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Sustainable Futures Lecture: Rahul Mukherjee, "Mediating Radiant Energies..."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 4:30pm

A. D. White House, Guerlac Room
29 East Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

Society for the Humanities + Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
Annual Lecture on Sustainable Futures

Rahul Mukherjee
Society for the Humanities/Atkinson Center Fellow; Dick Wolf Assistant Professor of Television and New Media Studies, Cinema and Media Studies program (Department of English), University of Pennsylvania

Mediating Radiant Energies: Proximate Exposures and Cultures of Regulation 

With radiant infrastructures such as cell towers and nuclear reactors, there is both the material spread of radiant energies (signals and radioactivity) and the mediated fears of such (im)perceptible emanations and potential leaks. In this talk, I examine the mediation of controversies around these two infrastructures. Siting of radiant infrastructures is often prone to debates about exposure: contacts between radiation and human flesh. Even when experts pronounce particular distances from radiant infrastructures and specific threshold levels of radiation to be absolutely safe, bodies of affected communities rebel. The regulator’s predicament involves balancing entwined sustainability concerns: sustaining calls/data traffic and energy needs and at the same time sustaining citizens’ health. In particular, I focus on how media mobilize “situated testimonies” to bolster “anecdotal evidence” of “lay” citizens. Documentaries and television shows incorporated biomedical imaging and assemblage aesthetics to probe, trace, and (ap)prehend the molecular level encounters of human (and nonhuman) bodies with radioactive isotopes and electromagnetic signals. Such an attention to the wavy and fluid radiant energies helps to theorize radiant infrastructures in ecological terms, and thereby begin to address the environmental issues sparked by them.

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Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Society for the Humanities


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