Ethnographies of Apocalypse: Living in a Nuclear Age

Schools of Public Engagement: Global, Urban, & Environmental

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Degree Students
Living in the Nuclear Age
Fall 2023
Taught By: Jonathan Bach
Section: A

CRN: 15738

Credits: 3

We are all products of, and hostage to, the legacy of the splitting of the atom. This class examines the culture and politics of the nuclear era. If the immediacy of nuclear issues seemed to fade with the Cold War, they have now come roaring back: The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize went to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons among growing fears of nuclear war with North Korea and a backdrop of other possible nuclear conflicts, including between India and Pakistan. The 2011 meltdown in Fukushima sent radiation round the world and is an ongoing catastrophe. This course explores the lived spaces between the the “thinkable” world of strategy and policy and the “unthinkable” world of worst case scenarios (e.g. mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, meltdowns). Sites of war and accidents, of waste storage and weapons testing, are also the sites of new forms of social awareness, popular culture, and protest. We ask how did managing unimaginable risks become part of “normal” life? What is the relation between nuclear weapons and energy? How has society dealt with the tension between knowledge and responsibility—of scientists, politicians, and ordinary people—as they face situations where people struggle most elementally with their relation to nature, humanity, and power? Readings draw on ethnographies, reportage, scholarly writing, film, and popular culture. Students will complete an individual research project. With the hands of the Doomsday Clock set by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists at 2.5 minutes to midnight, this class aims to provide a timely perspective on our parlous contemporary situation.

College: Schools of Public Engagement (NS)

Department: Global, Urban, & Environmental (GLUE)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: September 11, 2023 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: November 19, 2023 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 9:00pm EDT 9/28/2023

Meeting Info:
Days: Tuesday
Times: 1:55pm - 3:45pm
Building: Johnson/Kaplan 66 West 12th
Room: 510
Date Range: 8/29/2023 - 12/5/2023