Uranium Afterlives

Wednesday, 24 April 2019, 6.00pm - 8.00pm

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Case Study Lecture Theatre 1050, Abercrombie Business School



University of Sydney Partnership Collaboration Grants, The Seedbox, Critical Militarization, Policing, and Security Studies Group, UC Davis

This event is part of the week-long Everyday Militarisms Collaboratory.

A Public Talk with Professor Peter van Wyck of Concordia University, Canada, with Justin O’Brien of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation (via Skype) and a screening of JABIRU 0886 : TRESPASS (by David Vadiveloo)


Drawing on material from his award-winning book, The Highway of the Atom, Peter C Van Wyck considers the event of nuclear explosion, entanglements of scale, and the possibilities of representation.

An abiding question for me has been to ask how we come to write about the nuclear. How, in other words, we come to write about nearly a century of nuclear practices and histories, territorial archives and toxic legacies, emphatic landscapes, persistent wastes and atomic exposures. If the toxicity of the present has no real ethical horizon beyond which the future could not hold us responsible, how are we to take measure of this responsibility? What is asked of us today? As Hannah Arendt figured it, “All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.” This, she continues, is because “story reveals the meaning of what otherwise would remain an unbearable sequence of happenings.” So, with story and its burdens in mind, my talk will consider some of the messy entanglements that have arisen from uranium, its many afterlives and progeny, from the point of view of my research and field work on the highway of the atom.

After watching the seminal film ‘Trespass’ audience members will have the chance to hear from Justin O’Brien, who will talk to us from his base in the Northern Territory. He will speak to the Cold War realpolitik of the development of uranium mining in the Kakadu region of Australia’s Northern Territory and the intersect between these events and the rights of traditional Aboriginal owners.

Peter C. van Wyck is Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Concordia University’s Department of Communication Studies. His work arises from his multidisciplinary training in forestry, ecological sciences, philosophy, and media studies. He has published widely on environmental themes including deep ecology and nuclear history and culture.

Justin O’Brien is currently employed as Chief Executive Officer, Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, a role he has held since October 2008. He was previously the Senior Policy Adviser to the Northern Land Council and a Senior Policy Adviser with the Northern Territory Department of the Chief Minister. Justin has worked extensively with Aboriginal communities and has published and presented widely on the history and impact of uranium mining on Mirarr Gundjeihmi country.

Registration is essential. 

The Everyday Militarisms Collaboratory (University of Sydney, 23 – 26 April) will bring together researchers, artists, activists and other professionals to generate new perspectives and dialogue on the ways in which militarisms are inseparable from everyday life. Addressing pressing questions about the sustainability of human and other life both within and outside of a militarised existence, this collaboratory brings these issues to greater academic and public scrutiny.