Author Archives: Vincent Ialenti

Vincent Ialenti is a Mellon Fellow at Cornell University's Society for the Humanities, a U.S. National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and a PhD Candidate in Cornell's Department of Anthropology. His ethnographic research explores how safety assessment experts working on Finland’s radioactive waste disposal project at Olkiluoto grappled with issues of deep time, death, collaboration, and succession.

Pragmatism and the Magic Book for Nuclear Power

Today’s post by Vincent Ialenti, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Cornell, is in partnership with the experimental publication Allegra Lab, and links reflections on the theme of #pragmatism to anthropological research on nuclear energy and environmentalism. Pragmatism, according to Merriam-Webster, refers to both “a practical approach to problems and affairs,” and an American philosophical tradition, founded by C. S. Peirce and William James, that evaluates conceptions and thought through their practical consequences in guiding action. — Editor’s note.   This is a picture of a brightly colored South Korean pro-nuclear children’s book adorned with friendly animals dancing around a light bulb in front of a nuclear power plant. The title translates to The Magic Book for Nuclear Power with WINK (Women In Nuclear-Korea). I first encountered this artifact in London at a 2013 World Nuclear Association symposium. There, it was a tool nuclear energy industry insiders used to counter what they saw as anti-nuclear misinformation to which Korean children might be exposed through television, from their parents, or at school. At the time, I associated the book with rising “climate pragmatist” pro-nuclear environmentalisms like those in Robert Stone’s Pandora’s Promise documentary, those of Breakthrough Institute thinkers, those of the Hartwell Group, or—more recently—those in the Ecomodernist Manifesto. These pragmatisms were underlain by hopes for technology, innovation, human agency, open futures, incremental progress, and possibilities for achieving common ground across political divides. I continue to reflect on these pragmatisms as I develop an ethnography of Finland’s deep time auguring Olkiluoto nuclear waste repository safety case experts. (read more...)