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Constellations of InequalitySpace, Race, and Utopia in Brazil$
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Sean T. Mitchell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226499123

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226499437.001.0001

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Interpreting an Explosion

Interpreting an Explosion

(p.76) Three Interpreting an Explosion
Constellations of Inequality

Sean T. Mitchell

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 3 explores the implications of narratives stemming from the explosion of Brazil’s VLS satellite launch rocket in Alcântara in 2003. The explosion killed twenty-one technicians on the launchpad but the official explanations have left many unsatisfied. The chapter examines interpretations of the explosion and analyzes three implicit imaginaries of progress and national development: the nationalist, the neoliberal, and the redistributive. The importance of the launch to the Brazilian space program, the event’s gruesome outcome, the opacity of its causes, and the uncertainty surrounding its investigation have made the event a metonym for different groups’ ideas about the nation-state’s possible and desirable futures. This chapter notes that right-wing nationalisms have been largely ignored in the scholarship in Latin America. It also argues that science-and-technology studies have done a poor job of analyzing the relations between technoscience and inequality. And the chapter shows how the utopias of spaceflight are themselves inflected by inequality. Globally dominant nations and corporations most often claim to represent all of humanity in the dream of spaceflight. For aspirational powers, such as Brazil, however, claims to stand in for all of humanity are rare, and spaceflight is more often conceived as a project of convergence or profit.

Keywords:   Brazil, Inequality, Development, Technoscience, Brazilian Space Program, Neoliberalism, Nationalism, Redistribution, VLS

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