This paper reports a case study of interaction and multicultural dialogue between a large scientific project such as ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array) and the local communities belonging to the Lican Antai culture, at the Chilean Atacama Desert. ALMA is a global scientific project promoted by United States, Canada, Europe and Japan, in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. It is currently under construction in northern Chile, at the Llano de Chajnator (a plateau located at 5,100 meters of altitude). When finished around 2012, it will be the largest radio observatory on Earth, with around 66 antennas or radio telescopes to explore the dark regions of our universe.

Close to Cbajnantur area, there are a series of small villages whose inhabitants live mainly from agriculture and tourism. They are descendants of the Lican Antai culture, part of the rich Andean heritage. Most of them have traditional understandings and knowledge of the world, usually mixed with Western traditions.

We will describe the challenges faced of ALMA Project in the first interactions with local communities. Then we will present the strategies and specific actions designed to foster a true exchange, based on a communication model of equality between the actors. Among some actions, we can mention: anthropological/archaeological studies; ecological research; open-sky public events; promotion of sustainable astronomical tourism. Of particular interest is the link between modern radio astronomy and ancient Andean cosmology: they both emphasize the dark areas of the sky, thus constituting an important bridge for both visions of our universe.

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The dark side of the universe
Fostering the dialogue between ancient andean cosmology and the ALMA Project

Gonzalo Argandoña   SciDev Network and Chilean Association of Science Journalism

Cristobal Tell   ESO (European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere), Chile.

This paper reports a case study of interaction and multicultural dialogue between a large scientific project such as ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter Array) and the local communities belonging to the Lican Antai culture, at the Chilean Atacama Desert. ALMA is a global scientific project promoted by United States, Canada, Europe and Japan, in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. It is currently under construction in northern Chile, at the Llano de Chajnator (a plateau located at 5,100 meters of altitude). When finished around 2012, it will be the largest radio observatory on Earth, with around 66 antennas or radio telescopes to explore the dark regions of our universe.

Close to Cbajnantur area, there are a series of small villages whose inhabitants live mainly from agriculture and tourism. They are descendants of the Lican Antai culture, part of the rich Andean heritage. Most of them have traditional understandings and knowledge of the world, usually mixed with Western traditions.

We will describe the challenges faced of ALMA Project in the first interactions with local communities. Then we will present the strategies and specific actions designed to foster a true exchange, based on a communication model of equality between the actors. Among some actions, we can mention: anthropological/archaeological studies; ecological research; open-sky public events; promotion of sustainable astronomical tourism. Of particular interest is the link between modern radio astronomy and ancient Andean cosmology: they both emphasize the dark areas of the sky, thus constituting an important bridge for both visions of our universe.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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