Radioactive Governance: The Politics of Expertise after Fukushima
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This dissertation focuses on Japanese public and state responses to the release of radioactive contamination after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. I argue that the Fukushima nuclear disaster has led to the emergence of new forms of expertise in governing radioactive risks. These include techniques of governance that attempt to normalize peoples relationships with nuclear matter as an everyday concern. They also include decentralized strategies that empower victims of the disaster by providing access to technoscientifc practices of radiation monitoring and delegating radiation protection from the state to the citizens. My findings uncover a major shift in how societies have formerly organized responses to radioactive risks. In the aftermath of nuclear accidents, scholars have criticized central authoritarian decisions, in which state management of radioactive hazards was associated with politics of secrecy, victimhood, or public knowledge deficit. At stake in Fukushima is an increased normalization of citizens relationship with residual radioactivity, which is transformed into an everyday concern, rather than being represented as something exceptional. This is not only done by state experts, but equally via the increased activity of citizen scientists that collectively monitor residual radioactivity. My research is a significant departure from traditional sociocultural works that predominantly focus on micro-scale studies, such as how prior sociocultural factors influence a group understanding of radioactive risks. By highlighting major shifts in the structure of expertise and the regulation of life amidst toxic exposure, my research highlights how the management of contamination risks is evolving in an era where the impacts of modernization represent permanent marks on the planet.