This talk tracks the emergence of a new kind of planetary awareness after 1945, one
enabled only by systematically tracking radioactive contamination through the biosphere.
In doing do, it offers a critical theory of "fallout" as a way to consider the imbrication
of nuclear danger and climate danger today. Utilizing a wide range of visual texts,
the talk reframes the Cold War nuclear contest as part of a larger global nuclear
infrastructure of fallout generating sites. Ultimately, it offers a portrait of the
21st century as increasingly colonized by the environmental fallout of the last century
and considers the planetary scale effects of both nuclear and petrochemical industry
Joseph Masco is a professor of anthropology and on the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (1996, Princeton University Press) which won the 2014 J.I. Staley Prize from the School for Advanced Research, the 2008 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science, and was co-winner of the 2006 Robert K. Merton Prize from the American Sociology Association. His latest book is The Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror (2014, Duke University Press). His current work examines environmental crisis, with a particular focus on the intersection of scientific visualization and planetary thinking.
This talk marks the 22nd Margolis Lecture. Learn more about the series.