2019-2020

A Cultural History of the Cosmos: Non-Western Histories and Cosmologies

Astronomy/Science/History/Philosophy/Anthropology

Joanne Baker is a British writer, journalist, and editor who would like help with researching and writing an extensive book on how humans relate to the cosmos. This book will try to unpick how the stars and planets have guided human history and thought around the world over centuries, as our knowledge of the heavens has progressed. It ranges from exploring our yearning for the moon to projections of human utopias and dystopias on other planets, to imaginary landscapes like black holes as well as concepts like “cosmic inflation” and the birth and death of the universe. The book will take a multicultural, global perspective, beyond the usual western narrative of science history.

Joanne would like help with searching history and anthropology archives to understand how different cultures have related to the universe. This research would be wide-ranging, from ancient Babylon/Egypt/Australia to the Middle East and Central Asia, China and India, the Americas, Africa, and Europe. Students would help Joanne locate and interpret key texts across all these regions, and more. They should have an interest in the history and philosophy of science, astronomy, and perhaps knowledge of anthropology and comparative studies. Knowledge of Chinese, Indian, and African histories, or an interest in them, would be helpful. Students from the social sciences could help unravel these associations between people and the night skies.

The ideal student would be curious and proactive with good study skills. They would be able to find the most appropriate key material quickly and be open to interpreting different world views. As well as benefiting intellectually from the research and discussions, the student would see how a nonfiction book is written and gain guidance on writing and publishing.