The Everyday Politics of Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence

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Dr Laura Considine is an Associate Professor in International Politics at the University of Leeds and co-Director of the Centre for Global Security Challenges. Her current work focuses on conceptualizing nuclear weapons in international politics, feminist and everyday approaches to nuclear weapons and nuclear narratives. Her work has been published in International Affairs, International Theory, Review of International Studies and the European Journal of International Relations.

There are roughly 13,000 nuclear weapons in the world, sustained by a vast global production and maintenance complex. Nuclear weapons are also deeply connected to other pressing issues such as environmental destruction, social injustice and public health. Their politics is not just that of geopolitics or international treaties, but of everyday life.

The ‘everydayness’ of nuclear weapons includes the situated everyday practices of nuclear deterrence and the extensive political and economic activities involved in maintaining a nuclear weapons complex. My project aims to make visible the extent of the machinery needed to produce nuclear deterrence. Rather than being an inevitable, self-perpetuating practice, nuclear deterrence requires vast resources and political will. I intend to study the everyday politics that produce nuclear deterrence in the United States by conducting fieldwork in two sites of the nuclear weapons complex that process and store waste from nuclear weapons. These are the Savanah River Site in South Carolina and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. This research will allow me to analyse the ways in which nuclear weapons sites impact on places and peoples, how communities make trade-offs between socio-economic realities and living in the shadow of nuclear weapons, and how the everyday politics of nuclear weapons influence and are influenced by wider political dynamics.