Lynch’s essay explores the divergence between the symbolic imaginary of nuclear power and the imaginative terrain of environmentalism through a look at documentary film about the civilian nuclear industry. Lynch first analyzes several films about US antireactor activism produced in the 1970s and 1980s, showing how they manifest the codependence of antireactor activism and environmentalism. She then turns to recent films that look more broadly at the industrial processes involved in nuclear power creation. Drawing on disparate strands of scholarly inquiry— including ecocriticism, documentary theory, and science studies— Lynch reads these newer documentaries to illuminate how changing political, material, and economic realities have reshaped how opponents of nuclear energy imagine the relationships between body, place, and planet. She suggests that this reimagining is predicated on a complex global sensibility far more sophisticated than that embraced by past US opponents of nuclear power, as these newer films bring to mind what ecocritic Ursula Heise has described as “eco-cosmopolitanism” or “environmental world citizenship.” This latter group of films, in fact, serves as a model for cosmopolitan environmental discourse, thus broadening the applicability of Heise’s revisionary critique into a reconsideration of environmentalism as represented in documentary film.
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June 1, 2012
Lisa Lynch; “We Don’t Wanna Be Radiated”: Documentary Film and the Evolving Rhetoric of Nuclear Energy Activism. American Literature 1 June 2012; 84 (2): 327–351. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-1587368
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