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Countering Racism and Other Structures of Exclusion and Domination in Teaching and Research on Nuclear Issues

Traditional mainstream scholarship on nuclear weapons, arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament tends to overlook how these issues are embedded in multiple interacting structures of racism, exclusion, domination and exploitation at work in the world and the many and diverse struggles against these structures. The readings below are an initial selection of scholarly and other works for academics, professionals and activists seeking to engage with alternative frameworks of ideas, institutions, and policy action on these issues.

The readings are currently organized in six broad areas:

To offer additional suggestions, please email


Nuclear Disarmament

This section highlights the diversity of perspectives and contributions to nuclear disarmament, including the social movements, legal measures and argumentation that have shaped progress on the issue.

  • Acheson, Ray. Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021. This book offers a feminist, queer, postcolonial analysis of nuclear weapons and a first-hand account of the process to ban nuclear weapons that lead to the adoption of a UN treaty.
  • Acheson, Ray. “Feminist Solution: Abolishing nuclear weapons,” in Feminist Solutions for Ending War, ed. Megan Mackenzie, London: Pluto Press, 2021. This chapter explores the ways that feminist, queer, and Indigenous analysis and activism can help inform strategies for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
  • Rozsa, George G. “The Nevada Movement: A Model of Trans-Indigenous Antinuclear Solidarity,” Journal of Transnational American Studies 11, no. 2 (2020): 99–123. This article describes the transnational Indigenous antinuclear activism modeled by Western Shoshone and Kazakh collaborations to close the nuclear weapon test sites in the United States and Soviet Union.
  • Biswas, Shampa. “Nuclear Harms and Global Disarmament,” In The Age of Hiroshima, eds. Michael D. Gordin and G. John Ikenberry, Princeton University Press, 2020. This essay unpacks the idea of “the global” as it relates to nuclear disarmament and why there needs to be a re-conception of it to allow for recognizing the historical specificities of different nuclear experiences within a more universal shared experience.
  • Bolton, Matthew. “The ‘-Pacific’ part of ‘Asia-Pacific’: Oceanic diplomacy in the 2017 treaty for the prohibition of nuclear weapons,” Asian Journal of Political Science 26, no. 3 (2018): 371-389. This article explores how the negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was influenced by the history of nuclear weapon testing in Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and French Polynesia/Te Ao Maohi; the 1985 South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone’s precedent; and earlier diplomatic efforts and activism linking denuclearization with decolonization. It argues that Pacific and other formerly colonized states flipped the ‘standard of civilization’ script embedded in humanitarian disarmament law and applied it to their former colonizers. The paper demonstrates the agency of small states—the ‘-Pacific’ part of ‘Asia-Pacific’—in multilateral policymaking on peace and security, often overlooked in international relations scholarship.
  • Abraham, Itty. “Decolonizing arms control: the Asian African Legal Consultative Committee and the legality of nuclear testing, 1960–64,” Asian Journal of Political Science 26, no. 3 (2018): 314-330. Abraham shows how international law was rapidly leveraged by newly independent states in the global struggle against nuclear weapons. The article frames decolonization as an important force for progressive change in the international system.
  • Crunch, Emma, Boylan, Jesse, and Romuld, Gem. “Queers against the nuclear industry,” 3CR Community Radio, Podcast audio, 17 November 2018. This radio interview explores queer resistance to nuclear weapons and queer analysis of patriarchy and power in relation to the nuclear weapon and nuclear power industries.
  • Acheson, Ray. “Keynote Address on Nuclear Disarmament,” The New School, May 2018. As an activist and leader on nuclear disarmament, Acheson discusses the road to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, including the intersecting roles of activists, diplomats and civil society.
  • Acheson, Ray. “The nuclear ban and the patriarchy: a feminist analysis of opposition to prohibiting nuclear weapons,” Critical Studies on Security 7, no. 1 (April 2018): 1–5. Acheson illuminates how banning nuclear weapons can be read as an act of challenging patriarchy and building space for alternative approaches to politics, including feminist and human-security-based approaches.
  • Mathur, Ritu. “Techno-Racial dynamics of denial & difference in weapons control,” Asian Journal of Political Science 26, no. 3 (2018), 297-313. Introduces the concept of ‘techno-racism’ to bring attention to the complex interplay of racial and technological considerations in the everyday practices of arms control and disarmament. It demonstrates the power of these discourses with reference to the memory and representation of Hiroshima.
  • Indigenous Statement to the UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Negotiations. New York, United Nations, June 2017. Karina Lester, a Yankunytjatjara-Anangu woman from South Australia whose family survived British nuclear weapon testing, delivered this statement at the negotiations of the nuclear ban treaty. Critiquing the racism and colonialism of nuclear weapon testing and production, the statement was signed by 35 Indigenous organizations and communities around the world.
  • Zak, Dan. Almighty: Courage, Resistance, and Existential Peril in the Nuclear AgeNew York: Penguin, 2017. This book examines the Catholic Workers activism against nuclear weapons, focusing in particular on their break-in at the Y-12 nuclear weapon facility.
  • Chan, Maritza. “Non-Nuclear Weapons States Must Lead in Shaping International Norms on Nuclear Weapons: A Practitioner Commentary,” Global Policy 7, no. 3 (September 2016): 408–410. In this article, a Costa Rican diplomat explains why non-nuclear-armed states are taking the lead for the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
  • Intondi, Vincent J. African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015. Intondi tells the story of those black activists who fought for nuclear disarmament by connecting the nuclear issue with the fight for racial equality.
  • Memorial of the Marshall Islands, Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament, Marshall Islands v. United Kingdom, International Court of Justice, 16 March 2015.
  • Hayashi, Nobuo. “Presentation on Moral Imagination and Nuclear Weapons,” Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Vienna, Austria, 9 December 2014. This presentation explores the limitations posed by consequentialist claims about nuclear weapons and instead urges us to think about how nuclear weapons in relation to morality, using examples such as torture to make the case.
  • Eschle, Catherine. Gender and the Subject of (Anti)Nuclear Politics: Revisiting Women’s Campaigning against the Bomb,” International Studies Quarterly 57, no. 4 (2013): 713-724. Argues that multiple, differently gendered constructions of the antinuclear campaigner were in play during the Cold War and have since been reconfigured in ways that reflect and reproduce the shift to a post-Cold War context.
  • Acheson, Ray, ed. Beyond arms control: challenges and choices for nuclear disarmament. New York: Reaching Critical Will, 2010. Highlights the prospects and pitfalls for nuclear disarmament in the current world order and discusses why nuclear disarmament must be pursued in the context of a broader movement for social and economic justice and equality.
  • Ritchie, Nick. “Relinquishing nuclear weapons: identities, networks and the British bomb.” International Affairs 86, no. 2 (2010): 465-487. Examines the complexity of nuclear disarmament through a sociological lens using Britain as a case‐study.
  • Wittner, Lawrence S. A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement. Stanford University Press, 2009. This is the summary volume of the pioneering three volume series The Struggle Against the Bomb detailing the history and impacts of the contentious politics for nuclear disarmament around the world since 1945: One World or None: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement Through 1953, Stanford, 1993; Resisting the Bomb: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1954-1970, Stanford, 1997; Toward Nuclear Abolition: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement, 1971-Present, Stanford, 2003.
  • Cohn, Carol, Felicity Hill, and Sara Ruddick. The Relevance of Gender for Eliminating Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, No. 38 (2006). The authors provide a feminist perspective on the proliferation and possession of WMD, particularly nuclear weapons, and highlight the ways in which gender norms influence discourse and policy.
  • Cohn, Carol and Sara Ruddick. “A Feminist Ethical Perspective on Weapons of Mass Destruction.” In Ethics and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Religious and Secular Perspectives, edited by Sohail H. Hashmi and Steven P. Lee. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. This chapter analyses weapons of mass destruction and discusses nuclear disarmament from an anti-war feminist tradition.
  • Kothari, Smitu and Zia Mian (eds.). Out of The Nuclear Shadow, Zed Press, London, 2002. A compilation of essays by scholars and activists as well as statements, appeals and actions highlighting the diversity of voices, traditions, and approaches that weaved themselves into an anti-nuclear movement in India and Pakistan after the nuclear weapon tests of 1998.
  • Sangari, Kumkum, Neeraj Malik, Sheba Chhachhi, and Tanika Sarkar. “Why Women Must Reject the Bomb.” In Out of Nuclear Darkness: The Indian Case for Disarmament, New Delhi: Movement in India for Nuclear Disarmament, 1998. An anthology prepared by Indian antinuclear activists, this chapter provides insight from a feminist perspective into India’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and the nuclear situation in South Asia.
  • Thompson, E.P. “Notes on Exterminism, The Last Stage of Civilization,” New Left Review, Issue 121, May/June 1980. A seminal essay that shaped the ideas and politics of the European nuclear disarmament movement in the 1980s. It offers the category of exterminism as a set of characteristics of a society, its economy, its polity and its ideology which lead it through policies for the accumulation and perfection of military means towards the goal of extermination and the need therefore for disarmament efforts to focus on reshaping the entire economic, scientific, political and ideological support-system to nuclear weapon system and the social system which researches it, "chooses" it, produces it, polices it, justifies it, and maintains it in being.
  • Myrdal, Alva. The Game of Disarmament: How the United States and Russia Run the Arms Race. New York: Pantheon Books, 1976. Former Swedish diplomat Alva Myrdal offers insightful and critical perspectives on the history of nuclear disarmament negotiations and the manipulative gamesmanship of the two leading nuclear powers.


Nuclear Strategy and Deterrence

Each of these readings challenges in some way the notion that deterrence is primarily derived from the realist security dilemma or the cause of stability in the international system.

  • Egeland, Kjølv. “The Ideology of Nuclear Order.” New Political Science 43, no. 2 (2021):  208–230. The pursuit of nuclear order is often portrayed as a “pragmatic” or “practical” compromise between unconstrained nuclear anarchy, on the one hand, and prompt steps toward nuclear disarmament, on the other. In this article, the tools of ideology critique are used to conceptualize the discourse and practices of nuclear order as a political ideology that has entrenched extant power structures and constrained the space for political action.
  • Pelopidas, Benoît. “The unbearable lightness of luck. Three sources of overconfidence in the controllability of nuclear crises.” European Journal of International Security 2, no. 2 (July 2017): 240–262 and “Power, luck and scholarly responsibility at the end of the world(s).International Theory 12, no. 3 (November 2020): 459–470. These two pieces show the role of luck in the absence of unwanted nuclear explosion so far and challenge the idea that it was achieved through perfect control. They also show how retrospective illusions of control, which invisibilize the role of luck, as well as a survivability bias, are produced.
  • Hurlburt, Heather, Elizabet Weingarten, Alexandra Stark, and Elena Souris. The “Consensual Straitjacket”: Four Decades of Women in Nuclear Security. Washington, DC: New America, 2019. This report relies on interviews with women with the US nuclear weapon policy establishment to investigate the ways in which nuclear war planning and policymaking are gendered.
  • Pelopidas, Benoît. “Nuclear Weapons Scholarship as a Case of Self-Censorship in Security Studies,” Journal of Global Security Studies, 1, No. 4 (November 2016):  326-336. Argues that the acceptance of common narratives about deterrence and nonproliferation serve to limit criticism of nuclear policy, exclude other voices, and privilege only certain versions of what constitutes nuclear scholarship.
  • Ritchie, Nick. “Pathways to Nuclear Disarmament: Delegitimising Nuclear Violence,” paper for the UN Open-ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament, Geneva, Switzerland, 11 May 2016. This working paper deconstructs the validity of nuclear deterrence through the international discourse shift of devaluing and delegitimising nuclear weapons through their prohibition.
  • Berry, Ken, Patricia Lewis, Benoît Pélopidas, Nikolai Sokov, and Ward Wilson, Delegitimizing Nuclear Weapons: Examining the Validity of Nuclear Deterrence. Monterey: James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 2010. Provides a critique of deterrence using traditional positivist analyses and critical inquiry but within the confines of the standard international relations literature.
  • Ritchie, Nick. “Deterrence Dogma: Challenging the Relevance of British Nuclear Weapons,” International Affairs 85, no. 1 (2009): 81–98. This article critiques the UK’s nuclear deterrence policy and practice.
  • Duncanson, Clare and Catherine Eschle. “Gender and the Nuclear Weapons State: A Feminist Critique of the UK Government’s White Paper on Trident.” New Political Scientist 30, no. 4 (2008): 545–563. Looks at the connections between gender and discourses of the nuclear-armed state to develop an analysis of the ways in which gender operates in the White Paper published by the UK government in 2006 on its plans to renew Trident nuclear weapons.
  • Gusterson, Hugh, “Nuclear Weapons and the Other in Western Imagination,” Cultural Anthropology 14, no. 1 (1999): 111-143. Explains the proliferation of nuclear weapons by focusing on discourse and the tendency to divide the world into “us” and “them.” The result is a critique of U.S. deterrence that makes more obvious its inherent racist, colonial, and power-based claims and exposes deterrence as an excuse for the exercise of U.S. power, not a universal set of behavioral rules based upon power relations between states.
  • Tannenwald, Nina. “The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Normative Basis for Nuclear Non-Use,” International Organization 53, no. 3 (Summer 1999): 433-468. In contrast to the realist argument that uses power discrepancies to explain the non-use of nuclear weapons, this article argues that a norm has developed against their use and that key instances of U.S. cold war history are best explain in terms of this norm.
  • Oakes, Guy, The Imaginary War: Civil Defense and American Cold War Culture (Oxford University Press, 1994). Using U.S. civil defense films, Oakes argues that the American government played on racial concerns to elevate the white suburban nuclear family as the key to surviving nuclear war and to convince Americans to support defense programs.
  • Mueller, John. “The Essential Irrelevance of Nuclear Weapons,” International Security 13, no. 2 (Fall 1988): 55-79. Uses deterrence but without nuclear weapons as the basis for explaining the absence of major power conflict during the Cold War.
  • Cohn, Carol. “Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals,Signs 12, no. 4 (Summer 1987): 687–718. Using an analysis of the gendered discourse prevalent in nuclear strategy and war planning, Cohn offers feminist perspectives on the ways in which the violence in inherent in nuclear deterrence is normalized through sanitized language and emotional distancing.
  • Marullo, Sam. “The Ideological Nature of Nuclear Deterrence: Some Causes and Consequences,” The Sociological Quarterly 26, no. 3 (1985): 311-330. Discusses deterrence as an ideology rather than a theory based on power politics. As an ideology, the function of deterrence is to make sense of the world for a group of people and to help organize the state to pursue policies that benefit that group. As an ideology, deterrence is allowed to exist without the need to resolve any of its many internal contradictions. It also enables a justification for a continued arms race and investing and profiting from weapons but not defenses.


The Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapon Programs

This section focuses on the human impact of nuclear weapon and energy programs at both global and community levels, as well as the security narratives that rely on this technology.

  • Broad, William J. “The Black Reporter Who Exposed a Lie About the Atom Bomb.” The New York Times, August 9, 2021.     An article about Charles H. Loeb, a Black war correspondent whose writing portrayed the extent of radiation-related sickness and death in the wake of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus exposing a major cover up by the U.S. military of the nature of radiological warfare.
  • Tuncak, Baskut. “Nuclear testing’s discriminatory legacy must never be forgotten.” United Nations Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights, 16 July 2020. A statement from the UN special rapporteur on toxics marking the 75th anniversary of the first nuclear weapon test, which draws attention to the violations of human rights and to the racism inherent to nuclear testing.
  • The human cost of nuclear weapons,” International Review of the Red Cross, No. 899, July 2016. This special issue looks at nuclear weapons from the perspective of survivors, journalists, writers, lawyers, humanitarian practitioners and other experts, to examine the human cost and the emergence and early impacts of the humanitarian turn in global nuclear politics.
  • Olson, Mary. “Human consequences of radiation: A gender factor in atomic harm,” New York: United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, 2016, 26-34. Looks at the disproportionate and differential impacts of radiation on women and girls.
  • Fihn, Beatrice, ed. Unspeakable suffering: the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. New York: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 2013. This compilation of essays explains the impact of nuclear weapons on health, the environment and agriculture, and the economy and development.
  • Acheson, Ray, ed. Costs, risks, and myths of nuclear power. New York: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 2011. This anthology of perspectives from activists and academics provides various critiques of nuclear power as well as reporting on the impacts of the nuclear power industry from communities around the world, six months on from the Fukushima disaster.
  • Roy, Arundhati. “The End of Imagination.” Frontline, July 15, 1998. The essay looks at how India’s pursuit of nuclear weapons impacts the ideas and practice of community, nation, development, and justice.

Community-centered Works

  • Gomez, Myrriah. Nuclear Nuevo México: Colonialism and the Effects of the Nuclear Industrial Complex on Nuevomexicanos. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2022. This work reveals the interaction between settler colonialism and nuclear colonialism in New Mexico. It re-centers the voices of the Nuevomexicanas/os and examines the legacy of Los Alamos that left the communities in New Mexico suffering the health and economic impacts of the nuclear weapons and commercial industries from the days of the Manhattan Project till today. 
  • Peter, Daphne, Marcina Langrine, Joyce Hirose, Neimony Netwan, Trina Marty, and Benetick Kabua-Maddison. “A Journey Home.” Outrider, May 25, 2021. A community poem by young Marshallese students reflecting on the meaning of home amidst dislocation, migration, and persistent nuclear radioactivity and climate change woes.
  • Aguon, Julian. The Properties of Perpetual Light. Guam: University of Guam Press, 2021. A collection of ruminations by a Guamian lawyer and activist. A blend of poetry and prose, it explores the injustices resulting from colonialism, militarism, and nuclearism on his island.
  • Alexis-Martin, Becky, Matthew Breay Bolton, Dimity Hawkins, Sydney Tisch, and Talei Luscia Mangioni. “Addressing the Humanitarian and Environmental Consequences of Atmospheric Nuclear Weapon Tests: A Case Study of UK and US Test Programs at Kiritimati (Christmas) and Malden Islands, Republic of Kiribati.” Global Policy 12, no. 1 (2021): 106–121. This article addresses the humanitarian and environmental consequences of nucleal weapons test detonations in the Republic of Kiribati and subsequent policy interventions. It suggests the framework of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons for victim assistance and environmental remediation to be an adequate route for addressing survivors’ needs and rights.
  • Bahng, Aimee. “The Pacific Proving Grounds and the Proliferation of Settler Environmentalism,” Journal of Transnational American Studies 11, no. 2 (2020): 45–73. Using nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands as a case study, this article explores the role played by “green” transnational institutions like the United Nations in perpetuating settler colonial dynamics and argues that aid, protection, and environmental remediation can become tools to further domination if bestowed by the very institutions that have permitted the impoverishment, military aggression, and environmental devastation of the global South in the first place.
  • Amundsen, FionaandFrain, Sylvia C., “The Politics of Invisibility: Visualizing Legacies of Nuclear Imperialisms,” Journal of Transnational American Studies 11, no. 2 (2020): 125–151. This article argues that mainstream, state-sanctioned images of nuclear weapon testing in the Pacific invisibilise the militarisation and nuclear devastation imposed on the region. It engages with the work of two artists to amplify local perspectives on the impacts of nuclear weapons and to examine the power inherent to imagery.
  • Schwartz, Jessica A. “Radiation Songs and Transpacific Resonances of US Imperial Transits,” Journal of Transnational American Studies 11, no. 2 (2020): 153–171. This article uses the music of Marshall Islanders affected by US nuclear weapon testing to expose the ways in which US nuclear imperialism has worked to silence those with lived experience of the bomb.
  • Alexis-Martin, Becky. "The nuclear imperialism-necropolitics nexus: contextualizing Chinese-Uyghur oppression in our nuclear age." Eurasian Geography and Economics 60, no. 2 (2019): 152-176. Draws on the work of Achille Mbembe’s necropolitics, whereby power is persistently exercised as violence, to consider the entangled aftermath of nuclear imperialism and its effects to Uyghur bodies, environment and culture.
  • Hawkins, Dimity. Addressing Humanitarian and Environmental Harm from Nuclear Weapons: Monte Bello, Emu Field and Maralinga Test Sites, Commonwealth of Australia. New York: International Disarmament Institute, 2018. This article addresses the humanitarian, human rights, and environmental consequences of nuclear legacy in Australia, from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing, to UK and French nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific, to uranium mining and nuclear waste disposal projects. It calls on the Australian government to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to address ongoing concerns.
  • Runyan, Anne Sisson. “Disposable Waste, Lands and Bodies under Canada’s Gendered Nuclear Colonialism.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 20, no. 1 (2018): 24–38. This article reveals gendered aspects of nuclear waste disposal policymaking in Canada. It shows how undermining the perspectives of especially Aboriginal women has historically played a crucial role in furthering the appropriation of Aboriginal land.
  • Jetnil-Kijiner, Kathy and Dan Lin. “Anointed.” April 2018. Through this visual poem, acclaimed poet and activist Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner explores the nuclear testing legacy of the Marshall Islands through the legends and stories of Runit Island.
  • Johnson, Taylor N. “The most bombed nation on Earth’: Western Shoshone resistance to the Nevada National Security Site.” Atlantic Journal of Communication 26, no. 4 (2018): 224–239. This article explores a set of protests challenging U.S. occupation of the Nevada Nuclear Test Site as a means of understanding the deployment of bordering rhetorics in colonial expansion and indigenous resistance.
  • Maurer, Anaïs. "Nukes and Nudes: Counter-Hegemonic Identities in the Nuclearized Pacific." French Studies 72, no. 3 (2018): 394-411. Shows how the French nuclear tests conducted in Oceania function as a structuring principle informing both the politics and the poetics of Pacific francophone literature, most remarkably in recurrent critiques of hybridity and in metaphorical evocations of the physical toll that nuclear testing has had on island populations.
  • Maclellan, Nic. Grappling With the Bomb: Britain’s Pacific H-Bomb Tests. Canberra: ANU Press, 2017. Provides a history, based on archival research and interviews with survivors, of the UK’s 1950s program to test the hydrogen bomb, code name Operation Grapple. In 1957–58, nine atmospheric nuclear tests were held at Malden Island and Christmas Island—today, part of the Pacific nation of Kiribati.
  • Tynan, Elizabeth. Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2016. A history of British nuclear testing at Maralinga in South Australia, including the domestic politics and the impact on people and land.
  • Voyles, Traci Brynne. Wastelanding: Legacies of Uranium Mining in Navajo Country. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.A history of the uranium industry on Navajo land in the U.S. Southwest, asking why certain landscapes and the peoples who inhabit them come to be targeted for disproportionate exposure to environmental harm.
  • Brown, Kate. Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Drawing from oral histories and government records, Plutopia is a micro-history about the nuclear age as seen through two nuclear towns: Ozerk, Russia, and Hanford, Washington. Brown shows how the nuclear industry in both towns created differentiated forms of citizenship, involving surveillance, secrecy, and corporate control.
  • Iversen, Kristen. Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats. New York: Broadway Books, 2013. This story offers the history of nuclear weapon production in Colorado based on personal experience, extensive interviews, FBI and EPA documents, and class-action testimony.
  • Jacobs, Robert. “Nuclear Conquistadors: Military Colonialism in Nuclear Test Site Selection during the Cold War,” Asian Journal of Peacebuilding 1, no. 2 (2013). Examines the selection of nuclear test sites for each of the five major nuclear powers both in the reaches of their military empires and their own domestic landmasses.
  • Spitz, Chantal. Island of Shattered Dreams. Trans. Jean Anderson. Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2007. First novel by an indigenous Tahitian. A family saga and romance set against the backdrop of the colonization of French Polynesia and nuclear testing in the Pacific.
  • Johnston, Barbara Rose (Ed.). Half-Lives and Half-Truths: Confronting the Radioactive Legacies of the Cold War. Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research Press, 2007. A collection of essays by anthropologists and activists addressing the health and environmental impacts of the legacies of the US and former Soviet nuclear war machines and the actions undertaken by the various stakeholders in response.
  • Masco, Joseph. The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. An anthropological study of the long-term consequences of the Manhattan Project for the people that live in and around Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb, and the majority of weapons in the current U.S. nuclear arsenal, were designed.
  • Frohmberg, Eric, Robert Goble, Virginia Sanchez, and Dianne Quigley. “The Assessment of Radiation Exposures in Native American Communities from Nuclear Weapons Testing in Nevada.” Risk Analysis 20, no. 1 (March 2000): 101–111. Explains the impact of nuclear weapon testing on Indigenous communities in Nevada, and the ways in which official tracking of contamination has failed to account for much of this impact.
  • Zohl de Ishtar. “Pacific Women Speak Out for Independence and Denuclearisation.” The Raven Press, 1998. A joint publication by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Disarmament and Security Centre, and Pacific Connections. This collection of personal testimonies from Indigenous women throughout the Pacific tells of the impacts of invasion and war, nuclear weapons systems, nuclear testing, militarization, human rights abuses, sexism, tourism, non-Indigenous settlement, mining, industrialization, imposed economic dependency and other manifestations of colonization.
  • Teaiwa, Teresia K. “Bikinis and Other S/pacific N/oceans.” The Contemporary Pacific 6, no. 1 (1994): 87–109. This essay juxtaposes the genealogies of nuclear testing on the Pacific Islands and the bikini bathing suit to show the convergence of militarist and tourist notions. The implications of this convergence are exposed through feminist, Marxist, and psychoanalytic critiques.
  • Eichstaedt, Peter H. If You Poison Us: Uranium and Native Americans. Sante Fe: Red Crane Books, 1994. A history of how America’s entry into the nuclear age injured, and continues to impact, Native Americans and their communities.
  • Danielsson, Bengt, and Marie-Thérèse Danielsson. Poisoned reign: French nuclear colonialism in the Pacific. Penguin, 1986. Traces the history of French nuclear involvement in the Pacific and shows how the tests have been used to strengthen colonial rule in Polynesia.
  • Johnson, Walter and Sione Tupouniua. “Against French Nuclear Testing: The A.T.O.M. Committee.” The Journal of Pacific History 11, no. 4 (1976): 213–216. An account of the activities of the Against Testing on Mururoa (A.T.O.M.) committee of Fiji in the early seventies in protest against French nuclear testing in the Pacific and towards a nuclear-free Pacific.


Nuclear Weapons and Power in the Global System

The readings below discuss the relationship between nuclear weapons and state power in the international system. Collectively, they challenge the idea that nuclear weapons are primarily a tool for state security.

  • Egeland, Kjølv, and Hebatalla Taha. “Experts, activists, and girl bosses of the nuclear apocalypse: feminisms in security discourse.Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung (2023). This article examines contemporary practices in nuclear policy fields in the United States that are purportedly feminist in that they seek to promote gender equity and workplace diversity and overcome gendered norms. It is argued that while many of these practices may be well intentioned, they are an appropriation of critical feminist practices, serving to polish the image of a nuclear industry upholding the status quo and boost recruitment into the fold – all while diluting feminist notions originally geared towards anti-militarism and nuclear disarmament.
  • Egeland, Kjølv. “Sustaining social license: nuclear weapons and the art of legitimation.” International Politics 60 (2023): 598-615. This article investigates the mechanisms pursued by nuclear-armed governments and defense contractors for the legitimization of nuclear weapons, i.e., to spread societal acceptance of the continued development and deployment of nuclear weapons. These mechanisms serve to ultimately shield nuclear weapons from contestation attempts.
  • Egeland, Kjølv and Benoît Pelopidas. “No such thing as a free donation? Research funding and conflicts of interest in nuclear weapons policy analysis.” International Relations (2022). Based on empirical investigation of 45 of the world's top foreign policy think tanks, the authors found all of them to be financially linked to donors with vested interests in the continued retention of nuclear weapons and the perpetuation of the extant nuclear order – these donors being either nuclear defense contractors or governments espousing nuclear deterrence. The authors also show how stakeholder funding impacts knowledge production and intellectual freedom. Most significantly, stakeholder funding influences which perspectives gain a platform.
  • Hamblin, Jacob Darwin. The Wretched Atom. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021. This book studies efforts to promote nuclear technologies globally from World War II to the end of the 20th century. It re-tells the history of the U.S.’s “Atoms for Peace” program to explore the motivations for encouraging civilian nuclear programs in the ‘Third World.’ In doing so, Hamblin argues that the promotion of ‘peaceful’ nuclear technologies by the West was in fact implicated in the exercise of state power, global trade manipulation, and the reinforcement of racism and colonialism.
  • Taha, Hebatalla. “Misremembering the ACRS: economic imaginations and nuclear negotiations in the Middle East.” Global Affairs 7, no. 3 (2021): 327–342. This article examines the political economy of Arab–Israeli peacemaking in the first half of the 1990s, specifically the multilateral working group on Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS). It focuses on the misplaced memorialization of the ACRS process as a lost opportunity for the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, which has resulted in a continuous “return” to ACRS in policy discussions. The article contends that rather than producing mechanisms for disarmament, the ACRS process was part of a larger economic restructuring and served as a platform for militarized economic relations.
  • Assuring destruction forever. New York: Reaching Critical Will of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 2020. This anthology explores the nuclear weapon modernization programs in each of the nine nuclear-armed states, including the socioeconomic costs of these programs.
  • Malloy, Sean, “When You Have to Deal with a Beast: Race, Ideology, and the Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb”, in Michael D. Gordin And G. John Ikenberry, eds., The Age of Hiroshima, eds., Princeton University Press, 2020.
  • Maurer, Anaïs and Hogue, Rebecca H. “Special Forum Introduction: Transnational Nuclear Imperialisms,” Journal of Transnational American Studies 11, no. 2 (2020): 25–43. This article introduces a series of articles in a special edition of the Journal looking at nuclear imperialisms, which the authors describe as an update to the concept of nuclear colonialism. In addition to introducing the articles in the series, this introductory pieces also elaborates on the various oppressions and harms related to the nuclear weapon complex in current and former sites of empire.
  • Egeland, Kjølv. “Who stole disarmament? History and nostalgia in nuclear abolition discourse,” International Affairs 96, no. 5 (2020): 1387–1403. Exploring the (lack of) progress made toward nuclear disarmament, this article argues that the nostalgic narrative of a lost abolitionist consensus is used to rationalize the existing nuclear order and delegitimize the pursuit of new approaches to elimination such as the movement to stigmatize nuclear weapons and the practice of nuclear deterrence.
  • Egeland, Kjølv. “Spreading the Burden: How NATO Became a ‘Nuclear Alliance’,” Diplomacy & Statecraft 31, no. 1 (2020): 143–67. This article traces the debates and actions leading to the development of NATO’s nuclear doctrine, highlighting in particular the gendered bullying employed by the nuclear-armed members to ensure that NATO became a nuclear alliance in order to provide cover for the deployment of and investments in nuclear weapons.
  • Marissa Conway, Carina Minami, “Feminism, Power, & Nuclear Weapons: An Eye on the P5,” The Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy, October 2020. This collection of articles from civil society thinkers on feminism and nuclear policy address what it means for the nuclear policy of P5 states to engage in feminist approaches to these issues.
  • Ritchie, Nick and Egeland, Kjølv. “The Diplomacy of Resistance: Power, Hegemony and Nuclear Disarmament,” Global Change, Peace and Security 30, no. 2 (2018): 121–141. This article looks at the global humanitarian initiative to challenge the perceived legitimacy of nuclear weapons, framing it as a transnational social movement comprised of activists and diplomats.
  • Acheson, Ray. “Foregrounding Justice in Nuclear Disarmament: A Practitioner’s Commentary,” Global Policy 7, no. 3 (2016): 405–407. Acheson discusses how injustice and inequity are fundamental to the possession of nuclear weapons, and how a gender perspective illuminates and challenges structures of power that sustain nuclear weapons.
  • Biswas, Shampa. Nuclear Desire: Power and the Postcolonial Nuclear Order. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014. Biswas argues that efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons deflect attention from a hierarchical global nuclear order dominated by powerful states and capitalist interests that benefit from the status quo.
  • Das, Runa. “United States – India Nuclear Relations Post-9/11: Neo-Liberal Discourses, Masculinities, and Orientalism in International Politics.” Journal of Asian and African Studies 49, no. 1 (2014): 16-33. Examines the U.S.-India relationship to explore the masculine and colonial security relationship the underpins their nuclear dialogue.
  • Ritchie, Nick. “Valuing and Devaluing Nuclear Weapons.” Contemporary Security Policy 34, no. 1 (2013): 155–159. Explores how nuclear weapons remain deeply embedded not only in strategic thinking and force postures, but also in our political cultures in ways that assign multiple, powerful socio-political values to the bomb.
  • Hecht, Gabrielle. Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2012. Hecht offers an interdisciplinary study of the entanglements of the global uranium industry to examine the epistemological status of “being nuclear.” By studying the uranium industry in Africa in particular, she argues that nuclearity is inextricable from global structures of power and colonialism.
  • Eschle, Catherine. “Gender and Valuing Nuclear Weapons.” Working Paper for Devaluing Nuclear Weapons: Concepts and Challenges, University of York, Department of Politics, 20–21 March 2012. Outlines different feminist conceptualizations of gender and connects these to notions of value. It also reviews feminist arguments about pro-nuclear masculinities and explores these arguments illuminate the value attached to nuclear weapons.
  • Maddock, Shane J. Nuclear Apartheid. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. This book characterizes the history of the US-Soviet arms race as one of ‘nuclear apartheid’ in which American nonproliferation policy focused on maintaining nuclear primacy and global supremacy by limiting nuclear technology to a handful of states. It explores the racialized logic that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. projected to the decolonizing world in the years before the negotiation of the NPT as well as in later years, from entertaining doubts in the intentions of scientists in the developing world to nuclear sharing arrangements.
  • Abraham, Itty. South Asian Cultures of the Bomb: Atomic Publics and the State in India and Pakistan. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010. An interdisciplinary compilation of essays on the pluralities of state and social processes in Pakistan and India engagement with nuclear weapons as a way to understand the nuclear age as both a specific national condition and a global condition.
  • Jones, Matthew. After Hiroshima: The United States, Race and Nuclear Weapons in Asia, 1945–1965. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. A history of American policy in Asia between the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan and the escalation of the Vietnam War. Jones offers insights into the links between racial sensitivities and the conduct of US policy.
  • Das, Runa. “Colonial legacies, post-colonial (in)securities, and gender(ed) representations in South Asia’s nuclear policies.Social Identities 16, no. 6 (2010): 717–740. Through a comparative study of India and Pakistan's national security discourses, this article explores the linkages between post-colonial India and Pakistan's nationalist/communalist identities, configurations of masculinities, and gendered representations underpinning their nuclear (in)securities.
  • Harrington de Santana, Anne. “Nuclear Weapons as the Currency of Power: Deconstructing the Fetishism of Force.” The Nonproliferation Review 16, no. 3 (2009): 325-245. Explores the similarities between the pattern of behavior Karl Marx identified with respect to commodities—a pattern he called “fetishism”—and the pattern of behavior of military force. This article lays out a theory of nuclear fetishism and shows that nuclear weapons represent a new social form consistent with, yet distinct from, other fetish objects.
  • Abraham, Itty, “The Ambivalence of Nuclear Histories,” Osiris 21, no. 1 (2006): 49-65 (Special Issue: Historical Perspectives on Science, Technology and International Affairs). This essay questions the common practice of seeing nuclear histories as national histories and of framing them as part of a discourse of control and instability in which countries are seeking to build and test nuclear weapons and change the terms of their engagement with the international order. It highlights the role and kinds of international collaboration that go into making “national” nuclear programs, and also shows weapons building is by no means a universal end of all nuclear programs, and that such programs are best understood as one of a family of state-led public big-technology projects and the pursuit of national modernity.
  • Barkawi, Tarak and Mark Laffey, “The Postcolonial Moment in Security Studies,” Review of International Studies 32, no. 2 (2006): 329-352. This essay challenges the Eurocentric nature of security studies in the nuclear age and the legitimacy of the possession and use of force. It suggests the politics of security studies is that of the powerful and hinders an adequate understanding of the security and strategic concerns of the majority of humankind, who are seen as ‘weak.’

Science, Technology, and Security

The selections below do not all address nuclear weapon issues specifically but offer ideas that may be useful for exploring nuclear weapons, their politics, and contexts.

  • Ritchie, Nick. “Irreversibility and Nuclear Disarmament: Unmaking Nuclear Weapon Complexes.” Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament 6, no. 2 (2023): 218-243. The paper draws on Science and Technology Studies concepts to present a framework for thinking about irreversible nuclear disarmament. A state's nuclear weapons complex is accordingly interpreted as a large sociotechnical system. Disarmament at the state level then entails dismantling all the materials, competences, tacit knowledge, meanings, and institutions underpinning the complex while actively inventing the governance structures to oversee the complex's discontinuation and prevent re-entrenchment.
  • Egeland, Kjølv, Thomas Fraise, and Hebatalla Taha. “Casting the atomic canon: (R)evolving nuclear strategy.” European Journal of International Security 7, no. 3 (2022): 382-399. This essay interrogates the field of security studies’ underlying assumptions and questions the correspondence between theory and practice in the realm of nuclear policy. The authors maintain that the study of nuclear strategy remains largely committed to an interpretive approach that invites analysts to search for universal axioms and to abstract strategic arguments from the precise circumstances of their occurrence. While this approach is useful for analyzing the locutionary dimension of strategic debates, it risks obscuring the power structures, vested interests, and illocutionary forces shaping nuclear discourse. In the conclusion, the authors lay out avenues for future scholarship.
  • Wajcman, Judy. “Feminist theories of technologies.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 34, no. 1 (2009): 143-152. Wajcman engages feminist scholarship and science and technology studies to highlight the continuities as well as the differences between contemporary and earlier feminist debates on technology and explain how processes of technical change can influence gender power relations.
  • Visvanathan, Shiv. “On the Annals of the Laboratory State,” In A Carnival for Science: Essays on Science, Technology, Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Proposes that science can “encode a structure of domination and violence,” especially when combined with post-colonial discourses of progress and development.
  • Latour, Bruno. “Drawing Things Together,” In Representation in Scientific Practice, edited by Lynch and Woolgar, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990. Articulates several of Latour’s ideas about the role of materiality and power in social construction of knowledge.
  • Haraway, Donna. “Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective.” Feminist Studies 14, no. 3 (1988): 575–599. Haraway posits that by acknowledging and understanding the contingency of one’s own position in the world, and hence the contestable nature of one’s claims to knowledge, subjects can produce knowledge with greater objectivity than if they claimed to be neutral observers.
  • Harding, Sandra. The Science Question in Feminism. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1986. Harding provides a critical survey of the role gender plays in science and the scientific enterprise.
  • Winner, Langdon. “Technology as Forms of Life,” and “Do Artifacts Have Politics?” In The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in the Age of High Technology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. Discusses how politics can become embedded into technology; explores examples of racial exclusion through civil engineering design.
  • Oren, Ido and Solomon, Ty. “Weapons of Mass Destruction: Historicizing the Concept,” History of Global Arms Transfer, 10 (2020): 121-144. This is a great analysis of how the category of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ is socially constructed and therefore changes in particular eras and contexts. The authors undertake a rhetorical analysis of the use of the concept of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in multiple discourses since the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the George W. Bush administration with the possession of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ as pretext. The article reveals the historical contingency of the use of the concept, its legal fuzziness across its history of use, and its essentially politically contestable nature. The authors argue that ultimately, the concept was used to construct the Iraqi threat rather than describe a threat, aided in this task by a host of rhetorical tactics.
  • Agathangelou, Anna M. and L.H.M. Ling. Transforming World Politics: From Empire to Multiple Worlds. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. The book introduces the notion of a Neoliberal Imperium to capture the hegemonic project constituted by practices, institutions, and structures such as global capitalism, the neoliberal state and its market, the complicit academy including the discipline of international relations, and relations based on property and fear. Through the new lens and framework of ‘multiple worlds’ or ‘worldism’, the authors attempt to recover the very subjectivities that the hegemonic project attempts to discredit and erase and thus explore the possibility of more sustainable worlds.