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Radiating from the Past: Postcolonial Science in Korean Accounts of the Atomic Bombings, 1945-1965
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
University of Toronto, United States
This paper highlights the multi-faceted role that science played in Korean narratives of the atomic bombings. The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a constant feature of the post-liberation Korean press of the North and the South. During this time, the science behind the bomb acted as a marker of a futurity that circulated in ways that directly commented on the nature of the postcolonial condition. For some, atomic science simply pointed to the predominance of global hegemons and demonstrated the liberatory potential of these powers. In other accounts, the weapon pointed to the ambivalence of the postcolonial condition. Here, far from emancipatory, atomic technology bespoke an uncertain future characterized by the continuity of uneven geopolitical relations and renewed cultures of mobilization and militarization. Versions of these readings are explored first through an examination of “Science War in Korean accounts of the bombings. This line of thought suggested that the atomic bomb was a fitting resolution to a war defined by scientific competition. While such a view certainly demoted the authority of the Japanese metropole to define the future, it did little to undermine a Eurocentric view of historical progress. A corresponding section takes up the forms of foreboding solicited by the bombings. This sentiment is first explored through the cases of Korean atomic bomb survivors and their experience of interpellation into a postwar community that was physiologically unable to leave the fact of the bombings in the past.