I’ll be giving the following talk at the “Popular Culture, Religion, and the Anthropocene” workshop at the National University of Singapore this coming week.
Navigating the Zone of Alienation: Chernobyl and the Anthropocenic Sublime
This two-part talk will interpret the Chernobyl nuclear accident and its “Zone of Alienation” (Zona vidchuzhennia) as a microcosm of the explosive tensions held together within the nucleus of the Anthropocene.
Its first part will situate the 1986 nuclear accident within a series of overlapping and nested geo-temporal reference frames, including Western and Soviet “technological sublimes”; Cold War militarism and the post-Soviet resurgence of Westphalian nationalism; cinematic and science-fictional “zones” associated with zombies, stalkers, and posthuman futures (with special reference to Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker and its uptake within popular and video gaming cultures); and the deep time of the Anthropocene.
The second part of the talk will apply Peircian semiotics and Whiteheadian metaphysics toward understanding the Anthropocene as a challenge calling for a new mediation of the relationship between carbon-capitalist industrialism and a dynamic Earth. It will focus on the role of the arts, particularly the “arts of place” and of environmental and climate justice, and of sites of socio-ecological suffering and paradox (like Chernobyl), in the development of narratives adequate to navigating the rapids of the Anthropocene and its “beyond.”