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Decolonising the Nuclear:Public Lecture & Workshop

Nuclear Culture Research Group &
Critical Ecologies Research Stream &
Mountain of Art Research (MARs)
Goldsmiths University of London, 2019

Tuesday 22 October 10.30 – 20.00
Wednesday 23 October 10.30 – 16.30

Public Lecture:
Gabrielle Hecht, Inside-Out Earth: Residues of the Anthropocene in Africa:
22 October 6-8pm, Goldsmiths Main Campus PSH LG02

Workshop Booking available here
The workshop will be fully documented and available online.

The development of nuclear technology has always relied on colonial practices of resource extraction, atomic testing on indigenous lands, exporting nuclear installations, deployment of nuclear weapons and radioactive waste storage. Many communities are already living through the slow violence of atomic tests, radioactive accidents and contaminated landscapes. Nuclear technology is at the heart of the military industrial complex, often outside democratic decision-making processes, yet it is often neglected in contemporary discourses around decoloniality, climate crisis and the Anthropocene.

This year the Nuclear Culture Research Group is considering what it means to decolonise our creative and academic research practices within nuclear culture. In an academic context this starts with tracing our own stories, expanding our networks and literature, working with and alongside communities, and leads to rethinking forms of knowledge and creative practices from completely new, or perhaps very old, perspectives. However, nuclear decoloniality starts with an attempt to re-couple the nuclear with colonial histories that have been neglected in order to isolate research into discreet work-packages for spurious reasons of security or in-depth scientific research. The workshop invites scholars of nuclear culture and artist-researchers to share knowledge, ideas and practices, to widen the scope, to extend and examine our nuclear languages and create a space for people working closely with different kinds of nuclear decoloniality from around the world. This event is a small first step on a long journey to find ways to work together.

We are very honoured that Professor Gabrielle Hecht will give a keynote public lecture on her current research into nuclearity and the Anthropocene on the Goldsmiths main campus on Tuesday 22 October at 6pm til 8pm.

Booking will be essential for the two day workshop in the Art Dept Studios in Deptford will include artists and scholars investigating contemporary questions of nuclear decolonisation in Australia, Greenland, Lithuania and India. With film screenings and round table discussions.

Workshop Participants include: Lise Autogena is working with Joshua Portway investigating the conflicts facing the small, mostly indigenous, community of Narsaq in southern Greenland. Narsaq is located next to the pristine Kvanefjeld mountain; site of one of the richest rare earth mineral resources deposits in the world, and one of the largest sources of uranium. Alex Ressel and Kerri Meehan are artists from the UK and Australia currently living and working at Injalak Arts Centre in Gunbalanya, near to the Nabarlek former uranium mine and Ranger Uranium mine in the Northern Territory of Australia. Fathima Nizaruddin will present her film Nuclear Hallucinations (2016) which claims to be a documentary and explores the anti-nuclear struggle against the Kudankulam Atomic Power Project in South India. Ignacio Acosta is a Chilean-born, London-based artist and researcher working primarily with photography to explore geopolitical power dynamics around minerals, their geographies and historical narratives.

We would like to encourage current CHASE doctoral researchers to participate in the event, especially those engaged with the wider implications of nuclear decoloniality which may include creative resistance and indigenous rights within the theory and practice of extraction politics; and the impact of Cold War histories on nuclear colonialism, from nuclear modernity to contemporary challenges of decommissioning in post-soviet countries.

This event follows on from the Nuclear Culture Research Symposium which took place in Autumn 2018, and is fully documented here:

Public Lecture: Gabrielle Hecht: 22 October 6-8pm, Goldsmiths Main Campus PSH LG02 (booking not required)
Gabrielle Hecht is the Frank Stanton Foundation Professor of Nuclear Security at CISAC, Senior Fellow at FSI, Professor of History, and Professor (by courtesy) of Anthropology. Her current research explores radioactive residues, mine waste, air pollution, and African Anthropocenes. These interests are coalescing into a series of essays, provisionally titled Inside-Out Earth: Residual Governance Under Extreme Conditions. The first of these have appeared in Cultural Anthropology, Aeon, Somatosphere, the LA Review of Books, and elsewhere. Hecht’s 2012 book Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade offers new perspectives on the global nuclear order by focusing on African uranium mines and miners. It received awards from the Society for the Social Studies of Science, the American Historical Association, the American Sociological Association, and the Suzanne M. Glasscock Humanities Institute, as well as an honorable mention from the African Studies Association. An abridged version appeared in French as Uranium Africain, une histoire globale (Le Seuil 2016), and a Japanese translation is due out in 2021.Gabrielle Hecht holds a PhD in History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania (1992), and a bachelor’s degree in Physics from MIT (1986). She serves on numerous advisory boards, including for the Andra, France’s national radioactive waste management agency.

Her lecture titled 'Inside-Out Earth: Residues of the Anthropocene in Africa' considers how we are turning our planet inside out, releasing molecules and materials long trapped in the earth. Mining conglomerates descend kilometers underground to extract metals that power electronics, making mountains of unwanted rocks. Dredgers scoop sand from sea beds to terraform military bases and luxury islands. Offshore oil erupts, leaks, flows, combusts. All that was buried melts into air, seeps into waterways, settles on soils, and penetrates bodies.

But who is “we”? While the Anthropocene continually inscribes itself in all our bodies – we all have endocrine disruptors, microplastics, and other toxic things chugging through our metabolisms – it manifests differently in different bodies. Those differences, along with the histories that generated them, matter a great deal. This talk digs into the entangled residues of mining, apartheid, and contemporary inequalities on South Africa’s Rand plateau, which encompasses Johannesburg, Soweto, and hundreds of kilometers of abandoned mine tunnels. How do toxic residues inflect politics in the “hollow Rand”?

Workshop Roundtable Questions:
• Nuclearity – what determines the category of the ‘nuclear’. Who takes response-ability?
• Nuclear ethics: whose voices are represented in nuclear studies, histories, arts, sciences and humanities?
• What are the asymmetries of the nuclear Anthropocene within our own research?
• How do we connect the material traces of uranium, radioactive isotopes and waste across civil and military?
• Whose energy, whose contamination: how are we embedded in global nuclear networks?
• How do we engage with non-alignment and different perspectives on nuclear weapons policies?
• How does interdisciplinary research between art/anthropology/sociology/environmental studies change how we understand the nuclear?
• What are the nuclear humanities approaches to field research?
• What are our strategies and tactics for intergenerational cultural communication over deep time?
• What can we learn from wider indigenous land rights, especially around mining / toxicity?
• What kinds of nuclearity or critique is Science & Technology Studies enabling?
• What are the impacts of the Cold war on the present?
• Can we consider Soviet and American nuclear empires as a form of colonialism?

The Decolonising the Nuclear Public Lecture and Research Workshop is generously supported by the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership, Critical Ecologies Research Stream, and Mountain of Art Research (MARs) in partnership with Arts Catalyst, Art Action UK, MFA Curating and Goldsmiths University of London.

Reading List:
Gabrielle Hecht, Interscalar Vehicles for an African Anthropocene: On Waste, Temporality, and Violence, Cultural Anthropology 33 (1, 2018): 109-141.

Gabrielle Hecht, The African Anthropocene, Aeon (February 2018)

Kanad Chakrabarty, Exorbitant Priviledge:

Eve Tuck & K. Wayne Yang, Decolonisation is not a Metaphor, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2012, pp. 1-40

Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonising Methodologies: Research and Indigengous peoples,2012, Zed Books.

Jahnavi Phalkey, Atomic State: Big Science in Twenthieth Century India (2013)

Decolonising the University, Gurminder K. Bhambra, Dalia Gebrial and Kerem Nişancıoğlu, 2018

Partner Events:
Gabrielle Hect will also be giving a lecture at UCL on Wednesday 23rd October in the evening.
Ignacio Acosta's exhibition Tales from the Crust will be showing at Arts Catalyst 26 September until 14 December:
Kerri Meehan and Alex Ressel will be running a workshop at Arts Catalyst, please see the website for deatils:

Earlier Event: 22 October
CHASE Induction