Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy


Theory and Criticism


Schaffer, Scott.

2nd Supervisor

Savino, Lucas.


The “Final Frontier” is the Cosmic Order of Coloniality. The frontier, the final frontier, the new frontier, the endless frontier, all oft-used analogies for outer space. This cosmic order, hegemonically superior since the late 1960s, even while losing popular and political power, orders the very essence of Western space exploration, its future, and possibilities. The Final Frontier is a totalizing and finalizing conception of Man and his future. Such an order reduces ways of knowing and being to colonial and capitalist modes, where all things are reduced to exploitation. In this, the future of the final frontier is hardly a future; it is a death march masked as salvation. Part of this appearance of salvation and actuality of death comes from the Puritan values that have stayed within the American cultural landscape, transformed into its secular counterpart: Survival, another aspect is that of the glorification of What Has Been, which is death. This glorification of death is itself concealed by the valuation of control and power, the expansion of the State and land. While the Final Frontier as a cosmic order is one of exploitation and control, this does not mean there is no Hope for a future. Indeed, while this work looks at the ways in which coloniality manifests in the American cosmic order in different forms (the values and norms of space advocates, the use of frontierism in space policy and the public perceptions of the goals of space exploration), there is another way—it is not hegemonic, nor an easy road, but through the decolonization of the American narrative of space exploration lies a way forward: Hope, Cosmic Awe and Cosmic Revolution, the engagement with the unique material conditions of outer space that can impact socio-economic and political forms as well as the oft mentioned feeling of connection with the cosmos. It is through this that humanity can move away from space, as a frontier—a place to be conquered, but to space as an already existing part of the ecological system of which humanity already belongs.

Summary for Lay Audience

Outer space has long been considered the Final Frontier. But what does this metaphor bring with it into the future in space? I argue that the use of this metaphor signals that colonial practices are still present in American society and risk entering the future.