Falling Back to Earth: Informal Economies of Space Debris in Central Kazakhstan
My ethnographic focus is the fallout zones of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where rocket boosters are discarded after launches to Low Earth Orbit. The zones have become vast, national inlands, effectively turned into scrapyards littered with space debris from the 1950s on. For the people who live next to the zones, they present a profoundly ambiguous landscape which simultaneously threatens health and well-being through invisible pollution, and offers the means to sustain their households by salvaging debris and making claims on the state as communities whose health has been affected. My project explores how these communities inhabit and negotiate such indeterminate borders, spaces and materials, and what such edgework can tell us about the larger polities to which they belong.