Gabrielle Hecht talks about ‘Nuclearity’ and Colonial Aspects of Nuclear Productions at 'RadioActivity! - Creating Everyday Revolution After Fukushima'
16 Beaver, NYC 10.07.2012
Gabrielle Hecht is Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Radiance of France: Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II (1998), Being Nuclear (2012) and co-editor of Technologies of Power (2001).
:::Questions prepared by TSJ for the discussion:::
We are very happy to have you in our forum. We consider that your work is significant in the post-Fukushima context, in order to understand why nuclear power has yet to keep operating despite all the hazards and dangers it causes. In light of what we have been observing in the ongoing Fukushima disaster, we are hosting this forum to discuss and learn with, for example, people in Japan who have become their own 'experts' of everyday life in making radiation visible to protect themselves. Since last year, there have been a lot of fundamental interests and questioning amongst us on: regulatory bodies, international agencies, academia, history and the legacy of nuclear development.
Your work points out that issues of nuclear power lay in more than a choice of energy, but rooted in the history and expansion of global relations, transforming yet consistent, from the colonial to post-colonial contexts, from the cold war to post-cold war periods. The production of nuclear power for both civilian and military uses is stretched like a “tentacle” by your expression, which you call “nuclearity,” a term you created to mean "quality of being nuclear" and the approach to grasp its real yet ambiguous status is called “nuclear ontologies” in plural.
(1) Would you tell us about how you have come up with these thoughts and conceptualizations, in the context of your research history?
(2) As we understand, the ambiguity of 'nuclearity' has always been the horizon where various global forces, politically, judicially and industrially, take for granted and maintain their hegemony and power. What are the most problematic aspects of the ambiguity today, at the present moment?
(3) You point out that standards of exposure to radiation is also technopolitical. For instance the concept of "As Low As Rasonably Achievable" by ICRP, and systematically pro-nuclear recommendations by IAEA, which is widedly utilized for today's corporate and national insterests in post-Fukushima Japan. Can you elaborate on the philosophy of such international organizations and their problems?
(4) One of your crucial contributions is that you clarify the legacy or remnants of colonialism as one of the main driving force for the nuclear development which still remains today. For instance, many uranium mines in Africa were started by France and Britain - former-colonizers of these countries for their energy/weapon productions. You also mention that the First World" industry in a Third World" environment rquires acceptance to higher level of exposure. Can you tell us about relations between nuclearity and colonial behavior?
(5) According to your research in the struggles among mine workers who developed illnesses that may attribute to radiation exposure at mines, you describe the extreme difficulties in achieving compensations. At the same time, today there have been increasing recognition and problematization of internal exposure in Japan. Could you tell us more about struggles that workers and activists have been facing in the strive for, any lessons we can learn?