Whitman College

Nuclear Colonialism: Selecting the Irradiated

Robert Jacobs

There have been over 2,000 nuclear weapon tests since 1945. These tests have deposited radioactive fallout into downwind communities where millions of people live—leaving a wake of sickness, early mortality, forced evacuations and ongoing radiological contaminations. Nuclear Weapon States have selected locations to test these weapons where the downwind populations have little political power or capacity to resist their exposures. Many are in colonial, postcolonial or trust territories. Several Nuclear Weapon States never conducted any tests inside their own countries; those that did test domestically located sites near ethnic or racial minority communities. This lecture will survey the history of atmospheric nuclear testing during the Cold War, the specifics of how communities were selected for irradiation, and their radiological legacies.



Robert Jacobs is a Professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute and the Graduate School of Peace Studies of Hiroshima City University. He is a historian of nuclear technologies and radiation technopolitics. Jacobs is the author of The Dragon's Tail: Americans Face the Atomic Age (2010), (also available in a Japanese translation published by Gaifusha in 2013), and the editor of Filling the Hole in the Nuclear Future: Art and Popular Culture Respond to the Bomb (2010), and numerous other books and journal articles on nuclear history. His curated exhibition of Cold War material culture artifacts, Nuke York, New York (2011-12), has been installed at museums and galleries in the United States. Jacobs co-founded the Global Hibakusha Project, which conducts field research at radiation affected sites and in radiation affected communities around the world. His book based on this research, Nuclear Bodies: Radioactive Decay of Self, Community and Planet, will be published by Yale University Press in 2021. In a former life, he was a chef and worked in the organic produce industry.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 7:00 pm

Virtual Event
Event Type

Environmental & Sustainability, Government, Law & Activism


Faculty, Staff, Students, General Public, Alumni


Academic, Academic Theme






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