The Future is Disturbing Our Present: The Ecopolitics of Aviation
According to sociologist Bruno Latour we don’t live on the globe, we live in a Critical Zone. The Critical Zone is that thin layer between the atmosphere and the earth (from the base of the roots of trees to the breathable atmosphere). Aviation is part of that critical zone, sharing that space with humans and other technologies. The history of aviation was essentially about the idea of progress through global expansion. Today, air routes are at almost saturation point, and we are acknowledging that there are earthly limits (with the exception of space travel). This talk will address how aviation has always been shaped and determined by environmental factors, from the early development of airborne powered flight, to the quest to go higher, faster and quieter, and now to minimising the impact of fossil fuels into the atmosphere. Entrepreneurs like Richard Branson are investing time and money into colonising new space, in a bid to transcend earth and live on other planets. This is why we have to think carefully about what we mean by ‘Heritage of the Air’, as the best practices that can feasibly be carried forward and sustained in the ‘critical zone’ we (still) inhabit.
Dr Prudence Black is a lecturer in Humanities at Adelaide University and a research associate in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. Her award-winning book relating to uniforms and the aviation industry, The Flight Attendant’s Shoe was published by NewSouth Press, 2011. She has published mainly in the areas of design, modernism, fashion, aviation and workplace culture. Her latest book, Smile, Particularly in Bad Weather (UWA Publishing, 2017) is about the gendered and industrial relations history of flight hostesses and flight attendants.