Knowing by Being Intimate
Prof Sophie Houdart, Laboratoire d’Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative, Université Paris Nanterre/CNRS
29 April 2021. Recording available below.
In the small town of Tôwa, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, about 50 km from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, residents stayed in their home after a disaster in March 2011 substantially altered the composition of their environment. A magnitude 9 earthquake off the coast of Tohoku triggered a tsunami that left more than 18,000 people dead and missing, and led to a level 7 nuclear accident. The radioactive plume escaping from the damaged reactors spread to more than 100 km, creating random pockets of contamination on the territory. Riddled with these “leopard spots”, the Tôwa Valley was not considered sufficiently contaminated, however, for an evacuation of the population to be considered. Since then, they have learned to live with radioactivity, measuring but also observing its behaviour, the way it moves, where it tends to concentrate, what it tends to cohabit with, what it tends to attach to. In this presentation, I will focus on what is articulated in the empirical frequentation of a place like Tôwa by farmers, agronomists, or social scientists. I will try to describe how knowledge of what is happening in a radioactive regime can only be produced by the intimacysation, so to speak, of the links that unite people to contaminated places.
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This seminar is part of the Making the unknown knowable seminar series. Click here to read more