The Irradiated International
August 15, 2018 9:42 AM   Subscribe

"If power can be held through atomic bombs, colonial peoples may never be free." (pdf link)

In 1998, a group of Dene elders from Northwest Canada traveled to Hiroshima to meet with survivors and descendants of survivors of the atomic bomb dropped some fifty years earlier. Some of the uranium used to kill more than 200,000 people in Japan had been mined and transported by Dene men, many of whom died years later from radiation-related disease. The six Dene elders came from where the earth had been torn up to the place where earth and sky were ripped apart like never before. They came to Hiroshima to apologize and to recognize the shared radioactive reality between people touched by the detonation of the bomb and those who unwittingly touched the materials that would make such a weapon. Nobody from the Canadian government was present, none among those who had exploited the miner’s bodies and their home lands and willingly aided the construction of the atomic bomb ever made the journey.
posted by poffin boffin (11 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Data Visualisation crimes have definitely been committed here.
posted by ethansr at 10:24 AM on August 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

I thought this was a really amazing essay.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:31 AM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

It looks like this report was published by Data & Society as part of Future Perfect 2018
On Friday, June 8, the second-annual Future Perfect gathering at Data & Society brought together individuals from a variety of world-building disciplines—from art and fiction to architecture and science—to explore the uses, abuses, and paradoxes of speculative futures.
The daily recap includes this summary of the presentation of the report:
Two-spirit Navajo scholar and writer Lou Cornum kicked-off the final session with a reading of their essay, “The Irradiated International.” The essay begins with a trip of Dene elders from Northwest Canada to Hiroshima, Japan, to meet survivors and descendants of survivors of the atomic bomb. This trip “illuminated the radiated lines” between those who were bombed, and those who were tasked with mining and transporting the uranium that did the killing.
Great, tragic article, thanks for sharing! And based on the quote in this article, and the story description on Goodreads, I've added Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony ( to my to-read list.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:41 AM on August 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

the uncontextualized use of the word colonial in this context is a bit problematic. For sure, the two nuclear bomb possessors Pakistan and India were formerly part of the British Empire.
posted by infini at 10:43 AM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

How India’s Nuclear Industry Created A River Of Death, According to Court Case Claims
India’s nuclear chiefs have long maintained that ill health in the region is caused by endemic poverty and the unsanitary conditions of its tribal people, known locally as Adivasi, or first people. But the testimony and reports document how nuclear installations, fabrication plants and mines have repeatedly breached international safety standards for the past 20 years. Doctors and health workers, as well as international radiation experts, say that nuclear chiefs have repeatedly suppressed or rebuffed their warnings.
I should really read Elaine Scarry's work on Thermonuclear Monarchy.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:54 AM on August 15, 2018

There must be a way to think about earth and land and being that would
make the idea of nuclear weapons impossible.

Great writing. Also, thanks for introducing me to the site, which looks good.
posted by Gorgik at 11:48 AM on August 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Instead in 2018 we have a white supremacist axis linking the two nuclear superpowers, looking to extort the rest of the world. Chilling.
posted by anthill at 12:23 PM on August 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

Referenced briefly in the pdf, Burning Vision by Marie Clements is a powerful play about just this.
posted by junco at 12:27 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a strange place to situate sympathy for the "colonized," given the bombs dropped on those cities put paid Imperial Japan, not only never colonized, but a notably enthusiastic and brutal colonizer.
posted by MattD at 2:43 PM on August 15, 2018 [15 favorites]

I didn‘t understand the essay’s voice to only sympathize with colonized nations, but with disparate communities and individuals all over the world touched by nuclear poisoning. In fact the whole idea seems to be to cross borders and look at and connect communities not from within the framework of nation states (ie Imperial Japan, Canada, or what have you), but from a different viewpoint.

(That being said, I think they could have used a copy editor...)
posted by The Toad at 3:18 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

The opening Du Bois quote reminded me of the essay by George Orwell: You and the Atomic Bomb, Oct 1945:
We were once told that the aeroplane had ‘abolished frontiers’; actually it is only since the aeroplane became a serious weapon that frontiers have become definitely impassable. The radio was once expected to promote international understanding and co-operation; it has turned out to be a means of insulating one nation from another. The atomic bomb may complete the process by robbing the exploited classes and peoples of all power to revolt, and at the same time putting the possessors of the bomb on a basis of military equality. Unable to conquer one another, they are likely to continue ruling the world between them, and it is difficult to see how the balance can be upset except by slow and unpredictable demographic changes.

Nevertheless, looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery. We may be heading not for general breakdown but for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity. James Burnham's theory has been much discussed, but few people have yet considered its ideological implications — that is, the kind of world-view, the kind of beliefs, and the social structure that would probably prevail in a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of ‘cold war’ with its neighbors.
The legacy of the Cold War is the cold war fully internalized. A permanent state of hostility and oppression, the very material of the internal hierarchies -- class, race, gender, and others.

From the article:
The weapon of mass destruction is the nation. The United States of America for one. But also the very notion of nation itself.
posted by runcifex at 6:00 PM on August 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

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