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Le vol habité dans l’économie symbolique de la construction européenne

Abstract : Ruled by a rhetoric which opposes “science” and “politics”, civil space stations programmes are often introduced as diplomatic projects supposed to soften geopolitical tensions, then justified by the possibilities of experimentation under microgravity that those stations grant to the international scientific and industrial community. Preceded by informal collaborations between European and Soviet laboratories, Western Europe starts its entry into human spaceflights in 1982. Since then, the training and transport of astronauts from the European Space Agency (ESA) have been shared between United States (NASA) and Russia (Roscosmos), whose national programmes provide autonomous launch and space transport capacities. Over the decades, while space agencies holding a human space programme (except China) join in a common project from late 1990 (the International Space Station), and as Russia becomes the holder of a monopoly regarding access to space from 2011, symbolic and political mechanisms structuring the European human space programme evolve accordingly. The training of astronauts in Russia, relating to this monopoly of crews’ transportation, entails the reproduction of traditions and rituals which, inherited from the Soviet space era, contributes to the symbolic and axiological building of an astronaut corps in charge of representing Europe’s “unity in diversity”. Nourishing more or less institutionalized relations with former Socialist republics because of its (increasingly relative) autonomy towards the European Union, ESA gradually becomes a platform through which the structuration of Eastern European States, started in the late 1980s, can be analyzed through industrial networks, technical interdependencies and scientific exchanges that pass through. In order to grasp these interdependencies, the fruitfulness of an approach by the field theory can be resumed in two arguments. First, taking an interest in the genesis and organization of the European inhabited space programme implies that the latter should be regarded as the result of an institutional trajectory borrowing from different fields: cognitive authority of the occidental modern science, role of industrial production in State construction, and territorialization in the exercise of a national political power contribute to the current morphology of space affairs in Europe. Secondly, a Bourdieusien analysis allows circumscribing human space flights as a structured social space, where are converted, maintained and confronted capitals which are carried by actors of autonomous fields of production. This, without a priori postulating the loss of autonomy of one of these fields. The economy of relations between science, industry and the State, sketched at the whim of this theoretical wager, then allows to envisage some of the social conditions by which scientific and technical developments, deeply rooted in time and space, could contribute to shaping the ways of “making State” and to the development of bureaucracy in western Europe. With particular emphasis on the training of ESA astronauts, the outline of a “mediation field” theory is apprehended, so as to understand conditions of these structural relations between scientific, industrial and bureaucratic fields in the case of a changing space sector. Based on multisite and multilevel ethnography (United Nations, ESA technical centres, control centres), interviews with scientists, space agency officials, operators and crew members of the agencies contributing to the ISS (N = 182), as well as archival work (EU, ESA and Soviet Academy of Sciences), this study shows how “Space Europe” (as the EU and ESA refer to it) “takes shape” and reproduces the symbolic conditions of its internal cohesion (i.e. values and identity binding its member-States) through the daily organization (procedural, mental and carnal) of its crewed space program.
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Julie Patarin-Jossec. Le vol habité dans l’économie symbolique de la construction européenne. Sociologie. Université de Bordeaux, 2018. Français. ⟨NNT : 2018BORD0453⟩. ⟨tel-02426194⟩

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