The Politics of Heroes’ Body: Ethnographying the Training of Foreign Astronauts in Russia

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Astronaut training
legitimate body
human spaceflight
star city
soviet heritage

How to Cite

Patarin-Jossec, J. (2020). The Politics of Heroes’ Body: Ethnographying the Training of Foreign Astronauts in Russia. Corpus Mundi, 1(2), 14-36.


If the literature in the history of the Soviet space program is extremely prolific since the 1960s, including regarding cosmonaut embodiment, a lack remains regarding the contemporary reality of human spaceflight in Russia. As this article discusses, based on interviews and a long-term ethnography of the Russian training of astronauts from Western Europe, North America, and Japan, becoming an astronaut is to develop a legitimate body fitting dominant cultural and gendered models. Three mechanisms serve the manufacture of “heroes” and masculine bodies through the astronaut training: the historical narrative of human spaceflight; the values and virility attributes embed as part of the training; and the instruments used in the daily activity of astronauts (such as spacesuits). This manufacture of a legitimate body, characterized by masculinity and discipline inherited from the past, is a heuristic field for corporality and studies of global politics as it underlines how an interweaving of gender, Soviet heritage, and cultural fantasies frames the bodies of a professional elite.


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