Fukushima and the Motifs of Nuclear History

Jacob Darwin Hamblin, “Fukushima and the Motifs of Nuclear History,” Environmental History 17:2 (2012), 285-299.

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Nuclear narratives convey responsibility (or lack thereof), and historical understandings are enlisted to stake out defensible positions in times of crisis. As historians, we need to be conscious of the discursive power of the stories we tell and to reflect critically on them. Otherwise we put ourselves in the position of reinforcing past narratives that were contrived in the first place to deflect blame, avoid responsibility, and frustrate accountability. The present essay presents motifs—recurrent themes—that implicitly assign or abrogate responsibility for harm. They are the Risk Society Motif, the Nuclear Watchdog Motif, and the Nuclear Fear Motif. All three reemerged in light of the Fukushima disaster.

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