Day 1: Charting old roads

Saturday, September 24, 2016
Maxey Building W42, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA

The program for Day 1 lays the groundwork for all the sessions that follow it. First, we discuss what makes “nuclear weapons” stand apart from other methods and means of harm, and how the production and decommissioning of nuclear weapons never truly leaves the planet “denuclearised” when taken from an ecological point-of-view. Second, participants will be tasked with visualising nuclear harm, thereby equipping themselves with materials to communicate the problem of nuclear pain, suffering and vulnerability to others. Third, we do a crash course in contemporary nuclear politics and policy, with an emphasis on international treaties and agreements limiting their spread and use. Following these three opening sessions, it is expected that participants will be in a better position to research, evaluate and devise alternative pathways to nuclear disarmament of their own.


What is “nuclear” about nuclear weapons?

In this introductory session we examine the different forms of “being nuclear” such as extraction, weaponisation, possession, deterrence, and waste. Deliberately, this is delivered in the form of a provocation, rather than a “lecture”. We ask: What is “nuclear” about nuclear weapons? Does possession of nuclear weapons constitute “use”?


Visualising nuclear harm

This interactive session has participants engage and assemble visual media. Doing so is intended to prompt critical thinking about nuclear weapons and war, perhaps for the first time.

Participants are tasked with using the internet (and their imaginations) to curate (or create) five images or graphics in response to the following three questions:

  1. can you depict the (il)logic of nuclear deterrence? (one image)
  2. how do nuclear harms violate bodies and/or biospheres? (one image)
  3. what does nuclear pain, suffering and vulnerability look and/or feel like? (three images)

After 45 minutes of saving material to a shared Dropbox, the wider group will discuss and evaluate the images selected for how visualising nuclear harm.

Following this session participants will have a more thorough understanding of both the arguments for and against nuclear weapons, as well as their perceived and actual effects. In so doing, each participant will be equipped with materials to communicate the problem of nuclear pain, suffering and vulnerability to others.


Can nuclear weapons be “controlled”? 

This session provides participants with a foundational understanding of contemporary nuclear politics and policy, with an emphasis on international treaties and agreements limiting their spread and use. For this, various case studies involving Australia, India, Iran, and the United States are developed, and the nuclear-weapon-free zone concept is introduced for the first time. Crucially, the technical, economic, political, social, legal and moral dimensions are each explored. We ask: is the source of the problem in “Western” morality?


Preparatory text

Adam Curtis (dir.), To the Brink of Eternity: Pandora’s Box Episode 2, BBC, 1992. [45 minutes]

Carol Cohn, ‘Sex and death in the rational world of defence intellectuals’, Signs, Vol.12 No.4, 1987, pp.687–718.

Alternative text/s 

Jacques Derrida, ‘No Apocalypse, Not Now (Full Speed Ahead, Seven Missiles, Seven Missives)’, Diacritics, Vol.14 No.2, 1984, 20-31.

Jim Hershberg, ‘Anatomy of a Controversy: Anatoly F. Dobrynin’s Meeting with Robert F. Kennedy: Saturday, October 27, 1962’, The Cold War International History Project Bulletin, Issue 5, Spring 1995.

Masuji Ibuse, Black Rain, Kodansha International, 1969.

John F. Kennedy, ‘Audio clips from the Kennedy White House’, National Security Archive at George Washington University, 2002.

Mori Masaki, Barefoot Gen: Part One and Two, Geneon, 1983. [Based on the Manga by Keiji Nakazawa.]

Barack Obama, ‘Prague Speech’, Hradcany Square, Prague, Czech Republic, April 5, 2009. [Full text]

Ron Rosenbaum, ‘The Human Button’, BBC Radio, December 2008. [18 minutes]

George P. Schultz, William J. Perry, Kissinger Henry A., and Sam Nunn, ‘A world free of nuclear weapons’, Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, and ‘Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Proliferation’, Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2011.

Co-produced materials arising from the workshop

A copy of the slides used by the instructor for the initial “provocation”, and the students’ “response” is attached as a PDF.