San Marco and the Launch from Kenya
In this chapter, I use “site” as a heuristic, and the example of the joint Italian-NASA satellite project known as San Marco, in a case study to interrogate assumptions about transnational science in the postcolonial setting during the Cold War. The project involved the use of rigs stationed off the coast of Kenya to launch satellites into equatorial orbit. The San Marco project has always been understood as a success because it has been seen as physically contained, as a discrete project. But in fact, using the perspective of the fragmented and dispersed site, and, particularly, the postcolonial site, with all its blurred edges and multiple claims, we see that its success was much more conditional and its legacy marred by deeply uncomfortable social realities. Here, defining it as a success depended critically on making the site coterminous with the project, thus excluding actors such as the Malindi area population, Kenyan parliamentarians, Italian immigrants and tourists, offshore laborers at Mombasa, and factory workers in Texas who built the Santa Rita—all of whom contributed to its implementation and ultimately to its ambiguous outcome, especially in the many illegal activities, including sex trafficking industry, that flourished in and around Malindi.
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