Nuclear Storytelling

The Nuclear Storytelling project explores how and what to communicate about the problem of nuclear harm into the far-future. For this, a variety of Nuclear Humanities approaches have been deployed, including photographic and literary essays. To date, the project highlights include a manifesto for the establishment of a memory institution, an exhibition shown internationally, a special issue, and a co-authored book under advanced contract:


Chapter I:
Archive of Nuclear Harm [2012-18]

The Archive of Nuclear Harm collected and displayed materials on life and death in the nuclear age. We also designed and delivered educational programs. Items of interest included artworks and other cultural artefacts that explore the full range of harms—to bodies and the biosphere—that are inflicted by both the civilian and military applications of nuclear technology, as well as the universal problems of nuclear contamination and waste. Since the legacy of the nuclear age must be conceived on timescales of up to one million years and threaten the continued safe operating conditions of Earth’s biosphere, we issued a manifesto calling for the establishment of a memory institution like no other. For this reason, the inaugural focus theme queried whether and how to “mark” sites of nuclear harm.

The Archive was variously a contributing project of the Mistra and Formas-sponsored Environmental Humanities Collaboratory at Linköping University in Sweden (2016-18), and the Nuclear Futures partnership initiative, a three-year arts and culture program sponsored by the Australia Council for the Arts (2014-16). The international advisory board included a diverse range of scholars with an interest in the interdisciplinary subfield of the Nuclear Humanities, including: Cecilia Åsberg, Ellise Barkley, Shampa Biswas, Roland Bleiker, Jessie Boylan, Mick Broderick, Paul Brown, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Anthony Burke, Joseph A. Camilleri, Robert Del Tredici, Jenny Edkins, Stefanie Fishel, Jacob Darwin Hamblin, Michael Hamel-Green, Julian Hewitt, Myra Hird, Robert Jacobs, Karena Kalmbach, Redi Koobak, Peter Kuran, Eve Andrée Laramée, L.H.M. (Lily) Ling, Livia Monnet, John O’Brian, Trisha Thompson Pritikin, Peter Rickwood, Susan Schuppli, Robert Williams, Peter C. van Wyck. Institutional friends of the Archive included: ART/MEDIA for a Nuclear Free Future, Atom Central, Atomic Photographers Guild, Atomic Reporters, Center for the Arts, Society & Ecology, Pace University, Centre for Creativity and Social Change, In Place of War at The University of Manchester, International Uranium Film Festival, The Seed Box: A MISTRA-FORMAS Environmental Humanities Collaboratory, and Visual Politics Research Cluster at The University of Queensland.

Role: principal investigator
complete [2012-18]
Activities: 1x archive, 1x workshop, 1x article, 1x panel discussion, 2x broadcast interviews and 18x film screenings
Sponsor/s: Australia Council for the Arts/Alphaville Theatre Company, Whitman College, and Linköping University

Now complete, this sub-project resulted in the following published outputs:

  1. N.A.J. Taylor, ‘Manifesto for an Archive of Nuclear Harm’, Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, Summer 2019. [PDF available on request]


Chapter II:
Nuclear Markers [2015-18]

The Earth is marked by the nuclear age. This is true whether we consider the history of the nuclear age, or its future. Looking back through history, a small number of scholars have taken up Paul Crutzen’s revised proposal for the origins of the Anthropocene epoch as coinciding with the dawn of the nuclear age. “Like radiation medicine administered to a patient to make the internal system visible to doctors”, says Robert Jacobs, “the movement of radionuclides through the ecosystem revealed a systemic interconnectedness that had been previously invisible.” Elsewhere, Myra Hird has speculated as to whether the marker of the Anthropocene is in fact its waste sites, such as that produced by the 1945 Trinity test and its infrastructure. Much work remains to be done in the coming months and years to examine the veracity of Crutzen’s hypothesis, as well as the direction others such as Jacobs and Hird have variously taken it.

Looking deep into the future, many are considering the task of communicating the problem of nuclear harm to the next 30,000 generations. Permanent waste repositories, for instance, are intended to be sealed and passively monitored (without human intervention) for the next 100,000 or more years. To avoid intrusion there is a debate as to how, if at all, these sites should to be communicated—by the establishment of specialist archives and “markers”. That is, what symbols, messages, images, and warnings might humans responsible for such markings use today in order to communicate to beings 10s and 100s of thousands of years into the future? Will these intruders listen to—or even comprehend—the messages delivered by present-day humans at all? The question of nuclear markers is therefore an open one. And for this reason, it was the inaugural focus theme of the Archive of Nuclear Harm.

Role: principal investigator
 complete [2015-18]
Activities: 5x exhibitions, 1x book chapter and 2x delivered papers
Sponsor/s: Australia Council for the Arts/Alphaville Theatre Company, Whitman College, Linköping University, University of Montreal and the University of Queensland

To date, this sub-project has resulted in the following published outputs:

  1. N.A.J. Taylor, ‘Nuclear deferral’, in Livia Monnet and Peter C. van Wyck (eds.), Toxic Immanence: Nuclear Legacies, Futures, and the Place of Twenty-First Century Nuclear Environmental Humanities, McGill-Queens University Press, Montréal, Quebec, Canada, 2018. [PDF available on request]
  2. N.A.J. Taylor, Nuclear Deferral, “4S Making and Doing” at the Society for Social Studies of Science Annual Conference, Sydney International Convention Centre, August 29-September 1, 2018. [PDF available on request]
  3. N.A.J. Taylor, Nuclear Deferral, Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative, College of Liberal Arts, Oregon State University, June 21-22, 2018. [PDF available on request]
  4. N.A.J. Taylor, ‘Marking nuclear harm: Atomic art for the Anthropocene’. Paper presented at the From Trinity to Fukushima and Beyond: New Approaches to Nuclear Culture and the Nuclear Arts in the 20th and 21st Century, University of Montréal, Montréal, Canada, March 10, 2017. [PDF available on request]
  5. N.A.J. Taylor, Nuclear Deferral, “Postcards from the Anthropocene: Unsettling the Geopolitics of Representation” symposium at the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, June 22-24, 2017. [LINK]
  6. N.A.J. Taylor, Nuclear Deferral, Maxey Museum for Man and Nature, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA, United States, September 26-28, 2016. [LINK]
  7. N.A.J. Taylor with Andrew Hustwaite, Nuclear Deferral, c3 Contemporary Art Space, Melbourne, Australia, August 17-September 11, 2016. Curated by N.A.J. Taylor. [LINK]
  8. N.A.J. Taylor, Nuclear Deferral, Memory of Mankind, Hallstadt, Austria, August 17, 2016-12,016.

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Chapter III:
Narrating the Nuclear Anthropocene [2015-19]

International Relations (IR), as a traditionally Western discipline, “hyper-separates” humanity from nature both politically and ethically. Its tendency toward state centric understandings of human relations often misses or elides other political and social processes at work globally. At another level, the anthropocentric approach focuses only on human processes. Many critical approaches in IR seek to rectify this to create a more complex picture of global politics and this book seeks to add to these explorations. This is done to be better able to understand and respond to the complex issues facing human and non-human communities affected by the changes created by the Anthropocene. To begin to address this more complex world, this book desires to open a dialogue by twinning a new method in IR—a narrative approach to politics—to the effects of the use of nuclear materials for weapons and energy. This serves two purposes: firstly, to shift the focus from a human centred understanding of nuclear materials as only strategic material to one that acknowledges the effects of nuclear radiation as not discriminating between human and non-humans so readily. Secondly, a narrative approach vis-a-vis this topic aids in diffusing the state and anthropocentric nature of scholarship on nuclear materials as is usually found in traditional IR. For this, we draw upon the insights from our earlier convened panel and special issue of narrative IR titled, “Internal Relations” (Borderlands, 2018).  The narrative approach is supported through case studies and site visits to various Manhattan Project National Historic Park sites, including  Trinity, in New Mexico, among others. This dual approach begins to frame IR as a wider project of biospheric worlding, or cosmo-politics, rather than only matters of state and national concern.

Role: co-principal investigator and co-author with Stefanie Fishel
 in draft under advanced contract [2015-19]
Activities: 1x special issue, 2x articles, 1x editorial, 1x convened panel and 2x delivered papers
Sponsor/s: Whitman College, University of Alabama, and the University of Queensland

Narrating the Nuclear Anthropocene is a co-authored book project (with Stefanie Fishel) under advanced contract to Routledge’s Worlding Beyond the West book series. The expected delivery is December 2019. To date, this sub-project has resulted in the following published outputs:

  1. N.A.J. Taylor, ‘Towards a narrative nuclear politics: From Trinity to Monte Bello, Emu and Maralinga’. Paper presented at the Telling the Stories of Radiation Exposure Workshop, Environmental Arts and Humanities Initiative, College of Liberal Arts, Oregon State University, June 22, 2018. [PDF available on request]
  2. Stefanie Fishel and N.A.J. Taylor (eds.), “Internal Relations”, Borderlands, Vol.16 No.2, 2017. [Including contributions by: Jesse Crane-Seeber, Stefanie Fishel, Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Isaac Kamola, Nicholas J. Rowland, N.A.J. Taylor, and Delacey Tedesco.] [LINK]
  3. N.A.J. Taylor, ‘Worming the world’, Borderlands, Vol.16 No.2, 2017, pp.1-9. [PDF]
  4. Stefanie Fishel and N.A.J. Taylor with Jesse Crane-Seeber, Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Isaac Kamola, Nicholas J. Rowland, and Delacey Tedesco, ‘Introduction: Baring our Internal Relations?’, Borderlands, Vol.16 No.2, 2017, pp.1-8. [PDF]
  5. Internal Relations, 57th International Studies Association Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, United States, March 17, 2016. Co-convener with Stefanie Fishel.
  6. N.A.J. Taylor, ‘Nuclear visions: Suffering between living and dying’. Paper presented at the Creative Arts and Nuclear Futures conference, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, August 7, 2015. [PDF available on request]
  7. N.A.J. Taylor, ‘The biosphere and me’, Journal of Narrative Politics, Vol.1 No.2, Fall 2015, pp.153-66. [PDF]