Australian National University, Australia
« False and Actual Immunity: Political and Ecological Transformation Amid Accumulating Radiation »
The rupture at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has opened a fissure through which the operations of extended sovereign power have become more visible. Applying the concept of ‘immunity’ as a frame through which to perceive the myriad responses to the dispersal of radiation into the air, land and sea from the ruptured reactors, I discuss how sovereign immunity (economic, political, military), as reflected in the priorities of the transnational ‘nuclear village’, is being protected to the detriment of a biological or common immunity (of exposed populations of living beings and things) despite significant public opposition. To overcome this contradiction and consolidate core operating principles, extended sovereign power has focused on managing public perception so as to suppress dissent, delay judgement and win public consensus for the continuation of nuclear power. The methods used, ranging from subtle misinformation to overt censorship and suppression, expose underlying authoritarian orientations.
As the environment, and the Pacific Ocean in particular, continues to accumulate unprecedented amounts of radiological materials from Fukushima Daiichi, the misguided priorities of extended sovereign power ensure that their burden is ‘shared’ across species, ecologies, cultures and temporalities. Yet, as we find in this discussion, it is also apparent that a threshold has been breached wherein action at a significant scale is necessary to recover actual immunity and its concomitant values.
Agamben, G. (2005), State of Exception, K. Attell (trans.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Broinowski, A. (2014), ‘Conflicting Immunities: Priorities of Life and Sovereignty amid the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster’, European Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, Vol. 14, Issue 3.
Cazdyn, E. (2012), The Already Dead: The New Time of Politics, Culture and Illness, Durham, Duke University Press.
Cohen, E. (2009), A Body Worth Defending: Immuniy, Biopolitics and the Apotheosis of the Modern Body, Durham, Duke University Press.
Foucault, M. (1990), History of Sexuality, vol. 1, London, Penguin.
Kingston, J. (2014), ‘Extremists Flourish in Abe’s Japan’, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 10 November 2014, vol. 12, Issue 44, No. 2.
Mbembe, A. (2003), ‘Necropolitics’, Public Culture, 15.1: 11-40.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County, USA
« Atomic Cities and Plutonium Dreams »
This talk draws on Plutopia : Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (2013), and on my forthcoming book, Dispatches from Dystopia (2015) to tell the stories of Richland, Washington and Ozersk, Russia — the first two cities in the world to produce plutonium –, as well as the often harrowing life stories of people living in the radioactive environments of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and of the town of Khyshtym. To contain secrets, American and Soviet leaders created plutopias–communities of nuclear families living in highly-subsidized, limited-access atomic cities. The plants’ segregation of permanent and temporary workers and of nuclear and non-nuclear zones created a bubble of immunity, where dumps and accidents were glossed over and plant managers freely embezzled and polluted. In four decades, the Hanford plant near Richland and the Maiak plant near Ozersk each issued at least 200 million curies of radioactive isotopes into the surrounding environment–equaling four Chernobyls–laying waste to hundreds of square miles and contaminating rivers, fields, forests, and food supplies. Because of the decades of secrecy, downwind and downriver neighbors of the plutonium plants had difficulty proving what they suspected, that the rash of illnesses, cancers, and birth defects in their communities were caused by the plants’ radioactive emissions. Plutopia was successful because in its zoned-off isolation it appeared to deliver the promises of the American dream and Soviet communism; in reality, it concealed disasters that remain highly unstable and threatening today. Details about the 1957 Khyshtym disaster, which was the third worst nuclear disaster in history after Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi, were first revealed in 1976, and state documents about this accident began to be declassified only in 1989. The actual number of fatalities in the area around the Mayak nuclear facilities remains uncertain.
Brown, Kate. Plutopia: Nuclear Families in Atomic Cities and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters. New York : Oxford University Press, 2013
Brown, Kate. Dispatches from Dystopia: History of Places Not Yet Forgotten. Chicago : The University of Chicago Press, 2015
Nottingham Trent University, UK
« Tickling the Dragon’s Tail: Radiation Experiments and Accidents in the Early Nuclear Age »
On May 21st, 1946, the Canadian physicist, Louis Slotin was conducting an experiment, nicknamed ‘tickling the dragon’s tail’, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, when the screwdriver he was using to separate two beryllium spheres, neutron reflectors around a plutonium core, slipped. The plutonium briefly went critical before Slotin could stop the experiment and he was fatally dosed with radiation, dying nine days later.
The experiment, and the incident, have proven fascinating to writers. Slotin’s death is the subject of Dexter Masters’ 1955 novel, The Accident, and versions of the experiment or the accident also appear in Pearl Buck’s Command the Morning (1959), Martin Cruz Smith’s Stallion Gate (1986), Joseph Kanon’s Los Alamos (1997), Paul Zindel’s The Gadget (2001) and Nora Gallagher’s Changing Light (2007), as well as being the subject of Michael Lista’s poetry collection, Bloom (2010).
This paper addresses the literary representation of the accident. It focuses on its cultural construction as a significant moment in the early nuclear age and its place at the heart of the emerging nuclear state. It considers the status of the ‘accident’ within scientific, technological and military nuclear discourses aspiring to certainty, and the engagement of literary texts with the unsettling phenomenon of radiation.
Buck, Pearl, Command the Morning (London: Pan, 1959)
Gallagher, Nora, Changing Light (New York: Pantheon, 2007)
Kanon, Joseph, Los Alamos (London: Little, Brown, 1997)
Lista, Michael, Bloom (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2010)
Masters, Dexter, The Accident (1955; London: Faber, 1985)
Smith, Martin Cruz, Stallion Gate (1986; London: Macmillan, 1996)
Masco, Joseph, The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2006)
Ruthven, Ken, Nuclear Criticism (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1993)
Weart, Spencer R., Nuclear Fear: A History of Images (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988)
Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK
« The Atomic Sublime and Radioactive Divinity »
The Atomic Sublime is an established genre of 20th century nuclear aesthetics inspired by the observations of atomic testing. In the early 21st century contemporary artists are exploring the experience of living in an increasingly radioactive environment, and the felt presence of radiation in the landscape, the body and objects. This paper will draw upon western notions of the atomic sublime from Joseph Masco (2006) and Peter B. Hales (1991), and an eastern reflection on the possibility of a radioactive divinity inspired by the Otolith Group’s interview with the photographer and curator Chihiro Minato in their film ‘The Radiant’ (2012).
Minato reflects on how the landscape is inhabited by invisible radioactivity as well as the divine elements of mythology and belief. He considers how radioactivity might be incorporated into the legends of villages whose customs have been transformed by the disaster. In this way, he proposes, radiation can be thought of as the birth of a new divinity. Minato raises important questions about the nature of radioactivity and the way in which culture carries knowledge through generations and centuries.
In the western discourse of the sublime, the visible is the dominant form of radioactive inhabitation, through eyewitness accounts of atomic tests. On the east coast of Japan, it is the invisible form of radioactive inhabitation in the landscape that Minato identifies as having divine qualities. Whilst the atomic sublime and the radioactive divine relates to nature and landscape, radiation also inhabits objects and artefacts – where a different kind of uncanny haunting takes place.
These ideas will be contested and explored through recent artworks by Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani, Kota Takeuchi, Shuji Akagi, Ken & Julia Yonetani.
Akagi, Shuji,. Ongoing photo series, 2011- present.
Fischer,. Nina & Maroan el Sani (2013) I Live in Fear – Record of a Living Being After March 11. 2 channel video installation, HD, colour, stereo, 33 min.
Hales, Peter B,. (1991) The Atomic Sublime, American Studies Journal, Vol 32, No.1: Spring 1991.
Masco, Joseph,. (2006). The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico. Princeton.
The Otolith Group (2012) The Radiant. DV, 64’14.
Takeuchi, Kota,. (2013) Bookmark; (2011) From the Moment of Recording, It Became Peeping. (2011) Open Secret.
Yonetani, Ken & Julia,. (2013). Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations. Uranium Glass, 31 pieces.
College of Wiliam and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA
« Life in the Zone: Chernobyl, the Atomic Bombs, and 3.11 »
In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster, the historical precedents of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Chernobyl reentered public discourse and imagination. Fukushima happened on the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, and the Japanese struggled with their culpability in Japan’s second nuclear disaster, this one of their own making. My presentation brings into dialogue anthropological work on Chernobyl, public statements by atomic-bomb victims, and literature from 3.11 to examine issues of subjectivity and biopolitics for those living in the nuclear zone.
In her work on the Chernobyl medical system, Adriana Petryna reveals the scientific and political environments that calculate the “value of life” and “risk” while they normalize the experience of victim. Atomic-bomb survivor and writer Hayashi Kyoko voiced her concerns after 3.11, about the repetition of history, government misinformation, and victims’ decisions not to flee the radioactive environment. I examine the way these issues take shape in the fiction of Gen’yû Sôkyû and Taguchi Randi, who depict characters living in the zone, by choice or by necessity. Their fictional characters negotiate the very real biopolitics of their decisions, and their tragic somatic consequences.
Gen’yû Sôkyû. Hikari no yama (Mountain of Light). Tokyo: Shinchôsha, 2013. Print.
Hayashi, Kyōko. “Futatabi Rui e.” Gunzō 4 (2013): 7–25. Print.
Petryna, Adriana. Life Exposed : Biological Citizens after Chernobyl. Princeton University Press, Print. In-Formation Series.
Taguchi, Randi. Zôn ni te (In the Zone). Tokyo: Bungei shunjû, 2013. Print.
École Normale Supérieure, Lyon, France/Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan
Denial and Recognition : Gesturing at the Audience in Post-Fukushima Films
In this presentation I will explore the meaning of the Tepco worker’s gesture of pointing to the camera as it arises in three films : Inside Report from Fukushima Nuclear Reactor Evacuation Zone by Tetsuo Jimbo, Philippe Rouy’s Four Buildings Facing the Sea, and The Radiant by the Otolith Group. Each film uses this gesture to question in its own terms to whom it is addressed. Beyond the ever-present issue of how to represent invisible radiation in/with the film medium, the 3.11/Fukushima nuclear catastrophe is in fact calling upon the specific possibilities of the film medium to reach remote audiences, and to give a sense of the planetary scale of such an event through the use of the compelling gesture of pointing to and calling upon the camera that goes along with a long gaze at the camera’s eye. I would like to oppose this gesture to another one: at the end of Campaign 2 by Kazuhiro Soda, the politician who is campaigning on a no-nuke platform “preaches” in front of Kawasaki’s train station. He is wearing protective gear. The camera moves back and shows the “apathy” (in Soda’s terms) of Japanese people who seem indifferent to the gesture of the politician. Under the double guise of these two cinematic gestures, I plan to uncover a twofold expression of our skepticism in films after 3.11: denial and recognition.
Domenach, Élise. “Fukushima en cinéma : comment survivre à notre folie ?”, Positif 631 (September 2013) : 56-60
Domenach, Élise. “Le cinéma de Fukushima : Un entretien avec Élise Domenach”. Débordements , January 29, 2015. http://www.debordements.fr/spip.php?article330
Hirano, Kyoko. « 311 : Documenting a Catastrophe as a National Experience. » Rethinking History : The Journal of Theory and Practice 18.3 (2014) : 378-90
Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
« Radiation-Ecologies of the Mind : Zestful Living in the Zone or Nuclear Nihilism »
In his 1988 book The Ages of Gaia the British scientist James Lovelock states: “I have never regarded nuclear radiation or nuclear power as anything other than a normal and inevitable part of the environment. Our prokaryotic forebears evolved on a planet-sized lump of fallout from a star-sized nuclear explosion, a supernova that synthesised the elements that go to make our planet and ourselves.” This citation offers a questionable holistic horizon to the issue of radiation, suggesting not only that radioactive materials are non-hazardous, constitutive elements of life and the environment, but that they may even be congenial to humans or all living beings.
In the aftermath of the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, many Japanese cultural creators and commentators expressed shock and horror at the consequences of the damaged nuclear power plant − and anger at the Japanese establishment that had promoted nuclear energy since the 1950s. Some writers and critics, however, stated that they preferred to contribute to the “healing” of the trauma (iyashi) caused by “Fukushima,” and to provide hope for the future of Japan. They argued that “Fukushima” was a real turning point, that it could become a genuine impetus for building a better and stronger Japan. The discourse of reconstruction nationalism even proposed models to cope with life in the contaminated territories, while a new industry produced various goods to restore the affected areas and survive in extreme conditions.
© Yamamoto Company
This optimistic scenario, oscillating between patriotism and practical reason, has laid the groundwork for a consciously or unconsciously promoted zest for living-campaign. It creates a radiation ecology of the mind, offering post-traumatic emotional management counseling and a post-Fukushima lifestyle that promises to ensure the continuity of the Japanese nation.
Much post-Fukushima writing and art in Japan thus seems to gravitate around the two positions of acceptance of the catastrophe coupled with a (nationalist) will-to-healing/reconstruction on the one hand, and protest against the politics of the « nuclear village » that had led to the nuclear disaster on the other hand. A third stance (which might be described as happy nihilism) may also be detected in some writings.
This presentation examines several recent Japanese responses to the Fukushima nuclear disaster (mainly in fiction and the visual arts) in the context of a broad transnational nuclear history.
Karashima, David and Elmer Luke, eds. March Was Made of Yarn: Reflections on the Japanese Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Meltdown. New York: Vintage, 2012
Gebhardt, Lisette and Steffi Richter, eds. Lesebuch „Fukushima“: Übersetzungen, Kommentare, Essays (Textbook « Fukushima : » Translations, Essays, Commentary). Berlin: EB-Verlag, 2013
Gebhardt, Lisette and Yuki Masami,eds. Japanese Literature and Art after Fukushima. Four Approaches. Berlin: EB-Verlag, 2014
University of Newfoundland
Bedrock Stories: Uranium, Imperialism, and Vision at Port Radium, NWT
In November 2012, Canadian newspapers reported on an “all-but-forgotten” painting by A.Y. Jackson, entitled “Radium Mine” (1938), that emerged from the private collection of a prolific prospector. The painting went to auction and, fleetingly, popular news sources grazed the surface of a subterranean history that disrupts the very bedrock of Canadian identity. In the foreground of the painting, a craggy outcrop slopes down into the pale blues and greys of Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories—just hidden from view is the head frame of a radium and uranium mine that produced ore for the American nuclear arms program in the 1940s and 50s. Media attention sparked by the sale of the painting was short-lived and the story of Canada’s uranium project on Great Bear Lake quickly returned to the archives. However, for the Sahtúot’ine, or Bear Lake people, who live in Délı̨nę, across the lake from the former Port Radium mine, the story told by Jackson’s painting remains part of everyday life as the community, which has been actively demanding redress and environmental remediation since the 1980s, continues to grapple with the environmental and health legacies of the mine.
With a specific focus on the Port Radium works of A.Y. Jackson, a member of the Group of Seven who was intimately involved with the geological community at the mine, I examine how representations of uranium and the Sahtu have not only worked to paint the region as a terra nullius (Bordo 1997; Jessup 1998), but importantly, how these representations have worked to confine the Sahtu region within a discourse of industrial development. However, while the institutionalized dissemination of Port Radium minescapes has facilitated the emergence of a national discourse in Canada that privileges the reality and interests of the mining industry, through environmental remediation and community healing initiatives, the Sahtúot’ine are actively involved in disrupting systematic industrial colonialism and the radioactive vocabulary that has come to define life on Great Bear Lake.
Bordo, Jonathan. (1997) The Terra Nullius of Wilderness—Colonialist Landscape Art (Canada & Australia) and the So-Called Claim to American Exception. International Journal of Canadian Studies. 15(Spring).
Bothwell, Robert. (1984). Eldorado, Canada’s national uranium company. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press.
Hill, Charles C. (1995) The Group of Seven: Art for a Nation. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada.
Jackson, A. Y. (1976). A painter’s country: the autobiography of A.Y. Jackson. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin.
Jessup, Lynda. (1998). Prospectors, Bushwackers, Painters; Antimodernism and the Group of Seven. International Journal of Canadian Studies. 17(Spring), 203-214.
O’Brian, John, & White, P. (2007). Beyond wilderness: the Group of Seven, Canadian identity and contemporary art. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Van Wyck, Peter. (2010). The highway of the atom. Montreal; Ithaca: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Manga Artist, Novelist, Tokyo, Japan
« Reimagining Radiation : On Children of Light (Hikari no kodomo 1/LUMINOUS, 2013) and Breakfast with Madame Curie (Madamu Kyuri to choushoku wo, 2014) »
It was the year when a giant tsunami struck Japan. It was June 15, 1896.
My mother’s mother’s mother Yoki Muto was 3 years old. I am 34 years old. If I had married at the age of 16 and had children when I was 18, like my mother’s mother’s mother, then my child would be 16 by now. In 1896, the same year the tsunami came, Europe was all about the X-ray discovered by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. Tagged “X” as the unknown quantity, it took the world by surprise, by showing the finger bones with a ring worn and the inside of a machine.
In Paris, France, physicist Antoine Henri Becquerel, who heard about the discovery of the X ray, exposed a photographic plate with Uranium salt during an experiment on fluorescence. This was the discovery of “Radiation”.
The talk introduces Erika Kobayashi’s work on nuclear history and radiation, especially the manga Children of Light (Hikari no kodomo, 2013) and the the novel Breakfast with Madame Curie (Madamu Kyuri to choushoku wo, 2014), which was nominated for the Akutagawa Prize and the Mishima Yukio Prize. In the manga the boy Hikari (whose name means « light ») and his cat Alvin travel back in time to reexperience the discovery of, and experiments with radioactive elements and radiation by Bequerel, Marie Curie and other scientists. Breakfast with Madame Curie is similarly concerned with radiation, nuclear history, and the development of modern (nuclear) science in the work of Marie Curie and other scientists. Unlike the manga, however, the novel interweaves the story of radioactive materials and the atom with the story of electricity and other groundbreaking discoveries in modern technology and science. The narrative also has its protagonists, a young girl and her one-eyed cat, at once contemplate in awe, and shudder in horror at the mysteries, beauty, and dangers of both science and technology. The presentation will trace some of the visual, conceptual, and narrative strategies used by Kobayashi to make visible, and thought-felt, the materiality of radiation.
Kobayashi Erika. Hikari no kodomo (Children of Light). Tokyo : Little More, 2013
Kobayashi Erika. Madamu Kyuri to choushoku wo (Breakfast with Madame Curie). Tokyo : Shueisha, 2014
Independent Scholar, Writer, USA/Japan
« Fukushima: Radiation and Revolution »
The Fukushima nuclear disaster epitomizes one of the worst collapses of natural and artificial processes – of the Earth and the World. The spread of radioactive contamination severs vital connections between the land and the people. It is an irreversible event that has profoundly altered, and will continue to alter our existential territories (bodies, minds, social relations and the environment) for ages to come.
Since the Tohoku triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown) of March 2011, the Japanese government has prioritized the reconstruction of Fukushima and the security of Tokyo’s metropolitan functions for the sake of global capitalism. This has resulted in a massive exposure to radiation of large segments of the population in the areas most affected by the disaster and beyond. Meanwhile fissures are opening throughout social relations concerning individual responses to the state’s radiation policies : citizens are facing the conundrum of either accepting these policies and thereby reinforcing national conformity and the much trumpeted « reconstruction nationalism, » or of refusing radiation capture through voluntary evacuation and the creation of new territorial connections in the West. The time has come for exodus in multiple dimensions.
In this context, the very notion of a revolutionary upheaval aiming at a radical transformation of the world faces an unprecedented challenge : the obsolescence of the ideal of revolution itself. The current problem of the colision between the world and the planet, and the resulting ontological mutations of the human provide transnational protest and environmental struggles with a new horizon. This presentation proposes a rethinking of the notion of planetary revolution as a remaking of existence in all its dimensions, by decomposing the world and returning to the earth.
Guattari, Félix. Cartographies schizoanalytiques. Paris : Galilée, 1989.
Guattari, Félix. Schizoanalytic Cartographies. Trans. Andrew Goffey. London : Bloombsbury Academic, 2013
Yabu Shirô. Genshiryoku Toshi [The Nuclear City]. Ibunsha, 2010.
Yabu Shirô. 3/12 no Shisô [The Philosophy of 3/12]. Ibunsha, 2012.
Comité invisible. À nos amis. La Fabrique, 2015
Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
« The Nuclear Renaissance Museum: The Manhattan Project National Park and the T(r)ail of the Peaceful Atom »
In December of 2014, legislation to establish a Manhattan Project National Park was passed by the US Congress, allocating $21 million dollars to create a unified “park” out the Hanford B Reactor Site and T Plant and sites in Oak Ridge, and Los Alamos. The park created by this legislation (which had been defeated in 2012 and 2013 due to concerns that the park might glorify nuclear weapons) represents the culmination of a 15-year effort by the Park Service, the Department of Energy, and the Atomic Heritage foundation to establish a national narrative for the Manhattan Project. Drawing on the critical discussion of nuclear museum rhetoric by Bryan Taylor, Peter van Wyck, and others, this paper will explore what a national story of these sites — which Taylor has described as “the nation’s preferred cognitive map of nuclear history” — might include and exclude, highlighting continued efforts to re-articulate the Manhattan Project as an origin story for an ascendant nuclear energy industry.
Boehm, S. (2006). Privatizing Public Memory: The Price of Patriotic Philanthropy and the Post-9/11 Politics of Display. American Quarterly, 58(4), 1147–1166. doi:10.1353/aq.2007.0000
Molella, A. (2003). Exhibiting atomic culture: the view from Oak Ridge. History and Technology, 19(3), 211–226. doi:10.1080/0734151032000123954
Taylor, B. C., & Freer, B. (2002). Containing the nuclear past: The politics of history and heritage at the Hanford Plutonium Works. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 15(6), 563–588.
Arnold, K. (1989). The National Atomic Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico: Where “Weapon Shapes” Are Not Enough. Technology and Culture, 30(3), 640–642.
Cécile Massart, Artist, Belgium
“A New Kind of Monuments”
Since 1994 I have been investigating international sites for radioactive waste storage, exploring how this 21st century archaeological stratum is being inscribed in the landscape. My ideas on these repositories are elaborated in my visual research and writings. My work testifies to the need to preserve the memory of such sites across generations for the safety of the living world. I have developed an architectural vocabulary to identify these radioactive repositories at the surface: the markers. New ways of thinking and writing about, and of making art that questions nuclear culture are essential.
Nuclear waste repositories can be imagined, and made into sites for multidisciplinary research, experimental collaborations, and archiving of “memories of the future.” I make artworks-as-conceptual blueprints/proposals for the setting up of Laboratories within the perimeter of storage sites. The idea is to bring together artists, researchers, scientists, activists and other people who are willing to shed new light on the deep time, technology, risks, and memory of nuclear power and its accumulating radioactive waste from various ethical, economic, political, and aesthetic perspectives. The artist translates and echoes the thoughts and fears of humans and weaves a connective link across generations.
Laboratories located on the nuclear waste repository sites may thus allow local residents as well visitors to conduct experiments on the transmission of memory. They may be seen as a first step in the work of marking or making visible of a new kind of monuments. Buried underground and thus invisible, nuclear waste repositories can nonetheless be revealed by a form of speech, an image, a grid, or a map. This is what my work is about.
Massart, Cécile. Cover. Bruxelles : La Lettre volée, 2009
Massart, Cécile. Particules de conversation. Saint Étienne les Orgues : ARTGO/Au coin de la rue de l’enfer, 2012
MacFadde, Sarah. « Monuments for Our Time.» THE BULLETIN (March 2011)
Majia Holmer Nadesan
Arizona State University, USA
« Thanatopolitics and Radiation Health Protection »
Michel Foucault defined sovereignty as the “underside of the power to guarantee an individual’s continued existence” (Foucault, 2004, p. 80). Sovereignty today can be thought in terms of the capacities of key authorities, organizations and institutions to define the parameters of, and govern, life within a social field (Foucault, 2003, 2004; Nadesan, 2008). This paper argues that contemporary sovereign formulations and governance of radiation health effects invoke a politics of death that threatens to erode (biopolitical) efforts to optimize the health and welfare of human populations. This politics of death – or “thanatopolitics” – infuses radiation protection standards produced by authoritative institutions such as the ICRP and EPA that homogenize human being and development, fail to account for bioaccumulation, synergies, acquired vulnerabilities, and transgenerational effects. The argument developed here is that the biopolitical intent of radiation protection is perverted by myopic assumptions, models, and experiments that were mindfully promoted over alternative models that offered more nuanced understandings of genetic and genomic vulnerabilities to radiation. Too often radiation protection has served Thanatos over Eros. Inscription of thanatopolitics in radiation health protection was not accidental, but rather derived from regulatory capture and scientific silos reinforced by private and public funding priorities. This paper demonstrates how a politics of death infuses the models and deployments of radiation-safety in Japan and the US in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Agamben, G. (1998). Homo sacer: Sovereign power and bare life (D. Heller-Roazen, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University.
Foucault, M. (2003). Society must be defended: Lectures at the Collège de France 1975-1976 (M. Bertani & A. Fontana, Ed., D. Macey, Trans.). New York: Picador.
Foucault, M. (2004). Right of death and power over life. In N. Scheper-Hughes & P. Bourgois (Eds.), Violence in war and peace (pp. 79-82). Blackwell.
Nadesan, M. (2011/2008). Governmentality, biopower, and everyday life. New York: Routledge.
Nadesan, M. (2013). Fukushima and the privatization of risk. New York: Palgrave.
University of British Columbia, Canada
« Photographing Radiation Risk »
Photography plays a crucial role in shaping public perceptions about the hazards of radiation. Or so the Radiation Protection unit at Chalk River Laboratories believes. In July 2009, shortly after Chalk River’s NRU reactor began leaking heavy water and had to be shut down, I received an email from its Radiological Protection unit. Would I be willing to participate in a survey on public attitudes toward radiation? “The public has an irrational attitude to the radiation hazards presented by nuclear, medical and environmental factors,” the email stated, which was “distorted by information filters that change the balance between perceived benefit and detriment.” The survey intended to “measure the deviation between public and expert views” and to address the imbalance. By “information filters,” the organizers of the survey meant news media, film, photography, video, television, music, books and the Internet. In this paper, I want to investigate one of the filters – photography – and to ask this question: If photographic representations distort public perceptions of radiation risk, as claimed, what are the mechanisms by which this happens?
Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (London: Sage, 1992).
Kim Krenz, Deep Waters: The Ottawa River and Canada’s Nuclear Adventure (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004).
John O’Brian, ed., Camera Atomica (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2014).
Max S. Power, America’s Nuclear Wastelands (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 2008).
Brown University, USA
« The Barometry of Toxic Space: Photographic Aesthetics and the Perceptual Regime of Radioactivity »
Between 1951 and 1963, the United States government detonated hundreds of nuclear weapons at the Nevada National Security site. As is well documented, the toxic legacy of the department of energy testing and uranium enrichment policies enforced what Valeria Kuletz terms an ‘internal colonialism’ for local populations, while establishing an imperceptible temporal hostility that Rob Nixon calls ‘slow violence.’ The tests find some media coverage in state-sanctioned industrial cinema, but this is a small census of the much larger ‘shadow archive’ (Lippit) marked by the radiant energies released by the explosions.
Drawing on political philosophy, I demonstrate that localized aesthetic conditions emerge alongside the collective reorientation of spatiality engendered by nuclear testing. Looking at a series of commercial films produced contemporaneously and in close proximity to the test sites, this paper asserts that radioactive fallout stretches transversally into the psychical realm of aesthetic production. For example, the filming of TheShooting (1966) occurred in a canyon under what is now Lake Powell in southern Utah—down-wind from the testing ground and close to several open-air uranium mines. The film’s bombed-out wasteland geographies are an aesthetic barometry of test-subjectivity: a historical biopolitical condition that restructured global relations to spatial perception.
Agamben, Giorgio. State of Exception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. Print.
Kuletz, Valerie. The Tainted Desert: Environmental Ruin in the American West. New York: Routledge, 1998. Print.
Lippit, Akira M. Atomic Light (Shadow Optics). Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota, 2005. Internet resource.
Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2011. Internet resource.
Ophir, Adi. “Disaster As a Place of Morality: the Sovereign, the Humanitarian, and the Terrorist.” Qui Parle. 16.1 (2006): 95-116. Print.
Goldsmiths College, London, UK
« Extreme Images »
Debates are currently taking place amongst scientists as to whether we have entered a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – to reflect humanity’s considerable impact upon earth. However, theorising these transformations purely in terms of their radical geological reorganisation, neglects their fundamental visual dynamics. Anthropogenic matter is relentlessly aesthetic in throwing disturbing images back at us: extreme images of dramatically warped landscapes and polluted atmospheres that both intoxicate and repulse. The term has itself migrated rapidly from the physical sciences into the humanities to designate a condition whereby it is impossible to disarticulate nature from culture. It is within this expanded disciplinary context (with its theoretical adaptations of the anthropocene) that its particular relevance to my research is situated. The broader strokes of this project, which in the case of the workshop paper focuses specifically upon nuclear materiality as an aesthetic agent, forwards the proposition that we have, by extension, also entered a new geo-photo-graphic era in which polluted environments have been transformed into vast photosensitive arrays that are registering and recording the transformations brought about by modern industrialisation and its contaminating processes. From the transnational fallout of Chernobyl to the radioactive agency of Fukushima, a comprehensive image-archive of material wrongs has emerged.
Ellsworth, Elisabeth, Jamie Kruse, eds. Making the Geologic Now : Responses to Material Conditions of Contemporary Life. Punctum Books, 2013
Schuppli, Susa. « Radical Contact Prints. » O’Brian, John, ed. Camera Atomica. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2014. London : Black Dog Publishing, 2015. 277-91
Schuppli, Susan. Forensic Media : Material Witness and the Production of Evidence. Cambridge, Mass. : The MIT Press, 2015. Forthcoming.
Peter van Wyck
« The Other Last Spike »
Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
Not far from Craigellachie, BC, there is a stone obelisk commemorating the site at which, on November 7, 1885 the “last spike” was driven into (presumably) the last tie, by Donald Smith – a last-minute replacement for Lord Lansdowne, the Governor General. It marks the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. There is some controversy as to whether the last spike was made of silver, or iron (and whether there were two of them); whether it was stolen by Van Horne’s secretary, and whether one of them may be in the possession of the family of a “Mrs. Remnant,” late of Yellowknife. That spike, of course, holds together a familiar set of narratives about Canada – even as it occludes others. But another spike is in the works; a golden one. This one supports a very different narrative, and seeks a double commemoration. First, the end of the Holocene – a ~12,000-year period of relatively stable climate, though perhaps just part of the ebb and flow of the Pleistocene – in which the human has come to flourish (if this is the correct word) – agriculture, the wheel, smelting, bronze, writing, the industrial revolution, atmospheric carbon, etc. And second, the beginning of the Anthropocene – a term made famous by Dutch Nobel Laureate, Paul Crutzen at a meeting of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme in 2000 – signaling the point at which human activity has intersected, in its significance and magnitude, with planetary, geological forces. When, exactly, we entered this era remains a matter of some dispute. Some say it is the late 17th century – the point at which the Industrial Revolution and the accelerated extraction and burning of fossil fuels began to take place. Others place it some 8000 years earlier with the clearing of forests for agriculture. The question of the Anthropocene – when and where might one locate this point of contact – has become a matter of pressing concern for the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) – the body responsible for what is called Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point, (GSSP) – or golden spikes. They place these spikes at certain agreed upon points at which there is a clear contact boundary between successive geologic periods; more than 60 of these spikes have so far been placed. Until recently, Crutzen had been of the opinion that anthropocenic time began roughly two hundred years ago. He has now changed his mind, and places it not just on a date, but a particular moment: July 16, 1945, 05:29 – that of the piously named Trinity detonation in the New Mexican desert. The Anthropocene may now be defined by a date, and a time – as though trauma had overwhelmed language – its signature, invisible, radioactive decay; think iodine-129, with a half-life of 15.7 million years. I would like to investigate this moment at which the anthropocenic debates – drawing us toward the groundless spectrality of geonuclear time – might provide us with unexpected opportunities (a polite humanist euphemism for imperative?) to think of ethics and the future.
Cruzen, P. J. & Stoermer, E. F. 2000. “The Anthropocene.” Global Change Newsletter, 41 (May): 17–18.
Crutzen, P , 2002 ‘Geology of Mankind’ Nature 415.3: 23.
Chakrabarty, Dipseh 2009. ‘The Climate of History’, Critical Inquiry, 35(2).
Parikka, J. (2014) The Anthrobscene. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Szerszynski, Bronislaw 2012. ‘The end of the end of nature: The Anthropocene and the fate of the human’. Oxford Literary Review, 34(2): 165-184 20.
Voosen, Paul E&E reporter 2012. ‘Geologists drive golden spike toward Anthropocene’s base’ Greenwire: Monday, September 17, 2012. http://www.eenews.net/stories/1059970036