This symposium marks the launch of the special issue ‘Karoo Futures: Astronomy in place and space’ of the Journal of Southern African Studies. The special issue is the result of an interdisciplinary dialogue between scholars in the social sciences and humanities on astronomy in South Africa, and particularly South Africa’s involvement in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, post-apartheid’s most ambitious investment in big science.

Major themes addressed in the special issue include the relationship between space, place and time in the configuration of the Karoo as a major astronomy site; the role of the state; and the politics of knowledge, including how to understand the cultural artefacts produced by the study of the cosmos.

An important question raised in the Introduction to the special issue, which the discussion at the symposium is expected to take forward, concerns ‘the challenges of undertaking critical, inter-disciplinary work across the conceptual, methodological and institutional boundaries that separate social scientists … from astronomers and physical scientists.’

The symposium is aimed at broadening the dialogue to include practitioners and managers in the astronomy community, and offers a space for vigorous, engaged debate on these and related concerns.

When: 21 November 2019, 08:30 to 13:30
Where: South African Astronomical Observatory, Observatory, Cape Town
For more information: Contact Kevin Govender ( or Cherryl Walker (

A summary of the meeting can be downloaded here.