The 'Transnational Nuclear Perspectives' symposium took place on Sat 27th July as part of the ICHSTM: Knowledge at work congress at Manchester University, 2013.
It was an inspiring day with a fantastic range of speakers from Austria, Sweden, Australia, Japan, America, Germany and Italy. It seems there is an emerging field of nuclear scholars across the humanities whose important work often resides within their disciplines. We all agreed that we need a network for knowledge sharing across nuclear studies, and we will be working this out in the next few months.
During the conference I realised that despite my protestations against aestheticing the cold war, we are still in it! The effects and affects of the nuclear age are unfolding in slow motion around us and the increasing pressure to deal with nuclear waste will bring the issue back into the public domain. One question that kept coming up was the international confusion about the lack of debate about nuclear power in the UK. The only answer I can think of is that in the UK the critical focus is on nuclear disarmament rather than nuclear energy, combined with a lack of political representation for alternative solutions. Whilst the German anti-nuclear movement has focused on nuclear energy, the British Peace movement has focused on nuclear weapons, and there are very particular historical reasons for this. Of course there is a discussion about nuclear power in the UK, but without political will it lacks visibility and so national decisions are made without proper debate. So there's a real need to strengthen academic networks to share the critical work in the field, and make this accessible to a wider public.
Whilst in Manchester I stayed at the wonderful Islington Mill where I heard a rumour that one of the previous occupiers was a company who, amongst other things, made parts for BNFL, and that this was the cause of the building being bombed in the 1980s!
The programme of the Symposium with links to all the abstracts is listed below:
This symposium brings together nuclear scholars from disparate research backgrounds to explore ‘transnational nuclear perspectives’. The symposium will have four panels across one day. Chaired by Jeff Hughes, the first panel will explore ‘Nuclear Activism’. Three papers by Alison Kraft, Silke Fengler and Christoph Laucht will examine ‘scientific activism’ and transnational scientific-political networks.
The second panel, ‘Nuclear Industry’, chaired by Jacob Hamblin, will present new research on the development of nuclear industries in Europe. Maja Fjaestad explores the unique characteristics of the Swedish nuclear industry. Mar Rubio will explore the development of nuclear science in Spain, and Christian Forstner looks at how the history of Austria’s nuclear development can be viewed in a comparative perspective in the Cold War context. Finally, a paper by Karena Kalmbach analyses national political responses to Chernobyl.
The third panel, entitled ‘Nuclear Narratives’, is chaired by Christoph Laucht. Dan Cordle will present a paper on the national and international dynamics of nuclear discourse. Bo Jacobs and Mick Broderick will present their recent research on global nuclear testing, before Jonathan Hogg asks whether the conceptualisation of nuclear anxiety can be developed further.
The last panel of the day is entitled ‘Nuclear Cultures’, chaired by Joseph Masco. Ele Carpenter explain how her curatorial work on dismantling nuclear submarines is attempting to ‘map the conceptual scope of the nuclear field’. Richard Maguire will then discuss his research on nuclear decision making, applying theories of behavioural psychology to complex professional networks. The last paper of the day will be presented by Dan Grausam, whose latest research interests are focused on the ‘strategies in recent installation art, collage, photography and literature for making radioactive danger visible’.
Joseph Masco will then offer a commentary on the final panel, with time for questions for the final panelists and a general discussion on themes explored as part of the symposium. It is hoped that the transnational focus of the symposium will encourage exploration of ‘how facts, and other knowledge-claims, travel between disciplines, countries and communities’ as well as advance our understanding of ‘relationships between those knowledge-making enterprises which are described as ‘science’ and those which are not, and the dynamics of the boundaries between them.
A: NUCLEAR ACTIVISM
Chair: Jeff Hughes | University of Manchester, United Kingdom
Alison Kraft | University of Nottingham , United Kingdom Pugwash and the ‘fallout’ issue in the early Cold War: a case study of transnational scientific activism
Silke Fengler | University of Vienna, Austria ‘Experts between war and peace’: Austrian scientists and the international Pugwash movement
Christoph Laucht | University of Leeds, United Kingdom The moral economies of transnational professional activism against nuclear weapons in Cold War Britain
B: NUCLEAR NARRATIVES
Chair: Jacob Hamblin Oregon State University, United States
Maja Fjaestad | Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden The geopolitics of uranium: Swedish energy dependencies from a transnational perspective
Mar Rubio | Universidad Pública de Navarra, Spain WITHDRAWN: State involvement in the development of nuclear power in Spain, 1960s-1980s
Christian Forstner | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany Nuclear fission and Austria’s integration with the West
C: NUCLEAR INDUSTRY
Chair: Christoph Laucht | University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Daniel Cordle | Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom Gone with the wind: transatlantic nuclear literature and culture in the 1980s
D: NUCLEAR CULTURE
Chair: Joseph Masco | University of Chicago, United States
Ele Carpenter Goldsmith’s, University of London, United Kingdom The culture of nuclear dismantling, concerning the nature of the object, invisibility and time
Richard Maguire | University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom The psychology of nuclear decision-making: group polarisation and the Polaris Upgrade Programme, 1967-1979