Image of the Earth from Space

The terrestrial trap: International Relations beyond Earth

This article was written by Enrike van Wingerden and Darshan Vigneswaran
This article was published on

In this short video abstract, authors Enrike van Wingerden and  Darshan Vigneswaran discuss the key arguments from their new Review of International Studies article -'The terrestrial trap: International Relations beyond Earth'. 

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Human capacity to explore and shape outer space will increase substantially over the next 50 years. Yet, International Relations (IR) theory still treats outer space as an isolated, unique, or inconsequential realm of political life. This paper moves IR beyond its ‘terrestrial trap’ by theorising planetary politics as inherently embedded in relations with environments and actors that are located beyond Earth. To face the momentous and often alarming political developments taking place in outer space, from space militarisation to space colonisation, we challenge two of IR’s terrestrial biases. First, we confront the assumption that developments in international relations take place only or primarily on Earth. We show how the historically constituted ideologies and political economies of colonisation and domination are extended to – but also transformed within – outer space exploration and settlement. Second, we challenge the notion that developments in outer space form a logical extension of politics as it has emerged on the habitable surface of our planet. We move beyond zones of human habitation and explore how the material conditions of space intersect with situated histories of political governance and control. By analysing politics beyond Earth, we retool IR theory to confront an extraterrestrial political future.

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