The Nuclearization of Life: family, Nation, and the Environment in Postwar Japan
Jieun Cho is a PhD Candidate in Cultural Anthropology and the certificate in Feminist Studies. Cho's respondent is Kathi Weeks, Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies Professor.
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This paper examines the relationship between radiation and life in the context of postwar Japan's nuclear nationhood. Tracked through "nuclear," this is defined as that which is atomic in an expansive sense: the atom through which life is imagined in order to
reproduce. By juxtaposing the life of nuclear reactors with everyday reproduction within a nuclear household, it is argued that postwar Japan as a nation-state was built-and precariously hinges-on two notions of the nuclear: nuclear power and the nuclear family. In this history, the nuclear was deployed as the fuel generating the social body within the landscape of Cold War politics, mass urbanization, and a gendered labor system. Calling this regime of existence in a nuclear-powered nationhood "the nuclearization of life," I consider the challenges and possibilities posed by the nuclear family/industry for making life in the context of post-nuclear Japan. With a focus on nuclear families who are trying to raise healthy children amid nuclear risks in and beyond Fukushima, it is asked how the persistent occupation with/of radiation affects the constitution and construction of the nuclear household. With their homes and children now imperiled by intimacy with radiation, it is in the biopolitical ruins of nuclearized life that post-nuclear nuclear families are struggling for a viable life.