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Alina Utrata

PhD Candidate, Politics and International Studies | University of Cambridge | apu22 [at]
Alina Utrata Profile Picture

I am a PhD Candidate in Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge and a 2020 Gates-Cambridge Scholar. My research examines technology corporations beyond the traditional political/economic divide, theorizing how and when corporations may enact a kind of political power, from cloud computing to digital payment systems.

In addition to my doctoral research, I have published in the American Political Science Review and the Boston Review comparing Silicon Valley’s outer space colonization projects with the histories of colonizing corporations such as the British or Dutch East India Companies.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I received my BA from Stanford University in History with a minor in Human Rights. I received my MA in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice from Queen’s University Belfast as a 2017 Marshall Scholar. 

In my free time, I host and produce the podcast and newsletter The Anti-Dystopians, the politics podcast about tech.

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American Political Science Review | FirstView November 2023

Engineering Territory: Space and Colonies in Silicon Valley

Although space colonization appears to belong to the world of science fiction, private corporations owned by Silicon Valley billionaires—and supported by the US state—have spent billions making it a reality. Analyses of space colonialism have sometimes viewed these projects as distinct from earthly histories of colonialism, instead locating them within traditions of libertarianism, neoliberalism or techno-utopianism. By reconstructing technology elites’ political visions for celestial settlements within literature on colonial-era corporations and property, this essay argues that the idea of outer space as an empty frontier relies on the same logic of territorialization which was used to justify terrestrial colonialism and indigenous dispossession. It further traces how the idea of “engineering territory” has inspired wider Silicon Valley political exit projects such as cyberspace, sea-steading and network states which, rather than creating spaces of anarchical freedom, are attempting to recreate the territorial state in new spaces. 

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