Facing a Toxic Object

Nuclear Waste Management and its Challenges for Nature-Culture-Relationships

in Nature and Culture
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  • 1 Institute of Sociology, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany schuerkm@uni-mainz.de
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Abstract

Over the past decades, industrial societies have produced a range of substances whose effects humans increasingly identify as toxic—a prominent example is radioactive waste and the question of its disposal. This fabricated “object of modernity” not only calls for the knowledge of the natural sciences, it also affects society at large in its immense challenge of figuring out how to dispose of this material and altogether “detoxify” society from its hazardous activity. The contribution develops a heuristic perspective on toxic objects, exemplified by analyzing documents with a focus on how different societal actors in Germany problematize high-level radioactive waste (HLW) in the context of finding a repository site. The perspective on toxic objects aims to strengthen a more nuanced view of “modern” relationships between human action and material activity with regard to hazardous socio-chemical fabrications as a consequence of an objectified nature.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Christiane Schürkmann is Research Fellow at the Institute of Sociology, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Germany). She finished her dissertation project in 2015 with an ethnographic study on artistic practices in the field of visual arts. Since 2017, she is speaker of the Research Group “Posthuman: Perspectives on Nature/Culture” at the Research Center of Social and Cultural Studies Mainz (SOCUM). Her research interests lie in the fields of Environmental Sociology, Phenomenology, Posthuman Theories, Science and Technology Studies, Sociology of Art, Sociology of Knowledge and Sociology of Materialism. Her habilitation project focuses on nuclear waste management and effects of toxic materials. ORCID: 0000-0002-9701-0082. E-mail schuerkm@uni-mainz.de

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