De-colonizing the Earth to Re-enact Colonialism on Mars

New Forms of ‘Transplantation’ in Outer Space


  • Alessandra Calanchi



de-colonization, post-colonialism, transplantation, Mars, outer space


In the current rush to Space ‘colonization,’ a term which moved from Science Fiction to reality in just a few decades, it becomes necessary to (re)define not only the borders of the known ‘world’—which projects itself far beyond the galaxy where we live—but also the lexicon of exploration, invasion, and belonging. The analogies with the ‘conquest’ of the New World—something that, as far as the US is concerned, went down in history under the mythopoeic term ‘Frontier’—are striking.

In my essay I intend to deal with the linguistic and cultural implications of the terms used by those who wish or are planning to organize interplanetary travels aimed at taking human beings onto the Red Planet in the next decades. Such projects are based on a shared vision of ‘new worlds’ waiting to be discovered and occupied: therefore, their lexicon is heavily influenced by such a vision, though at international conferences you may happen to meet someone who prefers the more neutral term ‘settlement’ to ‘colony.’ On the opposite side we find ethic environmentalists, the defenders of post- and de-colonial thought, and the supporters of an equitable future.

Language, which is never neutral, does, in fact, reveal in its choices and in its prefixes (re-, de-, trans-, inter-, post-, neo-, un-, etc.) what really lies behind these projects. Rarely do they concern the safety of the whole human race or a sustainable use of resources: on the contrary, they are more often driven by economic profit, safety just for a few, and total indifference to ecology and ethics.


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