Interview: I am Fascinated by Our Universe and Humanity’s Place in It

klara anna capova space studies anthropology

English version of the interview for the Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies, Lund University, Sweden

Published on Jun, 26, 2017

Klara Anna Capova is a guest researcher with the theme A Plurality of Lives, which is about to finish up its work at the Pufendorf IAS in Lund. She is currently working in social study of astrobiology at Durham University in the UK.

What is your background?

I am a sociocultural anthropologist with specialisation in science, technology and society studies, currently working in social study of astrobiology. I received my undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts and Humanities specialising in the history and philosophy of science, and my postgraduate degree in General Anthropology specialising in cultural and philosophical anthropology, both from Charles University in Prague, the Czech Republic.

My doctoral research (Durham University, 2013) is about the conceptual development and the social context of the scientific search for life beyond Earth. My aim was to describe the scientific search for other life as a specific culture of science. This encompassed the study of scientific practices, public attitudes, science fiction, visual culture and impact of science and technology on contemporary society. So I conducted not only multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork, but also extensive work with visual evidence which I particularly enjoyed.

Why are you involved in the theme A Plurality of Lives?

As an affiliated researcher I took part in the theme from its very beginnings. I was excited when I was invited over to Lund to work here for three months to meet the theme researchers in person and also to get to know the beautiful city
of Lund better. It is also a delight to work with the staff at Pufendorf IAS!

What do you hope to contribute?

My task is to complete a pre-final version of Astrobiology and Society in Europe White Paper. This is a joint endeavour of the working group on History and Philosophy of Astrobiology of COST Project TD1308 Origins of Life. The White Paper involves nearly thirty brilliant researchers from twelve European countries and various space science disciplines. The main aim of the document is to address scientific and societal issues, discuss current status and propose a sustainable future of astrobiology research in the European Union. And at least but not last, to support the founding of the European Astrobiology Institute.

What do you hope to get out of your stay?

I am greatly enjoying my time here and embracing the opportunity of getting to know the place and the people, a wonderful time that money can’t buy. Workwise, the White Paper is my priority, but I continue my work in the social study of astrobiology and outer space. So far I have managed to deliver a research poster at NASA Astrobiology Conference in Arizona, and am now getting ready to take part in the Emerging Scholar Workshop at the Center for Theological Enquiry in Princeton.

What are your research interests?

In general, I explore transformations of human relations to outer space and study how science changes society. This involves study of advancements in astrobiology, history and philosophy of science, and of contemporary astroculture, as well as popular perceptions of science and the societal context of space exploration. The special case for this is the scientific search for life beyond Earth and the popular imagining of alien life. I am active in qualitative social research, science policy development, and in delivering talks, lectures, poster sessions, and workshops worldwide.

What drives you?

I am really just a curious person and I greatly enjoy interdisciplinary dialogue and reaching out into other areas of science. I am fascinated by the topics I am currently researching. That is; our universe, humanity’s place in it and what does it mean being human in the 3rd millennium.

What are you working on right now?

Apart from the above mentioned White Paper, I am currently working on a paper on space industry, its growth and potential impact on Earth’s environment and on society. Also the plans for future settlements on Mars and the Moon are on my radar too. Since 2013 I have been running a research profile on Facebook @spacecultures, the Space Cultures page is dedicated to societal, cultural, ethical, historical, scientific and philosophical aspect of search for life beyond earth and space cultures worldwide.

Have you ever been to Lund and/or Sweden?

Yes, I was in Lund last year before Christmas, when we had the first writing up meeting dedicated to the Astrobiology White Paper. Our work has progressed well since that time and we are now aiming at submitting the final version in October. It has been a privilege to work with Erik Persson and David Dunér, both participating in the Plurality of Lives Project at the Pufendorf IAS.


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