Colloque, 22 octobre 2010

The Post Cold War Nuclear Optic; Or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and See the Bomb

Robert Hariman
John Louis Lucaites
Imaginaires du présent: Photographie, politique et poétique de l’actualité, événement organisé par Vincent Lavoie et Mirna Boyadjian

The chances for nuclear conflagration seem more serious at this moment in time than perhaps anytime since the first fateful explosion at Hiroshima some 60 years ago. And yet, images of nuclear explosion seem to be lost to public consciousness, largely out of circulation. The problem is in some measure a function of how the original images of nuclear explosion were quickly domesticated as part of a “democratic sublime” that we characterize as a “cold war nuclear optic.” This nuclear imaginary has eventually given way to more contemporary instances of “Shock and Awe” animated by what we characterize as a “post-cold war nuclear optic.” In this presentation we draw upon the allegorical reading strategy we develop in No 
Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy to examine the transformation of the nuclear imaginary as a function of a shifting optical consciousness.

Robert Hariman is professor in the program of rhetoric and public culture, department of communication studies at Northwestern University.

John Louis Lucaites is professor of rhetoric and public culture in the department of communication and culture at Indiana University and an adjunct professor of American studies.

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