Special Issue: Nuclear Ghosts

deadline for submissions: 
August 9, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Jenny Stümer Centre for Apocalyptic and Postapocalyptic Studies, Heidelberg University

Call for Papers

Apocalyptica is an international, interdisciplinary, open-access, double-blind peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Käte Hamburger Centre for Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Studies (CAPAS) at Heidelberg University. 

Editors: Robert Folger, Felicitas Loest and Jenny Stümer

Deadline: Abstracts (250 words) are due Tuesday 9 August 2022 

Contact: publications@capas.uni-heidelberg.de


Special Issue: Nuclear Ghosts

The derealization of the ‘Other” means that it is neither alive nor dead, but interminably spectral. 

Judith Butler, Precarious Life

Nuclear politics (and anxieties!) are surging once again, negotiating a variety of fantasies, speculations, and suppositions about ‘the end of the world’. Challenging the nuclear amnesia that has characterized the post-Cold War years, such nuclear imaginaries foretell the fears and desires of a world laid to waste in an effort to popularize the end time politics of the present. Meanwhile scholars such as Karen Barad, Gabriele Schwab, Elaine Scarry, and Kate Brown have long warned about the systematic silencing of (anti) nuclear debates, theorizing the unfinished business of nuclear disaster and positing a meaningful politics of re-membering nuclear trauma. In this sense, the pressing forward of nuclear apprehensions in recent years is symptomatic of what Avery Gordon identifies as “ghostly matters” or a particular idea of haunting that allows us to “think through repressed forms of violence that bring ‘something to be done’ in the present.” In this special issue we want to summon these formations of nuclear ghosts and explore the return of the (repressed) nuclear ethos in popular culture, literature, art, politics, poetry, and philosophy.

Nuclear ghosts conjure up a critical moment or point of creative anxiety that exposes the cracks in repressive infrastructures of denial. They draw attention to the onto-epistemological ruptures and limits of the nuclear project while illuminating the political and sociocultural pressure points of nuclear threat. Nuclear ghosts thus hover at the intersection between the biopolitical and the psychological, between the ecological and the technological, the political and the intuitive, the present and the absent, then and now, critically evoking the deeply racialized and gendered genealogies of annihilating catastrophes. The ghosts we seek in this issue articulate the entanglements between atomic violence and the ongoing assaults of colonialism, sexism, capitalism, war, environmental destruction, etc., cathecting the apocalyptic ontologies of past, present, and future. They trouble dominant notions of temporality, space, and even materiality, tormenting the bruised nuclear unconscious that Derrida once evoked. Nuclear ghosts pay witness to human/posthuman atrocities and acknowledge a specific nuclear work of death as something that is simultaneously blasting and slow, too fast and too close, abstract and real. Nuclear ghosts, in other words, invoke the spectral domain of apocalyptic imaginaries in their various political scales and urgencies.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Chernobyl, and Fukushima all mark defining moments in nuclear history that have occupied collective narratives in countless ways (without necessarily generating lessons). These instances of spectacular (and spectral) extinction have produced eerie points of reference for extraordinary scenes of destruction. At the same time, the slow violence of nuclear testing contradicts notions of exceptional disaster, precisely because it forces itself upon a lived reality defying linear notions of time and injury. Nuclear violence seeps into the earth, the air, the body. Confounding notions of agency and resolution it mediates post/human sensibilities of haunting apt at unfolding the cataclysmic endurance of colonialization. The primary targets of these ongoing atrocities have been marginalized states and indigenous peoples in the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Australia, Newe Sogobia, the Christmas Islands, Hawaii, New Mexico and many more. Decolonization, in Eve Tuck’s sense, then, attends to ghosts, confronting the violent denial done to them. 

We are particular interested in contributions that face up to these nuclear hauntings, engaging the entanglements between political violence and nuclear annihilation as tethered to specific modes of (Western) domination. What are the cultural politics of nuclear haunting? How do ghosts invoke the gendered and raced violence of nuclear trauma? When and why do nuclear repressions seize to work? How do nuclear politics reconceptualize notions of temporality and materiality? How do they name the conditions of ontological insecurity and epistemological limits? Under what conditions do nuclear ghosts invite (collective) actions or meaningful narratives about life and death? What does the nuclear imaginary tell us about past, present, and future endings of the world/worlds? 

Possible contributions might explore the topic of nuclear ghosts in relation to the following themes and ideas (the list may serve as inspiration):

  • Nuclear colonialism (toxicity, sovereignty, slow death)
  • Nuclear reproductive politics  (gendered subjectivities, affect, queer perspectives)
  • Nuclear necropolitics (death worlds, race, biopolitics)
  • Transspecies ethics and posthuman entanglements (scale, matter, agency)
  • Nuclear landscapes (waste, ruins, borderlands, and margins)
  • Nuclear narratives (realism, fiction, poetics)
  • Nuclear imaginaries, motifs, and genres (film, TV, literature, music, comics, video games, art, theatre, photography, Sci-Fi, satire, comedy, melodrama, cyberpunk, dystopia and utopia, etc.)
  • Nuclear temporalities (deep time, molecular time, slow violence, haunting, etc.)
  • Nuclear trauma (the nuclear unconscious, nuclear subjectivities, nuclear memory)
  • Re-membering nuclear catastrophes (disaster fatigue, nuclear amnesia, repression)
  • Nuclear materialisms (body, pain, senses)
  • Nuclear infrastructure (architecture, design, spatiality)
  • The nuclear sublime/ the nuclear mundane
  • Nuclear diffraction (plurality, superposition, indeterminacy)
  • Nuclear desire (attachment, melancholy, mourning)
  • Anti-nuclear movements (nuclear politics and anthropogenic climate disaster)

Please send your abstract (250 words) alongside a short biographical note (50 words) to publications@capas.uni-heidelberg.de

Full papers (8,000-9,000 words) are due 1 November 2022.