Lisa Messeri

Assistant Professor: Science, Technology, and Society

Lisa Messeri
Lisa Messeri is an anthropologist and historian of science and technology. Her research examines the role of place in scientific practice, focusing on how scientists and engineers create place through their daily practice. Messeri’s first book, entitled “Placing Outer Space” (Fall 2016, Duke University Press), is an ethnography of contemporary planetary scientists and how they refashion distant, alien formations of gas and rock as intimate, familiar places; how planets become worlds. This work allows us to reflect on our own understandings of Earth as a planet, place, and world. Her next project will focus on how new virtual reality technologies are changing our interactions with place. She also writes about and is interested in how grand visions of future technologies shape current practices, what it means to live on Earth in the age of the “Anthropocene,” and citizen science engagements.


email: lmesseri (at)
office: A216 Thornton Hall


Ph.D., History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society, MIT, 2011
S.B., Aerospace Engineering, MIT, 2004

Research Areas

Anthropology of Science, History of Technology, Planetary Science, Social Theory, Place and Space, Maps, Science and Engineering Practice, Virtual Reality, Anthropocene

Awards and Distinctions

Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow
NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant
NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training Fellowship

Recent Courses

STS 2500: The Anthropology of Outer Space
STS 4500: STS and Engineering Practice
STS 4600: The Engineer, Ethics, and Society

Selected Publications

Fall 2016. Placing Outer Space: An Earthly Ethnography of Other Worlds. Duke University Press.

2015. “Beyond the Anthropocene: Un-Earthing an Epoch.” Environment and Society: Advances in Research 6(1). With V. Olson.

2015. “The Greatest Missions Never Flown: Anticipatory Discourse and the Projectory in Technological Communities.” Technology and Culture 56 (1). With J. Vertesi.

2014. “Earth as Analog: The Interdisciplinary Debate and Astronaut Training that took Earth to the Moon.” Astropolitics 12(2-3).

2010. “The Problem With Pluto: Conflicting Cosmologies and the Classification of Planets.” Social Studies of Science 40(2).