Making the Earth Count: From Living Laboratory to Laboratory Planet

Authors: Alexander Arroyo*, University of California - Berkeley
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: militarism, empire, technopolitics, okeanopolitics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Cleveland 2, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 1971, the Atomic Energy Commission oversaw the detonation of the Cannikin nuclear device on a remote volcanic island in the Aleutian archipelago, the last in a series of three tests described as the "Amchitka Program". A public relations film for the Amchitka Program (named after the island on which the test were performed) distinguished it from other nuclear programs: "to test an island, not a weapon". Instrumented with a complex network of sensing infrastructures and biological indicators, Amchitka was turned into a kind of "living laboratory" (Tilley 2011) for the production of geopolitical intelligence through artificial seismic events. This paper investigates the extended transformation of Amchitka and its marine milieux into signaling media, punctuating a century of expeditionary science and militarism through which the United States prosecuted its early experiments in assembling an oceanographic empire in the Pacific and Arctic.

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