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The Atomic Now: Aesthetics and Technopolitics of the Nuclear Age

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Organizer: Anne-Gaëlle Saliot

Co-Organizer: Brigitte Stepanov

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The nuclear renaissance has arrived. Today is marked by the increased greenlighting of nuclear energy projects, a nearly unparalleled inching towards possible nuclear Armageddon with the war in Ukraine, and a resurgence of nuclear representation on the screen - most notably with Oppenheimer. Twelve years after the 3-11 disaster, we have come to the realization that there is no such thing as a post-atomic era, but rather that we are experiencing a never-ending nuclear age predicated on (slow) violence, colonial governance and extractivism. The nuclear is here to stay. To paraphrase Günther Anders’ title “Fukushima is everywhere”
In After Fukushima, Jean-Luc Nancy identifies in the nuclear disaster the actualization of what he defines as the paradigm of “the equivalence of catastrophes.” The equivalence here does not mean that all catastrophes are the same. Rather, it indicates that “the spread and repercussion of catastrophes will have an impression that will forever resemble the well-known paradigm represented by nuclear risk.” The nuclear threat actualizes the interdependent totality of our technologized world. Natural catastrophes are no longer separable from their technological, economic, and political implications or repercussions. As ionizing contamination affects non-human living beings and geological material existences alike, it should serve as a call for a need to de-anthropocentralize our ways of thinking and seeing, and to create new regimes of visibility.
How can we apprehend the excess of the interdependent structures, networks, and flows that constitute the contemporary global nuclear-industrial complex? And what continues to be lost even in the (hyper)presence of nuclear narratives and images in geopolitics and discursive spaces? Which voices continue to be left unheard and/or silenced? What forms of life, half-life and afterlife nuclear apparatuses create? What kind of visualities and counter-visualities “toxic immanence” produces? This panel seeks to map the contemporary histories, theories, archives, images and imaginaries of the nuclear. We welcome contributions from any field(s) within Modern Languages, Comparative Literature, Visual and Film Studies that reflect on nuclear power (political, military, and thermodynamic) in instances of both violence (nuclear war) and peacetime (nuclear energy production). Possible topics may include, but are not limited to: the geopolitics of nuclear energy/power; the coloniality of the nuclear; energy weapons and the weaponization of energy; invisibility not only of irradiation but also of the communities that are most touched by nuclear and the lack of their representation in discursive spaces; environmental and ecological crises related to nuclear use, nuclear waste, nuclear testing, and nuclear accidents; nuclear power and sustainability; narratives of green energy (and green washing); nuclear in the age of the Anthropocene, Thanatocene, Thermocene; nuclear aesthetics.

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