Nuclear Geographies: Between the exceptional and the banal

Nuclear Geographies: Between the exceptional and the banal

Session Organizers: Jonathan Luedee (UBC Geography) and James Rhatigan (UBC Geography)
Sponsored by the Energy and Environment Specialty Group

The nuclear lends itself to the spectacular. Images of nuclear tests, mushroom clouds, and giant mutant ants loom large within popular imaginaries and scholarship of the ‘nuclear age’ (Kirsch,1997; Masco, 2004; Weart, 2012). Recent work within history, anthropology, and science studies has however sought to move beyond the mushroom clouds and sites of spectacular nuclearity to examine the banal and quotidian aspects of the ‘nuclear age’. This scholarship has been rich and varied. From Gabrielle Hecht’s (2012) work on uranium mining and trade, to Kate Brown’s (2013) comparative study of life in plutonium towns in the US and USSR, and Joseph Masco’s (2006) analysis of the long-term political and cultural legacies of the Manhattan Project, this work has productively uncovered the “everyday consequences of life within a nuclear economy” (Masco, 2008: 16).

In geography, Pitkanen and Farish (2017) and Alexis‐Martin and Davies (2017) have similarly argued for us to attend to the ways in which everyday nuclear spaces are produced and reproduced. These and other authors, have drawn attention to the uneven geographies of nuclearity and have examined how certain landscapes and bodies are enrolled in and impacted by nuclear practices in seemingly mundane – and often invisible – yet significant ways. In doing so, they have shown how the histories and geographies of nuclearity are entangled with those of colonialism, race, gender, and class.

In this session we seek to build on this emergent critical nuclear geography. In particular, we invite papers that examine the banal and overlooked practices, places, and events through which nuclear geographies have been and continue to be produced, reproduced, contested, and resisted. To this end, we welcome papers from diverse conceptual, empirical and geographic perspectives on issues such as (but not limited to):
  • Historical geographies of radiation exposures
  • The political ecologies of uranium extraction
  • Nuclear colonialism
  • Geographies of nuclear experimentation
  • Risk and nuclear technology
  • Secrecy and the nuclear state
  • Radioactive waste and nuclear legacies
  • Nuclear medicine and health geographies
  • Anti-nuclear activism, resistance, and environmentalism
  • Tensions between the spectacular and mundane aspects of nuclearity


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