Nuclear Iconography in Post-Cold War Culture

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Nuclear Iconography in Post-Cold War Culture I wish in this paper to sketch a project involving nuclear iconography and post-Cold War culture. At the heart of this project is the claim that the current historical moment forms a legitimation crisis for the scientific, military, industrial, governmental, and "cultural" institutions whose interests are configured in the design, manufacture, deployment, and "use" of nuclear weapons. Within this moment, a variety of progressive and regressive movements have been intitiated through the production and reception of nuclear weapons rhetoric. The role of visual iconography in nuclear hegemony has traditionally received minor attention (e.g., compared with the "nukespeak" of foreign policy, mass media news coverage, and literary works). Recent scholarly articles and books have attempted to correct this verbalist imbalance by examining the genres and discourses of nuclear art (e.g., painting), cinema and photography. Collectively, this work establishes that the Bomb is -- after W.J.T. Mitchell -- an "imagetext" in which verbal and iconic discourses interanimate to produce ways of (not) seeing and forms of (not) feeling that have historically positioned cultural subjects in relation to the technologies, policies, figures, locations, events, and institutions (in both senses as "customary practices" and "formal organizations") which have constituted the nuclear condition . . . "Now Do You See It?": Post-Cold War Nuclear Iconography I am interested in the role of visual rhetoric in maintaining this "war of position" between military, environmental, arms-control, pacifist, industrial, scientific and federal interests [in post-Cold War culture]. Issues in this research include the nature of verbal and visual codes in nuclear representations (e.g., in critical disagreement over the success of nuclear landscape photography in evoking viewer knowledge of the deadly, invisible radiation which "really" suffuses its depicted objects), the uses to which images are put in various social contexts (e.g., in museum exhibits commemorating the Japanese atomic bombings), and the consequences of images for existing power relations between nuclear authorities and citizens (e.g., in legitimating the "accelerated" -- and arguably incomplete -- cleanup of contaminated nuclear weapons plants by federal agencies and their contractors) . . . . . . A preliminary survey of prominent nuclear weapons images suggests [this] "new" theme in this process, unique to the post-Cold War era . . . . . . "Museumification" This theme describes the inter-related processes by which the partially decrepit and moribund nuclear apparatus is being dismantled, appropriated, recycled, commodified, and memorialized in contemporary culture (e.

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