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Postwar Cinema/Images and Nuclear Catastrophe

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Organizer: Brett Ashley Kaplan

Co-Organizer: Lilya Kaganovsky

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The political-historical moment of precarity in which we now live, where nuclear catastrophe again seems possible if not probable, calls for renewed readings of postwar images such as the 1962 Soviet film, Nine Days in One Year (dir. Mikhail Romm) or Hiroshima mon amour (1959), directed by Alain Resnais from a script written by Marguerite Duras. As Elaine Scarry brings to our attention in Thermonuclear Monarchy, Nixon, at the Watergate hearings, asked his lawyer to present him as “absolute a monarch as Louis XIV, and only four years at a time, and…not subject to the processes of any country in the land.” Scarry demonstrates in terrifying detail the absolute nature of the power a U.S. president has over mass nuclear destruction, the disinterest in listening to other nations who may argue against our vast nuclear arsenal and the ease with which it can be activated. If Nixon, even at his hearing, reveled in being beyond the law while keeping his finger close to the nuclear trigger until the very end, how much glee must the current President, Trump, take in wielding this kind of power. History is unfolding very quickly: Trump, currently under investigation, has been multiply charged; he has met with Kim Jong-un and Putin; in short, he has clearly demonstrated that, like Nixon, he chooses to view himself as a monarch beyond the law. A recent article argues that, “there is a growing alliance between Russia, white nationalists, and the movement that propelled President Trump to power.” For this ACLA 2019 seminar we invite papers on global postwar images of nuclear catastrophe in order to explore a range of questions including (but certainly not limited to): how do race, gender, sexuality, and queerness figure in the nuclear imaginary? what can these films/images tell us about the present? how has the nuclear imaginary shifted since the end the Second World War and then the end of the cold war?

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