods that I want to use, I want to just step back for a second and talk a little bit about the disciplinary perspective. I’m coming from Professor shop, and I share rhetoric as our disciplinary lenses that we look at things through. Essentially, when I go to cocktail parties, and people ask me, Well, what is it you do? And I say, Well, I’m a professor of rhetoric. And then they asked me Well, what rhetoricians do. I like to explain that rhetoric is sort of the the study of argument in all of its splendor. And what by what I mean by that is that rhetoricians are really interested, unlike some other fields that study argumentation, and really the broad range of persuasive means, including emotions, including arguments from the character of people of the speaker, and of course, looking at these things in various contexts and across different kinds of media. So, for my, for this project, I thought, I became very interested in colonization sort of generally, but specifically, because I study rhetoric and science and public policy, from the perspective of thinking about colonization, in the context of Mars colonization.
James Wynn 08:54
So from a disciplinary perspective, I want to talk a little bit about the contribution I think that my project is making in the field of rhetoric, most studies of colonization, in rhetoric and in other fields that are that are closely associated with it. Think about colonization as a completed Act, or thinking about the impacts of colonization after they happen. What I’m really interested in though, is thinking about colonization, in these very early moments, where, and I call these moments proto-colonial moments because in these moments, the colonial enterprise is very fragile and uncertain. So typically, when people talk about colonialism, they look at already established colonial projects, ones that have succeeded. But I’m interested in those projects and very early stages when people aren’t sure that they’re going to succeed. And they also need to really rely on argumentation to get to persuade people to really think about engaging in these projects. So some questions I’m really interested in are one, you know, what are the rhetorical challenges for the colonizer? How do you get people to buy into colonial projects at a very early stage? And also that how do you previous colonial acts, influence present colonial acts? And finally, you know, what do we learn by contrasting colonial proto-colonial moments, if we and so for my project in particular, I want to look at the colonization of North America has, so these colonial moments and then juxtapose those with this protocol emiel moment we’re having now, thinking about colonizing Mars in order to, in order to talk about these things that I think it’s important to have sort of a set definition or a definition that I’m going to be operationalizing or using, in my research of what colonialism is. So, in particular, what I’m talking about his physical colonialism. And what I mean by that are the movement of people from what are called source communities, or metropolitan communities into, which are where they come from, into these target bases, or target communities, which are foreign places, and also movements of people where they’re moving into these spaces, and they they are intending to permanently reside in those spaces. So there’s a lot of there was a lot of rhetorical back and forth and sort of arguing about colonialism as versus imperialism. So a lot of the discussions revolve around the permanency of a vs versus imperialism, which tends to be less permanent, and is sort of a shuffling of bureaucratic and military folks into a space and then shuffling them out. Again. Another important feature of colonialism, which differentiates it from other kinds of movements of people, is that there is a notion where that the people that are going to these foreign spaces, maintain political identity and rely on the original state for their identity, their protection, the resources, they need to sort of maintain their colonial presence in this target communities. So these are some very basic definitional qualities that I’m using when I’m when I’m talking about what a colony is, and what colonialism is. One of the things that’s also important in this project, and this isn’t something that I’ve found in my research on defining colonialism are talking about what it means is this this idea of stages of colonialism. So by reading a lot of colonial tracks, it emerged for me that there are different stages of colonialism. The first stage is what I call the exploration stage, which is essentially you send out
James Wynn 12:45
people or in the case of Mars instruments that are there to sort of understand that the resources and the conditions of the space that is, and to decide where it has potential for colonization, then you have the planting stage, which is where you put small outposts there. If you think back to the early colonial period in North America, these are typically forts with military folks that were there to establish a foothold. But they weren’t sort of full blown colonies. And next, of course, you have the settlement phase, which is where these forts begin to expand, and we get different sorts of people that begin to live there. So children, women, people from different walks of life, like, you know, blacksmiths, and and, and barrel makers, and so forth. Right. So it’s not just sort of a military operation, but it’s a diversified, more heterogeneous population. And finally, the very last stage of colonialism is of course, when it disappears. So it either disappears to emancipation. So in the United States, obviously, after the after the war for independence, the United States became its own countries that was emancipated from its original colonial source, or it’s Incorporated. So you can think about Ireland and Scotland, for example, which became part of, of Britain in the United Kingdom. And so therefore, there’s a sort of like two ways they can go, you can either emancipate or you can become Incorporated, and you lose your status as a colony. For this particular project, I looked at two sets of texts. So as a rhetorician, we study typically artifacts, and typically written artifacts. One set of texts I looked at are what are called promotional literature. And I’ll say a little bit about what that means and what that is. So I looked at it as at 10 different texts, which are examples of promotional literature from the 16th and 17th century, and particularly during the English proto-colonial period, the settlement of North America from about 1495 to 1650. I also then looked at modern science fiction texts from the 20th and 21st century and I looked at seven of these, I mean, I’ve read lots more. But there are only seven that seemed to be particularly impactful talking about colonialism, and very detailed in specific ways. In my analysis, what I did is a close reading of all these sources, and close reading for thinking about particular kinds of questions. So one of the questions I was very interested in is, how do supporters of colonialism persuade people to like leave their homes and go into these foreign spaces, which are typically very hostile? And also, are there sort of common lines of argument that emerge from their efforts to persuade people to do this?
James Wynn 15:40
And so through historical comparison by looking at early modern texts, and, and modern literature about colonization, I was interested to see whether there are similarities and differences in the lines of arguments that we find, and what might account for these similarities and differences. So I’m going to talk a little bit about specifically the last question in the discussion part of my presentation. So let’s, let’s talk, let’s start with the early modern, protocol, oneo, period. So typically, you know, when people think about colonization, they typically think of colonization as something that people really wanted to do, either because there’s some instinctual nature within humans that wants to go out and explore places, or because they thought it was like some great, I don’t know, escape from their socio economic conditions or whatever. But in fact, it was really hard to persuade people in to go to, to go to colonize or to be part of this sort of colonial project. And we see this time and time again, when you look at these very early protocol, Amiel tracks. So for example, John White’s Planter’s Plea, which is written in 1630, he is sort of emblematic of the kinds of things that you read, or that or that these folks that are writing these kinds of tracks, right. So he writes in this seminar content removed from their dwellings and leave their beloved country and friends, but no man can see that we shall find over many of that humor, we English are known to well to the world to love the smoke of our own chimneys so well, that hopes of great advantages are not likely to draw it, many of us from home. So many of the folks that write these tracks, say, it’s really hard to get people to leave. So that when I was really interested in is the arguments that they then made to try to get people to, to buy into the colonial project and be participants in it. The kind of literature that emerged, so this, this actually emerges as a genre of literature during this period called what’s called promotional literature. And typically, what happened during this period is that some folks would go over and they wouldn’t, you know, be part of one of these fortress colonies that were meant to sort of stake things out and maybe make a military foothold to make a claim. And then they would come back and they would say very nasty things about being in the colony and how, what how not really wonderful it was. So a lot of promotional literature was sort of aimed at addressing these brutes as they were called, where people were just sort of talking badly about the colonial experience.
James Wynn 18:15
to So as a definition of this genre, one of one historian writes, The principal purposes of promotional literature was to combat the flood of slander and malicious gossip about the colonies, of which almost every important writer complains. So we have this promotional literature, then that’s meant sort of as a rhetorical tool to get people to think positively about the comments. So one of the things I was interested in as well, okay, you know, what kind of rhetoric do we find in these documents in these in this literature? And what I’ve, what I found is that, typically, in the early modern period, we have what’s called reassurance rhetoric. There’s a there’s an argument theory, theoretician named Haim Perlman, who talks about dissociative argument. dissociative argument is essentially argument where you say, Well, this is what they’re saying. But what really is happening is this. So it’s a dissociation of the imagined and the real. So a lot of argument in this vein is about trying to correct sort of incorrect or inappropriate descriptions of the risk in the colonial face. So there were lots of different kinds of risks that these writers talk about in promotional literature. One of them, of course, is indigenous people. So here’s an example of a colonist who went to Virginia, his name is Ralph lane, and he came back and he wrote a very, very scathing negative description of the experience that he had. So he writes about the indigenous people that wanted no store of mischievious practices among them, indigenous people of Roanoke, and the dead of night they would have to set my house and put fire in the reeds that myself would have come running out in a My sudden amazed in my night shirt without arms, meaning weapons upon an incident, where have they would have knocked out my brains. So lane is describing his fear that they were going that the the Native Americans of the Roanoke were going to essentially slaughter all the colonists, and that he would be a main victim and that they were gonna sort of set fire to his house and then and then beat his brains out when he ran out. Of course, then, the promoters of this colony needed to have some way of responding to these sort of negative impressions that they were giving about the colony. So another piece was written soon after Harriet’s I mean, soon after the one we just read by Thomas Harriet, which is known as the brief and true report, written in 1587. And this report, Harriet tries to rehabilitate people’s beliefs about Native Americans suggesting that, you know, the slanderous accounts are incorrect. And really, there’s a very different way that we should think about the Native Americans. So he writes, the rest of the day speak a word or two of the natural inhabitants, their natures and manners, as that you may know how that they in respect to troubling are inhabiting and planting are not to be feared, but that they shall have cause to both fear and love us that show and have it with them. So he was really trying to change everybody’s mind about these stories that they were hearing about the dangers of the Native Americans. I’m not going to offer all the evidence here, but what I can tell you is that he makes a series of arguments, one, based on the fact that their militaries are not very big, and also that the weapons that they have are much greater than the English, and therefore, they’re not really much of a threat militarily speaking, he also he also makes a sort of technological arguments, arguing that the Native Americans were so amazed by their technologies, that they in some ways, thought that they were, they were to be respected and worship, because God was so superior, and, and that they would sort of fall in line, just out of sheer, I don’t know, a belief that the technology was superior, so that they would just, they would just sort of go along with whatever the English have believed in. There were other hazards and risks. Of course, outside of native peoples, there was a lot of discussion in these in these tracks about hazardous finance. In the planners p, for example, white talks a lot about snakes, people were really afraid of these snakes, they were bigger than the ones in England. So he had to say, say a few words about the fact that no one really ever sees them. And the more people that go, the less snakes they’ll be. So the idea here is to sort of dismiss out of hand, the dangers of these snakes their existence, and the fact that they’re going to really have a problem with the colonists. The other thing or mosquitoes. So England didn’t really have mosquitoes, but of course, North America was plagued by them, especially in the places that these colonies were were set down.
James Wynn 23:04
So one of the things they had to say is, look, the mosquitoes aren’t that bad, right? You can wear long sleeves, you can go indoors you can set fires. And you know, frankly, if you live there after a while, you don’t even notice them. So these are some strategies that they they had to sort of reassure potential colonists that these problems weren’t really that serious problems. Now another risk that people in the early modern period took very seriously was the effect of the food and climate and drink on the bodies of the colonists. So this is a very big deal at this period. And now of course, as well. So I’m William Bradford, when he talks about the history of the Plymouth Plantation. He talks in great detail about the arguments that the group of Calvinists that that join him in Plymouth had over the kinds of problems that they were going to face, and why they should or shouldn’t colonize, or decide to build to have a colony in North America. One of these debates is, is based squarely around the conditions and the effects of the conditions on the bodies of the members of this congregation. So for they’re in North America, they should be liable to famine and nakedness. And the want in a manner of all things. The change of air diet and drinking of the water should infect their bodies, with source sickness and grievious diseases. So this is one of the arguments made against setting up a colony in North America. Sort of counter that we have. We have tracts like john Breyer, tons of brief and true relation. So — essentially was traveling around Martha’s Vineyard, and he comes back and he and he says a few words about the food and the drink and how it affected the folks that were in his particular expedition. We found our health and strength all the while we remain there so renewed and increased, as notwithstanding our diet and lodging was none of the best yet None of our company felt the least grudging or inclination to any disease or sickness. But we’re much fatter and better health than we went out of England. So there are a lot of instances in these tracks where they will talk about how the food and the drink and everything else actually made the colonists healthier, and didn’t have the negative impacts on the health that was bruited by some of these other accounts of, of the New World. So I’m going to switch gears now. So I’ve been talking about North America and the colonial experience there. So there was some some similarities and differences, obviously, between North America and Mars. One of the differences of course, is there, to our knowledge, there are no indigenous habitants of Mars, we have not found life there yet. So and and the other thing is that no humans have ever been there. So we can’t have the same kinds of accounts. And and brutes have the experience of being on Mars because no one’s ever done it. Also, though, there is a similarity because there are some climactic hazards on Mars that we don’t share in our own in our own Earth. Now, of course, the climactic hazards are very different than the one the climatic hazards are very different than the ones that you experienced in North America. First of all, the average temperature is much colder on Mars, than it is on Earth. This is not something there are temperature problems that colonists had to deal with, but not to this extreme oxygen, so we never had to worry about oxygen, when when setting up colonies in North America or other places on earth. And of course, there is problems of radiation, there’s a lot more radiation on that that’s given on a daily basis on Mars than there is on Earth. So there are definitely risks, obviously, environmental risks to talk about when we talk about Mars. So, because there are no, there is not the same kind of writing about colonization, for Mars that there was for North America, we have to turn to a new source. And so one of the sources that we have is science fiction. So science fiction is great because even though there’s not a there hasn’t been a human experience on Mars, science fiction writers imagine what it would be like to set up a colony on Mars and imagine what would be like to be the humans that are colonizing, and what their experience would be like.
James Wynn 27:26
What’s also very interesting is that science fiction writers like like Isaac Asimov’s and Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Ray Bradbury, were very supportive of the notion of astral colonialism. Even Ray Bradbury, who who does write very critically about colonialism, for example, in the Martian Chronicles, has other writings where he is sort of very sanguine about this idea of Astro colonialism. So for example, for the 1964 World’s Fair, he wrote a particular script for this journey through America, in which in the final part of the script, he writes, build pyramids of men and fire toward land falls on the moon, and bright new independence days, looking back from sprays to see our birthplace, Earth. The old wilderness dwindles as the human race reaches for eternity, survival and immortality in the next billion years. Man God made manifest goes in search of himself, the great out portable nations, which crushed the buffalo grass, and reached the end of one frontier now binds great defines greater challenges in the star wilderness above. So we see in this the very language of colonialism, the very language of sort of the westward expansion of the buffalo grass in various comments. So it suggests that he too, is sort of enamored by the notion of the colonial the Astro colonialism of other planets. So what we find that’s a little bit different in science fiction writing then in early colonial tracks, is that the rhetoric here instead of being reassurance rhetoric is what I would call inspirational rhetoric. And there are sort of two sorts one is what I would call heroic inspirational rhetoric, and the other is utopian, inspirational rhetoric. heroic inspirational rhetoric is really interesting, because what it does is instead of trying to reassure the the readers and and the audience, that life on, on in the colonial space isn’t so bad, they actually leverage the challenges and the struggle for existence within the colonial space to make to valorize. To make people heroes, and by doing that also valorizing, the process of colonialization and the people that are going to become colonialists. So we see this, very obviously and Andy Weir’s The Martian, which many of you probably have seen as a film or you’ve read in the novel form. In this novel in the film, of course, we have the protagonist Mark Watney who is a scientist. He’s a botanist, engineer. And he uses his maker skills and his rational thinking ability to of course, send off one disaster for another. And by doing that sort of becomes a hero by his ability to sort of conquer the challenges of Mars as a space. We also see the same thing happening in Isaac Asimov’s The Martian way, which is written in 1952. And in Asimov’s novel, there’s also sort of a hero scientist who’s an engineer. And the idea is that, that Mars is being cut off from water, and they have to solve this problem, sort of through their own ingenuity. And, and I won’t spoil the plot of this. But what I can say is that, what’s different a little bit about the Watney example, and this heroic example, is that the hero in the case of the Martian way, draws their drawing of their very ability to make and do certain kinds of things from their, from their existence as colonist. In other words, only Martians only someone who lives on Mars, and deals with the conditions can do the kinds of techno can do the kinds of technological things that makes survival possible. So I’m off azimoff writes, for example, we can we can do it and earth men can’t. They’ve got a real world, they’ve got open sky and food, getting into a ship will challenge them, right. We’ve been living on a ship our entire lives, breathing package, their drinking package, water, we eat the same food and rations, we eat aboard a ship, we get into a ship the same thing we’ve known all our lives. So the colonial conditions themselves, condition that settlers to actually be able to survive in ways that folks that are not Martian can’t do so they can sort of solve problems in ways that Earth people can solve problems.
James Wynn 32:07
So now I’m going to switch a little bit and talk about inspirational rhetoric. And I call this this argument that of inspirational rhetoric as an argument for larger arguments through adversity. And what we see here is what’s called a means ends argument. So in this kind of argument, the the the person that the colonist is submitting themselves or the potential columnist, is submitting themselves to extraordinary trials, which are the means. And the ends are the extraordinary benefits that you reap through these trials. So the idea is that going to Mars is hard, but through this hardship, we get these unique benefits. And there is a there’s a rich history of this kind of argument in our own colonial experience and our own colonial tracts. So Frederick tracts and Turner on in his very famous piece on the frontier, right? It is to the frontier. The American intellect owes its striking characteristics, that coarseness of strength combined with acuteness, acquisitive, inquisitiveness and practical that practical, inventive turn of the mind, quick to find expedience, and masterful grabs, grasp of material things are traits are called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier. So the notion is that the frontier, in some ways, is responsible for the kind of traits that made America America that made it great that made it unique. And so we, but it’s only through the trials of the frontier, that you get those kind of qualities. And we see this very same argument being made in science fiction texts. A perfect example of this is Arthur C. Clarke, the red sands of Mars. And in this book, we have the protagonist, Martin Gibson as a journalist. And he’s sort of writing an expo, say on Mars, he’s going to church Journey to Mars and talk about what colonial life is like and so forth. And he’s really skeptical, first about, about the colonial project, right? He says, you know, look, from the point of view of Earth, you know, Mars is a long way, it costs a lot of money, it doesn’t offer anything, at the question that we’re all asking is, what do we get out of it? Right? So the whole point of this novel, then is to answer this question, what do we get out of it? And after spending time in the colony, Gibson has this sort of a pivotal experience. And then he becomes a strong advocate. In fact, he becomes the PR person from Mars. And what he finds is that he experiences when he gets in with the folks on Mars right. He begins to understand that what they gain from being on Mars in their colonial experience, right, is this keen-eyed competence and readiness to take well calculated risks, which enabled them not merely to survive on this heartbreakingly hostile world world, but to lay the foundations the first extraterrestrial culture So this notion that, you know, the utopia or a return to utopia begins to develop through existing within the harsh conditions of Mars. Another example of utopian rhetoric is in Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel read Mars, which is part of a trilogy. So what’s interesting is that in in Robinson’s novel, there are 100 colonists that are the original colonists and Mars. And the whole point of this novel is to talk about how they struggle to realize their utopian vision for a particular colony. And it’s really the struggle itself, and sort of maintaining a pure space for Mars, which is, which is the struggle that if they succeed, will have this sort of utopian benefits. So one of the main characters writes, all of our says, all of our governments are flawed. It’s why history is such a bloody mess. We are now on our own and I, for one, have no intention of repeating mistakes. We are the first Martian colonists, we are the scientists, it is our job to think things new, and make them new. So the idea is that Mars is really a tabula rasa, in which we can build this ideal society on and the struggle is not so much the struggle of existence on Mars, but the struggle to keep this a free space in which to create this ideal colony or this ideal utopia that the Martians want.
James Wynn 36:27
So now very briefly, I’m just going to talk about the the sort of the the contrast we see between the rhetoric of early modern colonialism, the rhetoric of science fiction, and Martian colonialism. So early modern promotional rhetoric is devoted to reassuring potential colonists and supporters by dismissing and diminishing the risks of colonial life, right? Oh, don’t worry about the serpent’s Don’t worry about mosquitoes, or the indigenous peoples there, everything’s going to be fine. inspirational rhetoric, however, of the modern science fiction leverages the risks of colonization, to valorize, the colonists and to make a case for the good consequences that will arise from the colonial act, right, you will become a hero, you will realize utopian visions that you have on Earth. So why, why these differences? What my account for it. So in thinking about these different cases, one thing that occurred to me is that in our modern context, right, we have a real faith in sort of the techno scientific capacity to address risks in a way that early modern folks did not. So they had to, in fact, offer reassurances Why? Well, because they couldn’t really say that they could solve the problems. But now, we have this sort of belief in technology and belief in the technological progress, such that we can almost valorize these these moments of, of colonialism as a way of showing our chops of a way of showing how we can solve the problems and make ourselves heroes by doing so. The other thing that’s interesting is that in early modern colonialism, in the in the British context, there’s not really a lot of ideal models that can serve as this notion of colony as utopia. I mean, the Scottish colonization and the Irish colonization were kind of a big, bloody mess. For the most part, they didn’t really have very much ideal. There wasn’t a lot of idealism associated with it. And there were a lot of writings by historians that suggest that they can’t really find this kind of utopians statements very early in these protocol, annual periods. But they do find them later. And we see, of course, historically, that these developed and smart science fiction writers have these as resources for making their arguments. Okay, that’s all that I have. So, Vivek, I will turn it back over you for moderation purposes. So thank you so much for listening.
Vivek Bald 38:59
Thank you. Um, well, first open it up to questions from our, our students. Yeah. Natalia.
Natalia Guerrero 39:09
Hey thanks for the talk. Um, I was wondering what made you choose the early American exploration rather than I guess, like, what I think a lot of people compare, which is like the westward ho, sort of, like frontier period.
James Wynn 39:31
Thank you, Natalia. So that’s a great question. So one thing I want to say is that, you know, the reason First of all, kind of, I chose the British colonialism because I speak English. And frankly, you know, I don’t have the chops to read, you know, Spanish texts or texts in other languages. But the reason why I chose North American colonialism and not westward expansion ism, is because at that stage, so there’s an argument about whether that’s really colonialism In the first place, because America is technically a nation and those lands are part of the nation, although there’s a there’s a debate over whether or not and I tend to come down on the side that yes, that is a colonial moment as well. The difference is that I’m looking at proto colonial moments, right. So in the proto-colonial moment, there’s a, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the capacity to even establish a foothold, or whether you want to establish these colonies, or didn’t get people to go there. I mean, there is some about of course, in the westward expansion. But I think there’s there’s a stronger analogy with Mars and the the sort of North American settlement or this the Yes, essentially, because, you know, these people are really going out into these unknown spaces. And they’re, you know, they’re, they’re sort of base as far away. And it’s much more, I think, more like Mars causation. I hope that answered your question. Thank you, Kelly.
Kelly Wagman 41:07
Thank you. Yeah, thank you for the talk. I guess I was just wondering, your talk was very much framed from the perspective of the colonizer. So like, when you frame talking about indigenous peoples, you label them as like, risks or harms, or like you just said, you know, these people going out into the unknown, where you don’t know what’s out there. But people do know, I mean, there are people living there that you know, what’s out there. And there’s always like an other side to that story. So I guess I wonder how, like, why not? Why not talk about some of the harms that have happened in the process? And I’m sure in the Mars case, maybe it’s not that there are people there, but that there are people harmed in this process of thinking about a single framework for utopia that doesn’t include everyone, and kind of how even in your talk continuing to label these people as like harms or risks perpetuates that violence? Kind of?
James Wynn 42:08
Thank you, Kelly, for that question. So what I want to say to everyone is this is part of a larger project. So I’m just starting it. And my first chapter happened to be on this. But I will have a later chapter that is about sort of anti colonial arguments. Right. So there will be a whole chapter that I’m going to dedicate to those questions specifically. But the other thing that I would say, Kelly, is that what’s what I find interesting is that people in the humanities have done a lot of work on the colonized. But they’ve done very little work on the colonizers. So to me, as it as a rhetorician that’s interested in argument from whatever from whoever’s perspective, it’s interesting to me that no one really has written much about the colonial arguments, the arguments of the colonizers and why you would want to colonize and how do you get people to go there? So these are, I think, spaces that are that’s under explored, which is why I decided to explore them in the first place. The other thing I would say about indigenous people on my project is, is about thinking about how they’re imagining these these groups and how they’re talking about it, right? So because I’m writing some analyzing the argument from their perspective, that’s how they’re talking about it. So I’m not trying to perpetuate violence, I’m just trying to open up a discussion about this is how they were seeing this is how they were thought of by this group, right? And then, of course, this can be critiqued in 1000 ways. But it’s, I think it’s valuable in the first place to know what kind of language What kind of place that these indigenous peoples had in their arguments, how they thought about them, how they argued about that, right? Does that make sense? So it’s not that I it’s not that my intention is to ignore the opposite position. But that I’m taking I’m looking at this from one particular lens in this chapter. But later chapters, you know, then we can swing the lens and look at it from a different perspective.
Vivek Bald 44:13
Um, yeah. Oh, go ahead. Sorry, Kelly.
Kelly Wagman 44:16
I’m just gonna say, Yeah, I I, that makes a lot of sense. And I think you’re totally right, that like, looking at it from that perspective is helpful. I just think maybe, when talking about it, it’s good to kind of acknowledge that because I think it can still be traumatic for people to like, see those images and hear that rhetoric? And so maybe just acknowledging that is worthwhile. Oh, yeah.
James Wynn 44:37
I mean, this is certainly traumatic. Especially because the more you read these you more, you see the trauma that happens, right? Because in these tracks, they talk about what they did, and what happened and they’re very traumatic. Yeah. But I think it’s important to expose that trauma and expose those perspectives right? As part of what I called what rhetoricians Guess what, logoi which is seeing different different sides of a particular issue, or perspective. Um,
Vivek Bald 45:09
so I want to just follow up on those two questions as well, you know, as because I know that there are some of us here who are descended from people who were colonized. And for whom that that trauma is very real and continual and transgenerational. And I guess, from, from the standpoint that you’re talking about, you know, focusing on the rhetoric that the rhetoric that was used to encourage colonization from the side of the colonizers I guess I would urge you to, to, to think about the, the underlying, there’s an underlying rhetorical move, right. That is that the United States is Terra Novus, right, that that the United States is not occupied, right, or North America or, you know, those lands between the Pacific and the Atlantic, because I’m not going to call them that yet. So for, for this territory to be considered Terra Novus, in other words unoccupied territory, there’s a really deep rhetorical move that’s being made, that’s essentially, you know, the rhetoric and, and the technology of race, right, which renders the indigenous inhabitants as part of the landscape rather than as human beings occupying the land for generations. And so, you know, there’s that I think that’s where the difference between talking about North America and talking about Mars is so apparent, because if if you make that comparison without acknowledging that, in the same way that that Mars is being considered as colonize a bowl, right, because it’s empty. That’s essentially the argument that was made about North America. And that that argument was was one that entailed violence, you know, and enabled it. Right. So I guess that’s, that’s what I would urge you to think about, and also to think about the colonial moment, not as the early colonial moment. Right. Where the colonial moment, and as you were mentioning, when the colonizers break off from the home country, but to think about the fact that settler colonialism was a continual process, and so even if the east coast of of this region was settled by colonists who had broken off from Britain, they were still in a pre colonial or proto colonial relationship to the rest of the country. Right.
James Wynn 48:26
Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting, because I think that that the notion of Terra nullius is a little bit fraught. On the one hand, there is sort of there are sort of property arguments about you know, land that’s available. But I think that what these tracks show is that they are painfully aware that these lands are people, and that that’s a risk, and that there are real people there, they are rare, they are like them they are and that they can fight and that they are a risk. So I don’t, I wouldn’t say that, that they they’re going into this thinking like, oh, nobody’s there. Like, I think they’re very painfully aware that it’s part of their, the fact that they have to write things like, Oh, it’s fine, you know, there are people there, but they’re not going to, you know, try to harm us if we live there. So, I mean, I think that, that I’m not sure that that’s necessarily true of the rhetoric of that, of that of that situation. But but it is interesting, because they’re there. And of course, there’s so much going on in this period. Like, you know, the fact that the the Spanish and the Portuguese have essentially had the world divided between them, but with the blessing of the Catholic Church, so technically, this isn’t even a space where the British are allowed to go. But after the you know, great battle of the Spanish Armada, and the the English winning that battle and they feel a little bit more, okay with, you know, setting up settlements in places. I mean, it’s very, it’s a very complicated story. But I don’t want to diminish, I want to dimension anyway, the violence that were that were done to the native peoples. And and it continued to be done right. So this notion that you mentioned, what’s it’s called in, in the literature, Neo colonialism, right? This notion that colonialism keeps going and going, like you can’t escape it. Even after the fact, it still is perpetuated within the system with movies, and TV and all kinds of media. So I’m not I’m not negating any of that. But I will say that, you know, I am taking a particular lens and perspective to look at this, through the perspective of the colonizers and how they’re trying to get people to go to that space. I think it is important to think about the difference between Mars and North America, especially with the notion of indigenous persons or indigenous life there. Because so far as we know, there, we have not found life on Mars yet. And so the the some of the issues that are very present in discussion of colonialism on Earth, maybe either absent or different, and thinking about the colonialism of Mars, and the the presence of sentient people who would be colonized or destroyed or, you know, what, whatever, is a different question on Mars. So, yeah. So thank you for that feedback. In other words, thank you.
Vivek Bald 51:32
Um, there’s some questions, actually, that are in the q&a. All right, from Jason Lynch, what do you see as the relationship between colonialism and capitalism? relatedly? Have you read or watched the expanse? What are your thoughts on its politics of colonialism, exploitation and labor? And then there’s a addition to that? Do you see any differences between imagining of Mars colonization versus other interplanetary and Interstellar notions of colonization?
James Wynn 52:07
Thank you. Those are great. Mr. You’ve
Vivek Bald 52:08
seen the QA bar as well.
James Wynn 52:11
I am. Thank you. So yes, I see that that’s at the top by Jason. Thank you, Jason, for your question. Yes. It’s, it’s interesting, because colonisation and capitalism are, are very much intertwined, but in ways that we don’t always expect. So what I found interesting is that many of the early efforts of the English to set up colonies were actually business ventures. And the thing is that in the very early, so the very early colonial efforts, especially in Newfoundland, which is where the English first went around 1495, which is very early, right, couple years after Columbus. And initially, the folks that went there like Kabat, and others, when they went in, they couldn’t get any, they had to, like, essentially, sell people a story. Like, we’re going to find the Northwest Passage, I mean, the Northwest Passage. So I want to I don’t I know, this has probably been a long time since, you know, in high school history or whatever, that you’ve talked about that Northwest Passage. But I can’t emphasize enough how important that idea that Northwest Passage was, because at the at this point, trade and was was really built around stuff coming from the east, spices, silks, all these kinds of things. And the way that it came into the West into Europe, was through the Middle East. And because of religious differences, there was some tensions there about, you know, dealing with non Christian folks. And also there was a problem with pork prices, right. So by the time silk, went from China, and ended up in a port on the Mediterranean, that you could actually go and get it from, it was really, really expensive. So for these, I really like to call them entrepreneurs, because Cabot in particular, and some of the early folks were entrepreneurs, like they were saying, like, if we find this passage, we are going to be rich beyond our wildest dreams, because we’re gonna be able to bring spices and silks, and there’ll be no middleman, we’re gonna get all of it, we’re gonna get all the benefit. We could charge lower prices, you know, this is going to be great. So the idea is that, and what’s interesting about North America is when the Spanish went into the south, they found a lot of golden resources. The British and some other folks thought that they would find the same in the north and they didn’t. And so for a long time, North America was just not not really that important, because, frankly, there weren’t they weren’t finding the Northwest Passage and they weren’t finding any goal. So if you look at the URL, I mean, it was very it was, it was kind of bad business. And a lot of a lot of the early colonial efforts just failed. Because they couldn’t, they couldn’t show profit. They couldn’t make a buck. And in fact, the only thing that kind of saved North America, I mean, looking at it from the, from the business perspective, is sassafrass. Because sassafrass was in high demand in England, it was all over North America, it was very cheap to transport, and you can make a buck off of it. So it’s, it’s strange how like fish and sassafrass were things that kept people kind of interested in going to North America, when in fact, for the most part, it was really kind of seen as a bad business deal. So I know that’s a really long, that’s a really long answer your question, but I hope it shows like how integral sort of capitalism is to thinking about even the possibility of colonization, because it was a huge risk. It was a huge financial risk. And without reward, people were not willing to do it, which again, is why in the product, protocol, annual period, there’s a lot of interesting rhetoric and arguments about the economics of it. Okay, sorry. That’s a long, that’s a long answer, but I’ll go to
Vivek Bald 56:14
go to another question. Are there any questions on the on the screen before I go back to the q&a? Okay. So let me see, I took one from q&a, and I’m gonna take one from chat now. This is from Ricardo Perez. rhetoric is a fascinating exploratory discipline. The first colonizers to America were mainly convicts searching for liberty from imprisonment. That was a major motivational factor enabling the exploration, there was also a myth of richness that may have been instrumental in the genesis of the process. So Oh, and then oh, there is a question at the at the bottom. And why was avatar not considered in your rhetoric? exposition?
James Wynn 57:08
Thank you. avatar is great. It’s a perfect example of like multinationals coming into a pristine environment and destroying it. I didn’t I didn’t use it, because it’s not Mars. All the all of the science fiction I looked at was specifically about Mars, and Mars colonization. So all of the novels I read, were squarely about that, just because it was my topic area, not because of not interested in Avatar and other examples like the expanse and because there’s so much out there. So thank you for that question. But that’s, that’s really, I was trying to focus on Mars.
Vivek Bald 57:45
From Hamidreza Nasiri in the q&a. Thank you for the interesting talk. Two questions if you have time for both. First, it’s interesting that here, here when we focus on Mars colonization, we read, sorry, this is jumping over my page. But I’ve got it. It’s interesting that when we focus on Mars colonization, we read those sci fi works literally, but at the same time, many of those sci fi novels and films have been making the case for American neocolonialism in an allegorical way. How do you deal with this kind of dialectic between allegory and literal in such sci fi works?
James Wynn 58:30
No, I mean, I think what’s interesting is that these works. And we may not be thinking about this, but these words really do circulate within the American public and prime the American public to think about colonization in particular ways to valorize it, and to imagine it in particular ways. So I think that these, that these instruments, I mean, NASA knows this. I mean, the Martian was sponsored by NASA, was vetted by NASA writers, I mean by folks at NASA. So I mean, they realize that this is a way to help shape the story or the frame of colonization of Mars. And I don’t know if you guys watch the National Geographics. Mars series, that’s a great series. All of these series are really designed specifically to make particular kinds of arguments about what it’s going to be like, why we’re doing this, it’s very important to is sort of like a prelude to actually doing it right. You have to prepare the audience to, to see this in a particular way before then they’re willing to like open the checkbook of the national government and spend money on these things, and spend their lives going there. If they do.
Vivek Bald 59:49
Okay, I’m going to go to Kenneth Alba, and then I’ll come back to hamidreza. To your second question. I wonder if you could speak to the way that hard science fiction like Red Mars comes bundled with epistemological claims that end up supporting ideological claims. I really like really like the proto colonial texts you brought up. But the comparison that always jumps to mind for me is the Robinson Robinson aide, Robinson Crusoe. When were the focus on accounting and details and so forth, has certain truth claims grounded. Could you speak to speak a bit to how genre specificity and epistemology interact in these kinds of Neo colonialist texts?
James Wynn 1:00:42
Oh, that’s a very rich question. So there’s a lot there to talk about. It’s interesting Robinson Crusoe. There are a number of films and there’s one novel that’s an amazing it’s what it’s called. It’s called Robinson Crusoe on Mars. It’s a great novel. By I think his name is Rex Morgan, is an Australian writer, or British writer, and Australian writer that writes, goes to Britain and writes about this in Britain. But yeah, the Robinson eight does appear in in different instances, in discussions about Mars and Mars colonization, particularly the notion of like the marooned, like if you think about Andy Weir’s, the Martian, like this notion of the marooned scientist or the marooned explore on Mars. So you do have that is sort of a trope that goes through some of the literature. But I, this notion of hard science fiction, I think is very important. Because in my estimation, the more real the science fiction is, the more real that it seems that it’s true. So one of the things that the Martian that I find really kind of compelling as an example, is in the movie, it seems like this is real, like people are already on Mars, like they’re really doing this, they can really survive. So the realism of it, I think, supports the supports the premise that we could do this, or we have done this, or we can do this. So I think that the genre matters, like if it’s all sort of, you know, really super fictional and, and, and not quite so true to life. I think it’s harder to make the case that this is true, or this can happen, or we should do this. So I think like, we’re his novel in this and Robinson, who you read that you believe that people are there, you believe that you could do this, and that this is how it’s gonna, it’s gonna unfold. So I think the, the the hard science fiction is extremely important genre in thinking about arguments from our civilization.
Vivek Bald 1:02:46
great. I’m going to let me see Oh, come back to Hamidreza. The second question. Also, I’m curious whether you’re considering making comparisons between the rhetoric used for the case of Israel and the discourse, arguing that life actually originated on Mars, and then transferred to Earth, the argument of original home for colonialism.
James Wynn 1:03:12
Interesting. So actually, um, I had been thinking about Israel, but not in that sense, like the notion of like, life starting on Mars, and then coming to earth. I really haven’t thought about that. So that’s a great angle, and thank you for that. But I have been thinking about colonization in different spaces. And so this notion of setting up cabooses as sort of being also as a way of thinking about colonization, is that colonization? If so, why, or why not? Or, you know, what, what is this sort of language or the arguments for these kinds of settlements? I think I’ve looked into it a little bit, not a lot. But I was kind of intrigued by this notion of thinking about whether there might be some analogs there, that would be useful to help me think about colonial arguments and colonial moments.
Vivek Bald 1:04:11
Ali has a question. Do you want to? Do you want me to take the question from the chat or would you like to?
Alison Lanier 1:04:18
I didn’t drop it in the chat. Sorry.
Okay. I can,
Alison Lanier 1:04:21
I can just say it. Um, I was also really interested in your reading of Kim Stanley Robinson’s read Mars series, I really wanted to ask you about your reading of it as utopian and heroic, which is really interesting to me, especially with the overtones of like the Martian exceptionalism, and the people on Mars are going to achieve X, Y and Z. And especially just with like the, the, how, how the Faultline show in that, I was wondering how the how that exceptionalism plays into the narrative of colonization if that makes sense, I can
James Wynn 1:04:59
Yeah. So like this notion that like, we are an exceptional people, therefore, you know, we have the right to colonize here or it is our destiny to colonize here sort of thing,
Alison Lanier 1:05:08
or the sense that people who are on Mars or the I believe the quote you used was, we won’t make Earth’s mistakes or something along those lines, that kind of thinking.
James Wynn 1:05:21
Yeah, I mean, so it’s really interesting, because in the beginning of Robinson’s book, you have 100 colonists, right. And they train in Antarctica. And they’re supposed to give like reasons why they want to go to Mars. And most of this is supposed to be like, Oh, well, I’m really interested in this science, or we could do this thing. But when they all get on the spaceship, and they’re away from Earth, they’re all like, screw it. The reason we want to go to Mars is we want to build a new society, because we’re tired of Earth, the way that you know, earth, society and capitalism, and everything’s messed up. But we’re going to start sort of a really a new utopian world on Mars. And of course, what’s interesting about the novel is that it’s a very about half of the novel, the first half, they’re able to do this, and they’re there, you know, they’ve created this place called Underhill. And they’ve, they’ve started to make their utopian ideas come true in some small ways, and they’re thinking and planning how to do it. And then they find gold on Mars. And the minute gold is found on Mars, all the transnationals show up, and all of a sudden, it’s just like Earth again, right? And so there’s this notion of, there’s this constant tension between like, and then they have to go under ground and they become revolutionaries. I don’t want to roll the whole plot of the, the novels, but but I think there is this notion that, you know, their ideas are pure and correct. And, and that all everything that Earth stands for with capitalism and, and big government, right, and not allowing, like small self government or allowing people to form their own groups and do have their own lives. I mean, I think Kim Stanley Robinson is a libertarian, so much of the libertarian thinking kind of comes out in his novels. So I don’t know if I’ve answered your question in LA. But I think there is this notion that, that this is the right way to think about how the world should be, which is essentially an anti capitalistic perspective, but then things are more egalitarian. Thank you.
Vivek Bald 1:07:27
Natalia had her hand up a moment ago.
Natalia Guerrero 1:07:31
Yeah. Um, so I’m, I work in exoplanets. And I have also seen that in the space community at MIT and Aero Astro as well, there’s been a big move in changing the language of how we talk about humans going to the moon, to Mars, or like, in the very distant future exoplanets. And it’s becoming very unpopular to say colonize, or we’re trying to actively tell others like maybe we shouldn’t say colonize, maybe we should say explore or visit. And rethinking it like as scientists and like NASA decadal surveys are starting to, like, include that in thinking about the next 10 years. And so I’m really curious about this section in your project on anti colonial thinking and what that’s going to look like.
James Wynn 1:08:31
Thank you to totally, I hope, maybe we can connect, because I’d be really interested in talking to you a little bit about the kinds of language changes that you’re seeing and the kinds of documents that might be able to look at to talk about this. Because I think that’s fascinating, that that, you know, because if you look at NASA stuff, it’s pretty colonial focused, at least during the periods I’ve been looking at. So it’s interesting that they’ve kind of cottoned on that this might not be the best framing for this. And they might want to think rhetorically about changing the way that they talk about their their exhibition. There. They’re traveling to exoplanets and Mars and other spaces. I’m trying to think I hope I’m not losing the thread of your question. Um, could you just repeat the last part that you said, because I think I lost that thread?
Natalia Guerrero 1:09:17
Yeah, I was curious if you could give like a brief outline or like teaser, like, What? What the path is going to be for like the anti colonialist. Yeah,
so your project.
James Wynn 1:09:30
So it is interesting, because there are so I mentioned Ray Bradbury earlier on the Martian Chronicles is actually, science fiction that’s very anti is sort of focused towards anti colonialism. Because what he talks about is how one you know, like, some of the space travelers go to Earth, the Martians aren’t too excited about having them they’re like, they don’t think it’s great, and they end up like trying to eliminate them. until of course, all the Martians die of a disease that’s brought from Earth right which is I’m Anna logic to the smallpox outbreak in the United States after European settlers got here. So we see a lot of this sort of like, he’s reminding us of all of the the atrocities essentially, that occurred when when they colonize North America, right. So these are very much present in Bradbury’s work, which is interesting given the sort of juxtaposition that it has with that quote that I showed you earlier. So there’s sort of like maybe a fraught relationship for him about about this moment about going to Mars. The other thing, there is a very interesting environmental argument where, you know, humans go to Mars, and they trash it. So they’re throwing junk in the towel, and essentially doing the same thing to this planet that they did to Earth. Right. So this notion that humans aren’t going to change, and they’re just going to get this new, beautiful planet, and they’re going to destroy it. And I think Kim Stanley Robinson also talks he there’s there’s a there’s a lot of discussion about terraforming, which is a very central part of his novel. And so terraforming is going to be an interesting way of thinking about colonialism, because it’s like Uber colonialism, you’re not only like showing up in a place, you’re just completely transforming it so that you can live there. Right, which, you know, we’ve done that in a number of ways on Earth. But this is like taking it to the next level, where you’re just totally taking this ecology of a planet and completely changing it. So it’s your own needs. Right? So there’s that issue. There’s also issues of race, there’s issues, especially. So I don’t know if you guys know Gil Scott Heron, but he has this really great song called whities on the moon, right, where he talks about how essentially, you know, we could be using their money for space projects for special projects on Earth. Why do we do that? There’s also the same environmental arguments about why don’t we use the money that we could be exploring Mars to work on climate change on Earth, right? Why? Why don’t we worry about on planet earth and not worry about going living on other planets. But sort of the racial inequities also come out in other kinds of stories about questions of like, so they’re, they’re like, I think it’s Philip K. Dick, where he talks a lot about like, these people go to the moon, they work as miners, like Who are these miners, like? Well, they end up being people that were poor on Earth, that they could just sort of exploit and send to Mars, which is a terrible environment, to extract resources, and then bring them back to Earth where everybody else is rich. So there’s, there’s a lot of this, this sort of notion that colonialism is going to be they’re going to colonize, they’re going to just, it’s going to it’s going to be extractive of resources, you’re going to have the same folks on earth that are taking risks and labor to take those risks on Mars. And on other planets. You also see this in the expanse, right where the folks that are working on I can’t I can’t recall the name right now, the folks that work on the outer rim of the asteroids are all like, sort of poor folks that are, you know, their rights are trampled on. And they’re just sort of exploited for their labor in these very dangerous spaces. So we see those. So those are like, that’s a preview of the kind of things that I’d like to talk about. And I’d be interested to hear from anyone else if there are other kinds of issues that I think are worth talking about, with respect, and of course, afrofuturism. If we want to talk about race and space, that’s something also that’s important to talk about, think about.
Vivek Bald 1:13:29
Thanks, I’m going to go back to the q&a. See, where was I, from anonymous attendee Have you read? And do you have thoughts on a memory called Empire, often noted as an anti Imperial space opera?
James Wynn 1:13:48
Thank you. I have not read them. So um, thank you so much for bringing to my attention. I just wrote it down. I’ve got a little tablet here of writing down stuff people are asking and saying, so a memory called Empire. I am going to explore that. Thank you for the source. I’ve always the more I can get, the more I can look at the better I the happier I am, the better I feel.
Vivek Bald 1:14:16
Next from yen we have you read how Jing founds vagabond? And if so, what are your thoughts on whether there’s a difference in the ideas of colonization in this Chinese science fiction text compared to the English texts that you use?
James Wynn 1:14:38
So I have not I have not read vagabond I have heard about it. There’s also another text whose name escapes me right now, but I think is by a Chinese author. And the whole premise of the story is that essentially Earth sends and receives signals from an extraterrestrial life form. And then they realize oh my god, If someone can send and receive these signals, it’s very likely that they’re going to like come to us, and that we’re going to be colonized. So there’s about Yes, thank you the three body problem, thank you so much. The name of the novel is a three body problem, or, and so the idea is that, you know, what if what if we should maybe not be sending all these messages out to space, because we could be the next place to get colonized by some, by some, some folks out there that have more technology than we do. So that’s a very interesting sort of alternative perspective. But of course, you know, there are the sci fi flicks from the 50s and 60s, where you know, extraterrestrials come to earth, and like, how to serve man right as a menu and not, and not a doctrine about how to help men. So anyway, I think that was the Day the Earth Stood Still, but, but there are lots of there are lots of examples like that where you have films about Earth being colonized. But I think the Chinese writer is that that particular series I think, is very interesting. The three body problem.
Vivek Bald 1:16:07
All right, thanks. I’ve been going to the list a lot. Are there? Are there other graduate students or anyone else on screen? Who wants to ask a question?
Vivek Bald 1:16:24
I’m going to go back to the list then. And then I have one other question. But I, I’ll go through a couple more. Oh, this is from carto. Again, what factor commands the massive commitment of national resources to explore a hostile environment and not the ocean?
James Wynn 1:16:43
Yeah, interesting. That’s a great question. Um, factor, of course, is international, one factor is international prestige. So one of the chapters I’m going to be devoting my into my book on is about the politics of, of, you know, space research and, and Mars colonization. Because think of if you think about it, there’s a really famous speech by Kennedy. It’s called his moon speech, which was given at Rice University, and I think 1961, or 63. In the speech he sent, he essentially says, and this is the arduous argument I was talking about my talk of argument from difficulty, he says, we go to the moon, not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard. And the idea is that if because it’s hard, if you can show that you can do it, then you’re better than everyone else. So essentially, it’s a way of, you know, having national prestige. And it’s worth putting a lot of money into endeavors that show your national prestige. So if you think about Mars, and especially Mars in the last like, two months, China, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates have all sent either probes or landers, or all the above to Mars. And the notion is that there is a new, in my estimation, a new space race on India, China, the United States, the European Union, everyone is competing for these for reaching these extra terrestrial spaces and living on them. So I think that this is going to be heating up in the way that it was heating up in the 1960s. And in the end, Kennedy’s speech, I think is very evocative of what I see happening now. So why would we spend the resources because if we don’t, we’re going to be second. And we can’t have national pride of place. So I think that that might be one reason why we will do it.
Vivek Bald 1:18:39
been very good about answering a lot of questions.
James Wynn 1:18:44
I love these are great questions. I do this.
Vivek Bald 1:18:47
So I’m going to take one more from the q&a. And then then I have one, one last kind of follow up. And this is well, there are a couple of recommendations. A couple of scholarly recommendations for following up on some of the earlier comments, marked earnings, racial world making the power of popular fiction, and john writers colonialism and the emergence of science fiction. And then in the other list, there’s a reference to parable of the sower. And have you read parable of the sower and thought about the rhetoric for dispersing through the cosmos like seed on the wind?
James Wynn 1:19:34
That’s a very common trope. Actually, Isaac Asimov talks a lot about this. He talks a lot about us as the Footloose Vikings of the future. Interstellar Vikings, that is so we get in our long ships and we go out and we spread the spread humanity throughout the universe. And a lot of the argument there is well you know, you have all these blank spaces. And what we want to do is we want to create awareness of these faces, and you can’t have awareness without people. So therefore will bring people there. It kind of goes back to Vivek, your your notion of Terra newless. So there is this idea that well, if, if if nothing’s there, it’s not very valuable. But if people are there, we can make value of it. We can make it exist in a way that it doesn’t exist if there aren’t people there. So there’s some very interesting arguments. Definitely this this Footloose, Viking of the future is Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov, all those guys talk about this. And a lot.
Vivek Bald 1:20:34
Thanks. So what I wanted to just circle back to. And I think I was still kind of trying to articulate this. But it goes back to I guess the question I asked about whether or what kind of rhetorical moves are being made to to represent certain spaces around the globe as colonizer bull by Europeans? and other words, what is necessary? You know, and this is why, you know, I think that that kind of early articulations of race and racial difference and the kind of emergence of racial science that, you know, in a sense, those are, those are the rhetorical the repositories of the rhetorical moves that are being made to render to render certain spaces inhabited by non European people considered, like, fair game, right. And so I guess that that’s, that’s part of what I was getting about getting at earlier, and whether, you know, whether you can sort of talk about the tracks, without talking about a kind of underlying set of assumptions about colonize, calling, colonize ability, that, that maybe don’t appear in the tracks, because they’re already sort of settled through other kinds of rhetorics of civilization of racial superiority of, you know, Christian religion in relation to other religions. So I’m just interested to hear a bit about that before we close out.
James Wynn 1:22:32
Yeah. Thank you. And, and this is going to send me back deep into history, if you don’t, if you’ll bear with me for a second. Um, so yes, there, there are very formal arguments about this. And what some people may be surprised to know is that, particularly the Spanish were very concerned. I mean, initially, they were fine with whatever was happening, but then they got really concerned about it. And they actually had a series of debates about whether that this was even appropriate. And by looking at those debates, you can see sort of what are the bases of argumentation and it has a has a history that goes beyond even even the the 1492 journey of Columbus, essentially. So in order for a place to be considered colonized double or like, you know, that you can claim as property, right? So the word the appropriate, whereas dominion, so place that you can go and claim dominion over right? There were a couple of things. So one is that that place that space, cannot be occupied by a Christian King. So Christianity comes into it right there has to be there. If there’s a Christian King there, it’s a no go. You can’t just claim dominion over that. The second thing is there were lots of debates over whether or not the persons in that space, were civilized. So this goes all the way back to Aristotle. And if you if you look at the debates over these spaces, there are certain criteria you have to meet to be considered civilized, you had to have a language, you had to have a written language, you had to have a social structure. That was that was obvious, like a hierarchical structure with like kings and whatever. Also, you could make a case for civilization based on buildings. So like if you had a town and things are laid out and your temples and stuff. So one of the challenges was, you know, some people that were against these, these early colonial pushes, especially by the Spanish are like what, they have written language, they have towns, they have kings, like, you know, you can’t claim that these people don’t have they’re not civilized because they actually do have all these things. There are other parts of the doctrine though like cannibalism. So if you were a cannibalistic society, you could not be considered civilized, right? Because that is the most sort of uncivil thing you could do is to eat other people. So, a lot of this sort of false arguments about cannibalism amongst certain groups of indigenous peoples are all aimed at suggesting that they’re not civilized, right? Because they couldn’t make an argument on these other grounds. So so there was there, those were want. That’s one set of arguments. So you had the sort of like, the legal arguments about the Christian King, the arguments about whether the people are civilized. And then there was a third set of arguments that were that were there were actually sort of like economic arguments. So a lot of a lot of folks that were doing colonization, were trying to find a middle way, where they were saying, like, okay, we recognize your civilized, we recognize your, your Dominion to some degree over these places that you’re in. But what we see is that there are all these uncultivated spaces. And so what we’re suggesting is that if a space isn’t cultivated, like there’s not fields, there’s not, you know, animal husbandry, we can occupy that space. Why? Because you’re not using it. Right? So in this way, they’re not suggesting, though, that they have dominion over the whole space, they’re just suggesting that they can move into specific niches, which are undeveloped, and develop them, and claim Dominion through development. So there’s also this sort of third argument about Dominion through development. So those are like the three I would say, main cases that people are making about why it’s okay to colonize.
Vivek Bald 1:26:48
Yeah, the last one, is, is quite interesting in the sense that, you know, the, it is another place where you can see the intersection of capitalism. And, and, and these colonial processes that you’re talking about, because capitalism only sees land as productive when it’s right when it’s productive in a capitalist way.
James Wynn 1:27:17
Right. In fact, I think it’s from Locke and his discussion of property that a lot of people draw these these arguments from.
Vivek Bald 1:27:25
Right. Well, we’re, we’re just two minutes over time. Thank you, again, for fielding. Quite a quite a number of questions. And thank you for, for sharing your work with us. And, and, and thank you
James Wynn 1:27:41
all for just a wonderful conversation and great questions. I’m definitely keeping me on my toes, trying to get me to remember all the stuff that I’ve read or thought about. So I really appreciate that. And I’m glad to hear your questions, because it also informs the kinds of topics and issues that I do want to explore as I developed this book, as I said, it’s in its in its protocol. It’s in pro stages, right? So I have one chapter written, but I’m looking forward to writing the other ones based on the feedback and discussions I’ve had here. So thank you so much.
Vivek Bald 1:28:13
Right. All right. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you to everyone who, who attended today, and we’ll see you next week. Great.