Cosmic Sociology

Module code: SY2100

Most aspects of social life and human endeavour have been subject to sociological analysis. However, one under-explored area in terms of sociological enquiry is space, space exploration and the universe. As such, this module problematises space and space exploration via a sociological lens to enable detailed critical analysis and interpretations of this specific area of science and technology. This will be achieved in several ways.

Firstly, you will be provided with a grounding in the sociology of sciences and technology as a context in which to consider space and space exploration. You will then examine the traditional space and place literature to explore the extent to which it can be applied to the cosmos. As part of this analysis, we will consider humanity's first interactions/thoughts on space - early philosophers, earlier depictions of space (Bayeux tapestry etc) and their social significance.

We will then move on to consideration of the radical social transformation that occurred from the late 1950s and 1960s with the 'Race for Space' and into the 1980s with new forms of space exploration. We will consider space exploration as new colonialism via a close reading of Kennedy's banner of freedom and peace versus a hostile flag of conquest analogy.

Next, we consider the extent to which space exploration is 'structured' socially via gender, ethnicity and identity. Further, we will look at how film, literature and image reflect long-term social processes, document social transformation and change. That sociologists can 'use films as a lens for exploring the complexities of social class, race and ethnicity' and so on. These cultural artefacts are excellent source material for stimulating our sociological imagination. The module will draw upon representations of space, space exploration, space science and the cosmos in literature, film and image for consideration as an evidential base for contemporary sociological analysis.

Finally, we will explore the social impact of 'space futures' and the privatisation of space.


  • 1 hour of lectures
  • 9 hours of seminars
  • 5 hours of external visits
  • 135 hours of guided independent study


  • Essay (30%)
  • Portfolio of review exercises (60%)
  • Oral presentation (10%)