Radioactive: Shaping & Sharing Nuclearity (Part 1) (Panel)

Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Global Anglophone

Sarah Fisher Davis (SUNY Stony Brook University)

As human beings dramatically affect life and landscape on Earth, science and technology play a significant role in conversations about both environmental problems and their solutions. And few discoveries have had stronger supporters or stronger detractors than the harnessing of nuclear reactions for power. In Plutopia, Kate Brown claims, “Radioactive isotopes proved just as difficult to detect on earthly landscapes as on bodily ones.” This panel will attempt to “detect” and then interrogate the representation of nuclear weapons, energy, and waste within literary and public texts (in English) from across the globe. Relying on the growing interdisciplinary field of environmental humanities, participants will attempt to answer several key questions: How do authors and artists define or conceptualize or represent the “nuclear?” How do those representations change historically, geographically, and culturally? How does radiation affect the environment and the body in different ways, based on region, gender, race, and class? The panel is interested in analyzing a variety of media and genres – including novel, memoir, film, op-ed, comics, news stories – about nuclearity as humanity works to better understand the global ethics of scientific and technological advancement.

Nuclearity, Gabrielle Hecht argues, is “a contested technopolitical category,” especially in conversations about global Anthropocentric climate change, energy production, and toxicants. This interdisciplinary panel seeks to explore how diverse textual forms represent nuclear weapons, power, and/or waste across historical, geographical, and cultural boundaries. What is considered “nuclear,” and (how) does that definition change for different environments and bodies? What might representations and rhetorics of nuclearity teach us about our current environmental crises, as well as our collective future?