Radiation’s World: Japan’s Fukushima Disaster and the Repetition Compulsion of National Sacrifice Zones

Authors: Robert Stolz*,
Topics: Asia, Social Theory
Keywords: nuclear, Fukushima, pollution, history
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Iberville, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Radiation's World (hoshanō sekai) announces that the earth-or at least large parts of it-is no longer exclusively ours. We have rendered huge spaces of the planet off limits for time periods beyond any scale of recorded history. Parallel to but different than the rapacious depletion of the natural world from forests to cod stocks to fossil fuels that took millennia to build up but are consumed in decades, as we mine deeper temporalities in pursuit of open ended consumption we have also unleashed anti-human temporalities incompatible with continued production or consumption. It is these spaces that are now ruled by radiation and are no longer part of human society. Like the old Horror trope, we have unleashed forces that we cannot contain. But unlike Horror, there is no discrete monster to kill at the end. This paper explores an apparent repetition compulsion at work in the series of toxic disasters in modern Japanese history from the Ashio copper mine pollution of the 1890s to methylmercury poisoning (Minamata Disease) in the 1950-60s to the triple disaster of Fukushima on March 11, 2011. With Ashio, Minamata, and Fukushima, this larger project aims to create a critical genealogy of the national sacrifice zone as a new history of capitalism.

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