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Hideaki Fujiki

Ecological Reality as Contesting Global Imaginations: Documentary on Radioactive Waste (16.02.2021)

Documentary is not simply a neutral medium to record reality. Rather, it participates in the social imaginations of reality as a contested terrain. This paper discusses how documentaries activate the imaginations of radioactive waste. While many documentaries and scholarly discourses have tended to localize and nationalize the issues of radiation since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident, radiation is fundamentally a global matter in that it is produced and distributed through the transnational network from the front end (uranium mining) to the back end (nuclear waste disposal), is supported by the economic and political worldwide network, and may damage the entire earth. Moreover, supposed that the only way to dispose radioactive waste is to bury it in the deeply excavated repository (1,710 feet underground in the case of Onkalo, Finland), radioactive waste literally and symbolically epitomizes the Anthropocene, the geological epoch in which humans have intervened in the planet to a significant degree. But, at the same time, this very abstract and gigantic nature makes it difficult for us to imagine radioactive waste. It is against this background that documentaries have played vital roles in bringing concrete imaginations about the social and ecological reality. Taking Waste: The Nuclear Nightmare (Éric Guéret, 2009) and Charka (Shimada Kei, 2017), among others, for case studies, I will explore how these documentaries alike problematize radioactive waste but evoke different imaginations of it. It is particularly interesting to see how a film shows radioactive waste as the otherwise invisible global material and institutional reality in which radioactive waste are unevenly distributed so that privileged people can enjoy their electric lives by at once exploiting and marginalizing other people near these sites.

// Prof. Dr. Hideaki Fujiki (Nagoya University)

Hideaki Fujiki is a professor for the Japan-In-Asia Cultural Studies program


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