Wednesday November 20th - Morven Brown Room 310 - 12.30-2.00pm.
Title: Open Secrets: Ambivalent affect and deflective strategies in Kazakhstan’s nuclear histories and presents
Professor Catherine Alexander, Durham University
Between 1947 and 1989 the Soviets tested approximately 456 nuclear weapons on and in a vast tract of land in North east Kazakhstan. When the Soviet-turned-Russian Army finally returned to Russia in 1993/4 from the small town (Kurchatov) that had housed them on the edge of the test site, Kazakhstan was not only left with radioactive contamination, but lacked much of the test documentation needed to understand the effects and was plunged into poverty. Nonetheless, partly in a bid to secure remaining nuclear expertise on the site and town, the National Nuclear Centre (NNC) was set up in this isolated, once closed and secret town to spearhead Kazakhstan’s ‘nuclear renaissance’ and monitor the site. Here I track the various strategies used by the Soviets to contain and disappear this highly secret site before moving to more recent attempts by the government-sponsored NNC to be more open – including opening up a large part of the site, after 25 years of remediation and monitoring, to commercial and agricultural use. Juxtaposing these narratives and strategies with accounts from long-term residents and more recent arrivals in the town provides a sense of far more ambivalent engagements with the town and site, and attempts to contain wastes in a Soviet past and move onto a brighter nuclear future. Rather, what appears is a resistance to any kind of spatial or temporal containment, a denial of progress. I end by thinking through the consequences of assuming the site can be limited in terms of radioactive contamination.
PhD Masterclass with Prof. Catherine Alexander (Durham University)
Date: 1:00 - 3:00 PM, 22 November 2019
As part of the Silk Roads@UNSW Initiate at the School of Humanities and Languages, Prof. Catherine Alexander from Durham University is visiting UNSW in November 2019. In connection with a seminar titled Open Secrets: Ambivalent affect and deflective strategies in Kazakhstan’s nuclear histories and presents, we intend to organise a masterclass for a limited number of PhD students during her visit. In this session, Prof. Alexander will draw on her expertise on the anthropological studies in Turkey, post-Socialist Central Asia (Kazakhstan), and the UK to help research students contextualise the challenges they face in the post-fieldwork writing-up period.
It will be of interest to participants who have completed their fieldwork; and those with a research focus on the built environment, migration, waste and technology, urban studies, and economic and political anthropology are particularly encouraged to apply.
About the speaker:
Professor Alexander has carried out fieldwork in Turkey, Kazakhstan and Britain on changing relations between state, market and the third sector, the built environment, migration, waste and technology. Her most recent period of fieldwork explored how formerly elite closed ‘nuclear’ towns in Kazakhstan were trying to re-connect to broader economies.