Repetition and Sustainability
News 26th May 2022
Today The Beam brings together academic experts of diverse disciplines with members of the nuclear industry for a one-and-a-half-day workshop in Liverpool exploring the entanglements and tensions that arise between ‘the repetitive’ and ‘the sustainable’ in, and beyond, nuclear discourse and practice.
The interdisciplinary workshop will include a visit to the University of Liverpool’s Digital Innovation Facility and feature scholarly talks and discussions amongst academics and nuclear industry professionals with overlapping interests, exploring how intersections of repetition and sustainability arise in their respective fields of research and analysis.
Paying attention to ‘repetition’ is anthropologically interesting because repetition involves engagement with different times and temporalities, and highlights themes (such as experience, memory, performance, change, rupture, continuity, and transformation) which resonate with nuclear operations, both in the construction, decommissioning, or repurposing of nuclear infrastructures and in the industry’s engagement with surrounding communities.
The workshop is designed to encourage knowledge exchange between academic and nuclear professionals with a view to shaping a research agenda that may form the basis for future collaborative grant applications.
This event builds on research undertaken by The Beam since 2017. According to The Beam’s Petra Tjitske Kalshoven, who is co-organising the workshop:
“Our on-going ethnographic fieldwork in West Cumbria at the Sellafield nuclear facilities, in Somerset at Hinkley Point C, and on the UK’s siting process for a geological disposal facility for nuclear waste, shows that repetition is pertinent to the nuclear world, both to create new situations and to return to a previous state (re-processing, re-mediation, re-packaging, re-pairing, re-branding, re-trieval).
“I’m pleased that through our affiliation with the University of Liverpool, we are able to bring together scholars specialising in such a range of areas, from anthropology to management studies, computer science and robotics to art history with people from the nuclear industry, for this event.
“The nuclear industry likes to insist on ‘innovation’ and is keen to derive insights from social science research. At the same time they highlight a focus on ‘sustainability’, which implies continuity and endurance. So we want to explore questions such as: To what extent is repetition a creative (or innovative or performative) act? How do nuclear professionals approach the relationship between innovation and repetition? In what circumstances can repetition be considered a sustainable activity? To what extent is ‘sustainability’ a repackaging of ‘repetition’?
“With the workshop we hope to make an innovative intervention ourselves by exploring the links between our anthropological interest in repetition (as a human engagement with temporalities) and the industry’s discourse on sustainability, expecting to generate insights that are theoretically of interest to our academic participants and perhaps enlightening for the industry.”