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Disassembling the Square Kilometre Array: astronomy and development in South Africa.


The article poses questions about astronomy and its local, national and global developmental impacts, drawing on ongoing research around the internationally networked Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope in South Africa. The relationship between progress in global science and technology and societal change has traditionally been framed through western-centric notions of progress imbued with universalism; the field of astronomy exemplifies this approach, with its assumptions of an inherently positive correlation between its science and loosely defined notions of ‘development’. We problematise this assumption through an analysis of the multiple notions of development at different scales of analysis in the SKA. We argue that large astronomy projects such as the SKA are best understood as dense assemblages of science, infrastructure, human agency and politics, in which historically rooted local concerns are marginalised in the name of the national or global public interest.

Keywords: Africa, South Africa, Karoo, astronomy and development, assemblages, scale


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