Mountains of Controversy: Narrative and the Making of Contested Landscapes in Postwar American Astronomy

2.50
Hdl Handle:
http://hdl.handle.net/11290/608078
Title:
Mountains of Controversy: Narrative and the Making of Contested Landscapes in Postwar American Astronomy
Authors:
Swanner, Leandra A.
Abstract:
Beginning in the second half of the twentieth century, three American astronomical observatories in Arizona and Hawai’i were transformed from scientific research facilities into mountains of controversy. This dissertation examines the histories of conflict between Native, environmentalist, and astronomy communities over telescope construction at Kitt Peak, Mauna Kea, and Mt. Graham from the mid-1970s to the present. I situate each history of conflict within shifting social, cultural, political, and environmental tensions by drawing upon narrative as a category of analysis. Astronomers, environmentalist groups, and the Native communities of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the San Carlos Apaches, and Native Hawaiians deployed competing cultural constructions of the mountains—as an ideal observing site, a “pristine” ecosystem, or a spiritual temple—and these narratives played a pivotal role in the making of contested landscapes in postwar American astronomy. I argue that anti-observatory narratives depicting telescope construction as a threat to the ecological and spiritual integrity of the mountains were historically tethered to the rise of environmental and indigenous rights movements in the United States. Competing narratives about the mountains’ significance were politically mobilized to gain legal and moral standing, and I interrogate the historical production of these narratives to gain insight into the dynamics of power in these controversies. By examining the use and consequences of narratives, I establish that the grassroots telescope opposition is representative of a highly influential participant in postwar Big Science: the vocal nonscientific community that objects to scientific practice done in its backyard. Marshaling divergent narratives has profoundly constricted both scientific and religious uses of the mountains, resulting in the loss of telescope projects and the increasing bureaucratization of prayer activities at the summit. Finally, I adapt Peter Galison’s concept of “trading zones” as regions of local coordination between two disparate scientific cultures to encompass the cultural worlds of scientists and nonscientists involved in the observatory debates. Through the social and material exchange of mutually understood concepts, some Native and scientific communities established fruitful communication and collaboration, but I argue that these trading zones have also effectively dissolved and homogenized the distinct cultural identities of both communities.
Affiliation:
Harvard University
Issue Date:
2013
URI:
http://hdl.handle.net/11290/608078
Submitted date:
2016-02-25
Document Source:
Dissertation/Thesis
Language:
English Paper
Type Of Resource:
Theoretical Research
Empirical Methodology:
Qualitative
Learning Environment:
Informal
Research Setting:
Sacred Mountains
Subjects:
Scientists, Indigenous Peoples
Construct:
Affective Belief/Identity Motivation/Attitude Policy, Culture
Specific Interests:
Multicultural/Indigenous
Nation:
USA
Appears in Collections:
Astronomy Education Research

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.contributor.authorSwanner, Leandra A.en
dc.date.accessioned2016-05-04T09:01:30Zen
dc.date.available2016-05-04T09:01:30Zen
dc.date.issued2013en
dc.date.submitted2016-02-25en
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/11290/608078en
dc.description.abstractBeginning in the second half of the twentieth century, three American astronomical observatories in Arizona and Hawai’i were transformed from scientific research facilities into mountains of controversy. This dissertation examines the histories of conflict between Native, environmentalist, and astronomy communities over telescope construction at Kitt Peak, Mauna Kea, and Mt. Graham from the mid-1970s to the present. I situate each history of conflict within shifting social, cultural, political, and environmental tensions by drawing upon narrative as a category of analysis. Astronomers, environmentalist groups, and the Native communities of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the San Carlos Apaches, and Native Hawaiians deployed competing cultural constructions of the mountains—as an ideal observing site, a “pristine” ecosystem, or a spiritual temple—and these narratives played a pivotal role in the making of contested landscapes in postwar American astronomy. I argue that anti-observatory narratives depicting telescope construction as a threat to the ecological and spiritual integrity of the mountains were historically tethered to the rise of environmental and indigenous rights movements in the United States. Competing narratives about the mountains’ significance were politically mobilized to gain legal and moral standing, and I interrogate the historical production of these narratives to gain insight into the dynamics of power in these controversies. By examining the use and consequences of narratives, I establish that the grassroots telescope opposition is representative of a highly influential participant in postwar Big Science: the vocal nonscientific community that objects to scientific practice done in its backyard. Marshaling divergent narratives has profoundly constricted both scientific and religious uses of the mountains, resulting in the loss of telescope projects and the increasing bureaucratization of prayer activities at the summit. Finally, I adapt Peter Galison’s concept of “trading zones” as regions of local coordination between two disparate scientific cultures to encompass the cultural worlds of scientists and nonscientists involved in the observatory debates. Through the social and material exchange of mutually understood concepts, some Native and scientific communities established fruitful communication and collaboration, but I argue that these trading zones have also effectively dissolved and homogenized the distinct cultural identities of both communities.en
dc.description.provenanceMade available in DSpace on 2016-05-04T09:01:30Z (GMT). No. of bitstreams: 1 f22c854c-c7c9-49ae-b066-231edc307a83.pdf: 4481008 bytes, checksum: 07ae84ee4ad35b331ce42bd60f2506fe (MD5) Previous issue date: 2013en
dc.language.isoEnglish Paperen
dc.titleMountains of Controversy: Narrative and the Making of Contested Landscapes in Postwar American Astronomyen
dc.typeDissertation/Thesisen
dc.contributor.departmentHarvard Universityen
dc.type.resourceTheoretical Researchen
dc.istar.learningenvironmentInformalen
dc.istar.constructAffective Belief/Identity Motivation/Attitude Policy, Cultureen
dc.istar.specificinterestsMulticultural/Indigenousen
dc.istar.nationUSAen
dc.istar.empiricalmethodologyQualitativeen
dc.istar.researchsettingSacred Mountainsen
dc.istar.subjectScientists, Indigenous Peoplesen
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