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by Vincent Battesti

In 2019, I became a researcher in residence “in zero gravity” at the Space Observatory (Observatoire de l’espace) of the CNES (Centre national d’études spatiales).

My project with them is entitled “For an extraterrestrial anthropology: sensorialities and cosmos”.

On the website of the Musée de l’Homme: Anthropologie extraterrestre, une première mondiale !

The ambition here is to propose an “extraterrestrial anthropology”, in other words, an anthropology of humans outside his terrestrial context, I propose a first angle and a methodology, that of a work on the sensorialities and the relationship to the cosmos.
While the issue of space is well identified in anthropology, because it has only focused on the ordinary experience of human beings up to now, it has always been a two-dimensional space, with feet on the ground. It is perhaps time, now that humans emancipate themselves from this natural of gravity, to found a new anthropology of space, in weightless conditions.
The methodological angle is both original and self-contained: the sensory. Our sensory equipment is the only way to acquire information about our environment and to interact with it. I will mobilize two aspects of my previous research, on the one hand my experience of ecologically constrained environments for humanity such as deserts, and on the other hand my experience of an anthropology of sensory perceptions.

 See the announcement (in French) on the Observatoire de l’espace website:

Being “zero gravity resident” means that I will experience microgravity on board the Airbus ZERO-G.
This first field will take place in two phases, two parabolic flight campaigns:

  1. the first from the ground (on the site used by CNES for parabolic flights, near Bordeaux, France: Novespace) to conduct a preliminary research on the “field” in October 2019. This first stage of research will consist of meeting and observing on the ground the scientific community that uses the Airbus in the context of a flight campaign,
  2. the second, in April 2020, on board the aircraft. In this second phase, in order to continue the study of this particular scientific community, and in a typical “participant observation” approach favoured by ethnographers, I will personally experience microgravity, with my body and my own sensory equipment, under the same conditions as the observed population.
    * Due to the pandemic (Covid-19), this mission is postponed to 2021 (spring or autumn).
Above the Tirol, Austria. Au-dessus du Tirol, Autriche. Le 1er novembre 2016, 17h49, Vincent Battesti.
© Vincent Battesti
Le F-WNOV de Novespace (Airbus A310 - MSN 498). © Novespace
© Novespace