Tag: nuclear energy

Ethnographies of Nuclear Life: From Victimhood to Post-Victimization

Iitate village, located in Fukushima Prefecture, is typical of rural Japanese hamlets. One finds large arable lands buttressed by imposing mountains that dazzle with emerald-green colors. Iitate fits perfectly this postcard image that many tourists have of rural Japan, with just one difference: among the fields of green are over a million and a half vinyl bags filled with radioactive tainted soils. Rows of black plastic bags, piled on top of each other, form Mayan-like pyramids as far as the eyes can see. (read more...)

Queered Ruptures: The Politics of Anti-irradiation Maternalism in the TEPCO Nuclear Disaster, Kokutai, and Hentai

It is August 2018 and Ishikawa Chiharu and I are sitting down for tea in an herbalist cafe in Fukushima prefecture. We are reflecting on a recent workshop I had organized with my friend N, a professionally trained dancer, for youth in the anti-irradiation space Chiharu organizes. Commenting on how N began her workshop with a short performance, Chiharu says, Thinking normally, that kind of self-expression is something to be embarrassed of Even if it’s small, I think it would be nice to have a place that tells it’s okay for them not to kill a part of themselves. That’s why when very little was emerging out of Fukushima prefecture, the people who tried to take action were really a little hentai… This essay reflects on the significance of Chiharu’s description of herself and other women active in anti-irradiation efforts as hentai. It reflects on the sense that Japanese mothers who take issue with nuclear reconstruction in late capitalist Japan are perverse and aberrant. (read more...)

Reactions and Ruptures: Ethnographies of Nuclear Life

In one sense, nuclear materials direct our attention to the vibrancy and reactivity of all material life. Nuclear elements such as uranium, radium, thorium, and plutonium regularly leak electrons during the process known as radioactive decay or nuclear disintegration, intra-acting and transforming themselves and others in unpredictable ways (see Barad 2007). At the same time, nuclear events and places are also often framed as ruptures, whether in the form of nuclear weapons detonations, nuclear disaster inquiries, the creation of new nuclear power or waste projects, or the founding of new mines to unearth nuclear elements. From this perspective, nuclear events such as the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster somehow signal a break, implying that before, the Fukushima region was untouched by disruptive energies and effects of the nuclear. A nuclear actor enters, causes a break, and leaves worlds permanently altered. (read more...)

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...)