The Politics Of Invisibility: Public Knowledge About Radiation Health Effects After Chernobyl

Hardcover | July 25, 2014

byOlga Kuchinskaya

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Before Fukushima, the most notorious large-scale nuclear accident the world had seen was Chernobyl in 1986. The fallout from Chernobyl covered vast areas in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe. Belarus, at the time a Soviet republic, suffered heavily: nearly a quarter of its territory was covered with long-lasting radionuclides. Yet the damage from the massive fallout was largely imperceptible; contaminated communities looked exactly like noncontaminated ones. It could be known only through constructed representations of it. In The Politics of Invisibility, Olga Kuchinskaya explores how we know what we know about Chernobyl, describing how the consequences of a nuclear accident were made invisible. Her analysis sheds valuable light on how we deal with other modern hazards -- toxins or global warming -- that are largely imperceptible to the human senses.

Kuchinskaya describes the production of invisibility of Chernobyl's consequences in Belarus -- practices that limit public attention to radiation and make its health effects impossible to observe. Just as mitigating radiological contamination requires infrastructural solutions, she argues, the production and propagation of invisibility also involves infrastructural efforts, from redefining the scope and nature of the accident's consequences to reshaping research and protection practices.

Kuchinskaya finds vast fluctuations in recognition, tracing varyingly successful efforts to conceal or reveal Chernobyl's consequences at different levels -- among affected populations, scientists, government, media, and international organizations. The production of invisibility, she argues, is a function of power relations.

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Before Fukushima, the most notorious large-scale nuclear accident the world had seen was Chernobyl in 1986. The fallout from Chernobyl covered vast areas in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe. Belarus, at the time a Soviet republic, suffered heavily: nearly a quarter of its territory was covered with long-lasting radionuclid...

Olga Kuchinskaya is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Pittsburgh.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:264 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.44 inPublished:July 25, 2014Publisher:The MIT PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0262027690

ISBN - 13:9780262027694

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"This meticulously researched and sensitively argued book shines a light on the little-known public health crisis Chernobyl created in Belarus and the coping strategies adopted by local citizens, largely abandoned by their government, who had to live in an environment haunted by invisible radioactive contamination. The efforts of local researchers, activists, and health officials to make the extent of the catastrophe visible were overwhelmed by regional politicians, international organizations, and journalists telling a story about the 'radiophobia' of Chernobyl's victims. Drawing adeptly on the science studies literature, Kuchinskaya makes an important and original argument about the effort that is required to make a disaster visible. This book will be of interest to readers in environmental studies, public health, Russian politics, communication studies, and nuclear policy."