Decolonizing anti-nuclearism and thinking peace


IN October 2020, eighty-six countries from across the world ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) calling for a total abolishment of nuclear weapons. The treaty prohibits its fifty state parties ‘to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, stock-pile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and bars signatories from acquiring or transferring nuclear weapons or carrying out any activities prohibited in the treaty.’1 Many anti-nuclear weapons and peace activists, among other stakeholders, recognize the treaty for categorizing nuclear weapons along with chemical and biological weapons that pose ‘catastrophic humanitarian consequences.’2

Under the hopeful disguise of TPNW lurks a demand for global peace that was propelled by the Bandung Conference of 1955 and the Pugwash movement that started in 1957, struggles that endorsed the spirit of anti-colonialism, anti-racialism and anti-imperialism. Twelve of the twenty-nine countries that participated in the anti-colonial Bandung conference signed the 2020 TPNW. However, historically, demands for global peace through complete disarmament were derailed as ‘non-proliferation’ of nuclear weapons became ‘the catchword’ and the partial lens, used in arguing for global peace.3

In this paper, I first explicate the conditions that led to the hijacking of anti-imperialist, anti-colonial, anti-racialist peace struggles by cold war imperial powers and the forms of violence embedded in it. In the next section, I comment on taking critical approaches to historiographies of nuclearism and anti-nuclearism via Itty Abraham’s work on Critical Nuclear Studies.4 I then analyze ethnographic material to reflect on the emergent meanings of peace and non-violence which is anti-patriarchal and centres health and embodiment as practice in the non-violent resistance by People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. In conclusion, I hitch my reflections with Shiv Visvanathan’s call for Planetary Peace that involves the revival of the Pugwash movement and a notion of anti-nuclearism that addresses knowledge and violence in experiments with peace.

The Bandung Conference was a coalition of anti-colonial struggles that desired to forge an Asian-African organization which questioned imperialist and racist powers and practices. It is also important to note here that a movie on the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing was screened at the first Bandung Conference in 1955.5 Hence, anti-nuclearism was also in the immediate purview of the Bandung Conference. As Jayaprakash states, the conference braided together ideologies of ‘complete nuclear disarmament and abolition of colonialism’ and ‘anti-racialism’.6 While the coalition’s desire for an Asian-African anti-colonial organization remains unrealized, the Bandung Conference paved the way for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).7

The NAM is a recognized coalition of Global South countries aligned against imperial powers. It was formed to secure the independence of developing countries ‘in face of complex international situation demanding allegiance to either of the two warring superpowers’, namely, the US and the USSR during the cold war.8 NAM’s member states resisted joining any military blocs during the cold war.
In his 2018 address to the General Assembly of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Chair of NAM in Geneva, Jorge Veloro, reiterated the group’s ‘principled positions on nuclear disarmament’ as ‘its highest priority’. In this way, we get to see how commitments to complete nuclear disarmament, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, and anti-racialism sentiments made postwar peace movements possible.

However, as N.D. Jayaprakash notes, the signing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 dissipated peace movements like Pugwash and Bandung that called for complete disarmament.9 The call for complete [nuclear] disarmament as anti-nuclearism and for peace in Pugwash and NAM, was hijacked by principles of nuclear non-proliferation fostered by the cold war superpowers. The imperialistic forces hijacked peace movements concerning nuclearism and defined it through non-proliferation, thereby pushing anti-imperialist, anti-colonial and anti-racialist sentiments of the Pugwash, Bandung conferences and the NAM to the background. With these sentiments, an imagination about peace and a critique of violence as embedded in these conferences and peace movements were sidelined by scientific calculations about minimizing nuclear risks through non-proliferation tactics.

However, even today, the cold war debates dominate works on nuclear weapons and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.10 The predominance of cold war imaginaries in nuclear debates, both in the sciences and the social sciences, can be owed to the imperialist hijacking of anti-nuclearism and peace movements. The predominance of the cold war powers, their vocabularies strung through rationalities of ‘risk’, ‘control’ and ‘proliferation’ in nuclear discourses, artifacts and technologies, proliferates what Kuletz terms as ‘nuclear colonialism’.11

Valerie Kuletz in her book,  The Tainted Desert, maps out ‘the geography of sacrifice’ – transformations in indigenous landscapes of North America brought about by ‘racism, militarism and economic imperialism embedded in nuclear activities carried out in the region that has led to the violence against and marginalization of indigenous peoples and their colonized land.12 She highlights that nuclearism as perpetuated through racist, military and imperial activities enables U.S. internal colonialism.13 The secretive nature of nuclear activities, does not make them invisible – they come to be in documents and archives sooner or later – but rather the people who live in these nuclearized regions (predominantly indigenous and tribal peoples across regions) and their knowledge systems are rendered invisible.

The ‘nuclear episteme as linked to an epistemology of deceit and denial’ further facilitates the ongoing colonization of not just radioactive lands but of minds, Gabriele Schwab claims.14 At one level, authorities deny any kind of radioactive contamination in the lands that nuclear activities are carried out thus making radioactive contamination of peoples’ lands and their bodies invisible. At another level, the subjects of the nuclearized world deny or wilfully ignore the impending ‘nuclear threat’ leading to a psychic splitting that enables us to live under it.

Nuclear colonialism is here to stay until a quasi-anti-anti-nuclearism in the form of non-proliferation exists. Further, technological rationalities of ‘risk’, ‘safety’, ‘control’ and ‘proliferation’ (that social science analysis spend so much labour into investigating) and rhetoric like ‘the plant is safe’ are spun out in lieu of a public health investigation when local people living in nuclearized regions sense something abnormal in their surroundings or experience illnesses. These rationalities, rhetorics and vocabularies enables deceit and denial by the officials and the general public thereby solidifying the nuclear episteme. As Valerie Klutz shows, the technological and secretive language of the nuclear discourse often tries to silence people’s ‘forms of knowledges’ and vocabularies in public debates and communication around nuclear affairs thereby perpetuating what Boaventura Santos calls ‘epistemicide’ or violence against knowledge systems that are often marginalized and colonized by hegemonic knowledge system.15

I will explicate the above argument of Klutz later in the part on epistemic/corporeal violence at Kudankulam
based on what I witnessed in the satyagraha (non-violent resistance) by People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, Idinthakkarai. Embedded in forms of colonialism, the technological rationalities and vocabularies and the nuclear episteme perpetuate forms of violence that sustains the nuclearization and colonization of the mind; this produces nuclear subjectivities that are shaped by such practices of denial and deceit. Against this, Gabrielle Schwab presses on ‘the urgent imperative to both decolonize and denuclearize the mind’ (xiii). The satyagraha practiced by PMANE at Kudankulam illuminates how such a process looks like. To do away with the colonial duress – the ‘mute condition of [imperial and colonial] constraint’ in nuclear studies, a critical approach to nuclear studies hence has to also first, take a critical approach to historiographies of nuclearism and anti-nuclearism.16 Second, it has to attend to Itty Abraham’s call for a ‘Critical Nuclear Studies’. Before we go into Critical Nuclear Studies, I would first like to address critical approaches to historiographies of nuclearism and anti-nuclearism.

A critical approach to historiographies of nuclearism and anti-nuclearism involves both a critical inquiry of histories about nuclearism and also interrogating the approaches to such histories in the social sciences. Sociologist Vinay Lal in Thesis Two: Postcolonialism Has Had Nothing
to Say about the Imperialism of Categories, claims that postcolonial thought has not paid attention to the imperialism of categories in the practice of social science in post-colonies and categories such as nation state, literacy, development, growth, poverty, and scarcity that are used in social science analysis are actually borrowed from western knowledge systems. Lal finds these categories wanting and claims that the social scientist who use these categories ‘establishes an imperialism of categories.’17

Nuclear social studies in India reduce the nuclear debate as a problematic of statehood-nationalism-citizenship taken together. Premising a political science approach, these institutional analyses that interrogate notions of statehood, nationalism and citizenship in a nuclear state take the centre stage in Indian nuclear studies.18 Such analyses frame anti-nuclear protestors as dissenters and scientific and national institution as hegemonic and secretive and attend to the powers relations between scientific developments, nation-state, and people/citizens. The trend in analysis is reproduced by and reproduce an ‘imperialism of categories’ akin to Vinay Lal’s critique.

In 2016, Itty Abraham called for critical nuclear studies as a field to overcome nuclear order analyses that centres atomic publics – social formations consisting of ‘active and retired scientocrats, bureaucrats, diplomats, senior armed forces personnel, [select] politicians, policy-oriented journalists [and] academics’ that ‘enter public arena in some form or the other.’19 In decentering atomic publics, he stresses on the imperative for a critical nuclear studies that could produce an ‘archive of “disguised”, “insufficiently elaborated”, “inadequate” and “naïve” nuclear knowledges’ of people.20

The current trend in India’s nuclear studies neglect the everyday processes of becoming irradiated as experienced by people living around nuclear sites which constitutes the archive of naive nuclear knowledges. What is neglected include the way people make sense of health, peace and non-violence from their subject positions, identities, situations, standpoints and practices of resistance. The recent works like Rahul Mukherjee’s Radiant Infrastructures and Raminder Kaur’s Kudankulam: The Story of an Indo-Russian Nuclear Power Plant effect a change in this trend. The most candid of Vinay Lal’s critiques of postcolonial thought is his critique that while postcolonial thought assiduously addresses the varied forms of violence embedded in ‘the politics of nation-making and nationalism’s complicity with colonialism’, it ‘had almost no time to spare for a pragmatic, ethical, or even philosophical consideration of non-violence.’ To that list, I would add peace.


India’s campaign for anti-nuclearism in its anti-colonial struggles namely the 1955 Bandung Conference and later NAM applied to the context of nuclear weapons only. While, at the time of these anti-colonial struggles and peace movements, the scientist Homi Bhabha was designing and laying the grounds for India’s three-stage nuclear energy programme. The aim of India’s nuclear programme was to shift from an open uranium based nuclear fuel cycle that’s currently operational to a closed thorium based nuclear fuel cycle in its third stage. India has one-third of the world’s thorium resources along its coastline. Homi Bhabha reasoned that if India was to be self-reliant and energy independent, it had to necessarily shift towards a thorium based nuclear fuel cycle.

After the Pokhran test, as India faced international outrage for using radioactive material supplied to it for peaceful purposes to test nuclear bombs, the three-stage nuclear programme came to define India’s nuclear aspirations and ambitions  more specifically. The reliance on locally produced radioactive material would first free India, a non-signatory to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, from global proliferation concerns and regulatory constraints and second, free India from international agreements on peaceful use of radioactive material that comes with the import of radioactive material. India’s nuclear fuel cycles that constitute mines, processing facilities, fuel complexes, power plants, and waste repositories, shape how India can remain a nuclear state be it in energy or in weaponry. Concerns about peaceful coexistence is as compelling for those who suffer radiation contamination owing to nuclear energy related activities as much as those who live under the impending threat of nuclear war.

While many works continue to problematize ‘peaceful use of nuclear energy’, the question of peace and further, non-violence as it applies to nuclear energy remains unaddressed.21 Kostovicova et al. in their analysis of everyday practices of peace or peace from below claim that scholarship on peace building has been ‘preoccupied with peace agreements and their institutional effects.’22 To fill this gap, they call for an analysis of peace that’s ‘below the level of peace agreements’ and remark that ‘approaches from above regard the everyday as passive and unconscious, failing to take into account how individuals daily and actively deliberate and practice these notions [of concern].’23

In the Indian context, the nuclear fuel cycle as a heuristic of nuclearism not just concerns institutions and regulations; the fuel cycle also comes to be an assembly of people living in these sites, sharing, learning from, and imagining with others who are becoming irradiated and, they actively produce knowledge about radiation contamination – an aspect I will talk about in the section that deals with peace/non-violence as health. The PMANE inspired by Gandhian principles of non-violence and led by local people living around the KKNPP provides a fertile ground to understand conversations on peace and non-violence in the context of nuclear energy. I remarked how analyses of India’s nuclearism has to go beyond the strict boundaries of political theory and form a consortium of theoretical lenses that are empirically grounded, as called for by Abraham.24

On similar lines to the critique by Abraham is Visvanathan’s work, ‘On Saying NO to Nuclear Energy’. In his essay, he highlights how the current crisis in Kudankulam is attributable to the current categories of analysis used to explicate its complexity namely, energy, security, efficiency, development, progress, and cost.25 He then states that the Kudankulam controversy should be regarded ‘as a village sunvai (meeting), as a civil society debate, as a policy issue by nation state and science, as a plane-tary fable and a civilizational dialogue.’26 These dimensions for Visvanathan,
form ‘the pentagram of the Nuclear Debate.’27 He remarks, ‘[n]uclear energy brings out the theologian in us and the feminist. A housewife is a body of knowledge.’28 Such a statement critiques both esoteric expertise and expert hegemony. This addresses the second aspect of a critical approach to nuclear studies, that is, to analyze the construction of nuclear subjectivities be they general public, people living in nuclearized zones, technoscientists, bureaucrats, etc.

This paper and my work at large are an effort to archive the subjugated knowledges of radiation exposure in and around KKNPP. But this archiving effort recognizes the people of Kudankulam as not just bodies that passively receive radioactive dosage but embodied people who actively produce meanings and explanation concerning radiation illness, contamination, peace, and non-violence; they are epistemic bodies, or bodies that know. To explicate this, in this next section, I carry out an analysis of the meanings of peace/non-violence and illnesses as emergent from the everydayness of the social movement against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, India namely, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE).

Kudankulam, a district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, houses a total of six nuclear reactors making it the largest nuclear power station in the country. The aim is to make it into a nuclear power park. In March 2011, the people of Kudankulam watched the images and video of the blast in Fukushima Daiichi NPP spewing ‘radiation’ into surrounding areas after suffering major damage from a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. Following the Fukushima disaster, around 8000 people, including the local people of Kudankulam, mobilized, and demonstrated – a protest that lasted nearly two years, until 2013.

As days went by and the protest failed to weaken, the state reciprocated with excessive force and restraining measures to curb the mobilizing power of the protesters. Section 144 was imposed in the locality prohibiting any assembly of people. Protesters who engaged in demonstrations were charged under Section 124A, the draconian law against sedition in India, and other laws for waging war against the Government of India and for promoting enmity between different groups. They were labelled ‘terrorists’.

Besides labelling them as terrorist, the scientific authorities also mark the people of Kudankulam as uncivilized/savages, and uneducated people who are prone to be deceived by events like Fukushima which they claim will never happen in Kudankulam.29 These acts of labelling are epitomic of colonizing and imperial approaches to ‘others’ or the colonized subjects. Naturally, in light of the protests, the nuclear authorities of KKNPP took it on themselves to educate the fisherman folks. As Ashis Nandy claims, ‘[c]olonialism minus a civilizational mission is no colonialism at all.’30 Coupled with such public communi-cation programmes that are imbued with and preach technological rationalities and vocabularies, there was significant discursive effort towards rendering the Kudankulam protests as one driven by fear of what happened in Fukushima while KKNPP has witnessed protests against it since the 1980s.31 These earlier protests hue people’s memories while the 2011 protest are recorded in the institutional and hence, popular memory and imaginaries.

A shopkeeper in Kudankulam told me that the conception that protestors are uneducated Christian fisherman folks is wrong because farmers and Hindu priests are also involved in the protest.32 He was not pleased and rightly so, with how Idinthakkarai, a village in Kudankulam district which is predominantly comprised of fishing communities, was pronounced as Headquarters of PMANE by its lead organizer, S.P. Udayakumar. He further told me to talk to the women of Kudankulam who he felt would have more information that ‘I’, as a woman anthropologist, would like. Forms of internalized colonialism, patriarchy and communal sentiment structures the hierarchical relationships in the protest. However, for Idinthakkarai fisherwomen like Melrit (I quote) ‘the protestors fought for their future and of ours and as children of one Mother and beyond caste and religious dynamics.’33

In 2017, during my fieldwork, a women respondent claimed that S.P. Udayakumar had brought Gandhi into their home by mobilizing PMANE as the anchor of their lives. She remarked that PMANE brought forth an understanding and the importance of non-violence/peace in the communities that the men of the community no-more (which I read as try not to) ‘take out their anger’ on the women of the community. I understood that in waging a non-violent struggle,
or in Melrit’s words, ‘a struggle that doesn’t take arms’ or satyagraha, the men of the community questioned the patriarchal tendencies and their approach towards the women of the community. Non-violence as a practice of the struggle and peace as its demand, also fostered anti-patriarchal practices in the community.


Melrit in the same interview also told me that the nuclear authorities will not understand what she witnessed in Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu where the Madras Atomic Power Station is located. The Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam houses nuclear research and commercial reactors of all three stages of the Indian nuclear programme. In such a way, the significance of Kalpakkam is based on it being the testing ground for India’s three-stage nuclear energy programme.34 Melrit spoke to me of witnessing wombs being removed off women’s bodies around Kalpakkam due to cancers and cyst formation. She also claims that there has been increased cyst formation and spontaneous abortions in Kudankulam since the test run of  Unit 1 and 2 began. Her association of spontaneous abortions with nuclear facilities is based on the experiences of people living around power plants like MAPS and mines like Jadugoda and Tummalapalle where radioactive leakages and contamination are reported/acknowledged by governmental authorities like the Pollution Control Board.

In Kudankulam, however, there is no such acknowledgment. The epistemic principle Melrit advances while knowing the illnesses in her community is one that is based on disease patterns and associations emergent from the relationships that were fostered through anti-nuclear struggles. It’s not an epistemic principle which is based on causation that constrains the attribution of cancer to radiation contamination in contaminated sites. The epistemic principle emerges from ‘radioactive kinships’ that is kinships fostered into relations due to the ionizing effects of radiation. In such contaminated spaces, Gwen Ottinger, in Refining Expertise, points out that local knowledges of contamination are ‘neglected’ by the expert commu-nities and the state which continues to impose expert discourse on problems of environmental illness.

A popular epidemiologist at Kalpakkam, Dr Pugalyenthi, states that regulatory authorities often claim that attributing cancer incidence in nuclear space to radiation is difficult to scientifically establish and use it as an excuse. He demands regulatory bodies to recognize the patterns of cancer in communities that are irradiated.35 Taken together, these sites that constitute India’s uranium based nuclear fuel cycle form what Stephen Epstein, in his analysis of Lay Expertise in the 1970s AIDS movement, calls ‘disease constituencies’. In showing how such disease constituencies made medical treatment of AIDS possible which was otherwise muffled by the epistemic principle of abstinence, he claims, ‘the importance of analyzing AIDS research is heightened by the influence that AIDS activism appears to be exerting, at least in the United States, on a new wave of health-related activism – a politics of identity organized by particular  “disease constituencies” such as those suffering from breast cancer, environmental illness, or chronic fatigue.’36

However, political science analysis that centres the nuclear debate as one about citizens’ dissent against nuclear development by the state has not paid attention to the politics of identity formation, expert/lay subjectivities in these disease constituencies and how knowledge about illnesses are formed based on illness experiences. Ottinger also points out that the expert communities that neglect local knowledges of contamination also include STS scholars, even those that argue for ‘expanded public participation in science.’37

When Melrit talks about the inability of nuclear authorities to understand the embodied pain of removing the womb from the standpoint of women, she addresses the hyper-masculine nature of nuclear energy operations in India.38 The denial by authorities about increased miscarriages or children born with imparities (both affects the womb) that embeds the nuclear episteme is one that doesn’t attend to women’s standpoint in  Melrit’s imaginary. Juxtaposed with the words of another respondent, ‘men do not take out their anger’, anti-nuclearism practiced through Gandhian satyagraha (peaceful resistance) question structures of patriarchal masculinity as emergent in Kudankulam. While addressing men’s treatment of women in Women and Social Justice, M.K. Gandhi concerns himself with bringing changes in men and asks men to stop seeing women as ‘objects of lust’ or not to sexualize women.39

Gandhi considered and propagated celibacy as a principle of ahimsa (non-violence) and satyagraha. However, anger as a political emotion receives little to no attention in his work. In Kudankulam, we see the tweaking of ‘postcolonial anti-nuclearismthat  the Indian Nation stood for post-independence through participation in the Pugwash Movement and Bandung Conference in two ways: one that questioned patriarchal tendencies including anger and, in that right, questions the justification provided for civilian nuclear energy related activities in the legacy of peace movements that the Indian Nation was involved with in the ’50s.

In Colonialism, Tradition, and Reform: An Examination of Gandhi’s Political Discourse, Bhikhu Parekh unearths how Gandhi constructed semen as ‘the sole source of energy in the human body’ based on his conception that it has ‘life giving power.’ Gandhi’s inquiry into masculinity and femininity did espouse naturalizing arguments as he claimed women were naturally made for spinning as ‘Adam wove and Eve span’ and hence, women are naturally fit for satyagraha practiced via spinning.40 The philosopher Anuradha Veeravalli observes that Gandhi’s insistence that men should stop seeing women as object of lust received hyper-masculinist aversion from his peers and friends including N.K. Bose. Joseph S. Alter critiques that psychoanalytic and symbolic approaches to Gandhi’s insistence on celibacy ‘seem to favour psychology or spirituality as the best analytic medium through which to make sense of Gandhi’s more enigmatic experiments’ and ‘by getting inside the man’s head.’41

Alter calls for a ‘deeply cultural reading’ of Gandhi’s experiment as that which centres the body and carries out an analysis of Gandhi’s biomoral reform. For Alter, as Veeravalli argues, Gandhi’s experiments with truth are ‘experiments in body politic.’ Veeravalli clarifies Alter’s analysis – she states that‘with this focus on the body, he [Alter] argues that non-violence for Gandhi was as much an issue of public health as an issue of politics, morality, and religion.’42 Claiming that Alter’s analysis that premises the role of body in Gandhi’s understanding is neglected due to the mind/body or body/spirit dualism in western philosophy, she states,‘what unites the religious orthodoxy and the modern scientific mind is the belief in the separation of matters of the spirit from matters of fact or the mind and the world.’43

The embodied experiences of people living around nuclear sites and from the standpoint of women (recall Melrit’s comment on the embodied pain of removing womb as that which cannot be understood by nuclear authorities) are also neglected due to the mind/body dualism that is until the attribution of cancer can be successfully established by the modern scientific mind reifying the belief in disease causation principles,  the experience cannot be validated. Disease constituencies where people act as agents of knowing and tracing patterns of radiation illnesses demonstrate and exemplify epistemic principles that are useful for producing a scientific knowledge in which health is instrumental for peaceful coexistence.

The reduction of the embodied experience first by authorities as driven by fear or lack of education and later by social science scholars to a political science matter of citizenship-state-nationhood, obscures a civilizational dialogue on public health as peace; dissent stresses on the immediacy for peaceful coexistence. PMANE’s dissent against nuclear violence propels a rethinking of India’s involvement in postcolonial peace movements along the lines of anti-patriarchy and public health. These emergent meaning of peace/non-violence as practiced in PMANE’s anti-nuclear resistance exhibit not just anti-colonializing tendencies as in the legacy of peace movements but also tendencies that question patriarchy and matters of ‘embodied’ public health thus making anti-nuclearism and peace anti-patriarchal and that which addresses public health.

Shiv Visvanathan stresses on the urgency for planetary peace as the age of Anthropocene distresses a few more significantly than every one of us and as Gandhi is appropriated to play to the tunes of a theocratic regime namely the Hindutva State of India.44 He states a peace that is planetary is also vernacular when it comes to encompass Gandhi’s ideas of swadeshi and swaraj. While swadeshi attempts to ‘save the locality (here, Kudankulam and specifically the fishing community of Idinthakkarai) as a life form, as forms of livelihood, swaraj captures ‘a sense of the wholeness of
the universe.’45 As Melrit remarks, ‘the protesters fought for their future and of ours.’46 The women satyagrahis of the PMANE, Kudankulam ‘as common women and as scientists’ bridge swadeshi and swaraj, ‘seeking a loom of peace to create a web of non-violence.’47

Claiming that ‘the great Gandhians after the 1960s were foreigners like Martin Luther King, Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, Steve Biko, Vaclav Havel and Lanza del Vasto’, Visvanathan claims that ‘[i]t is not in development that India lags behind, but in its experiments
in peace.’ Visvanathan calls for an engagement with knowledge and violence by thinking and imagining with social movements that reinvent nature, rethink technology and information. He states, ‘[o]ne must borrow from the embeddedness and memory of each [social movement] to see how these insightful parts can move to the peace movement as a whole. We need to interrogate an Indian Pugwash movement, not just about particulars of nuclear energy but also to look at nuclearism as a form of violence. We need to explore the episteme of science, nudging Pugwash towards a wider view of peace and the Anthropocene.’48

The problem is not that the movements concerning science, technology and society in India are bereft of insights that can usher conversations on planetary peace but analysis of such movements suffer from an imperialism of categories that enable the colonized subjectivities of ‘the nuclear postcolony’ to subvert reflections on peace and non-violence.49



1. NTI,‘Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)’, 2020. Web log. Nuclear Threat Initiative NTI.

2. Aude Catimel, ‘Historic Milestone: UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Reaches 50 Ratifications Needed for Entry into Force’,, 24 October 2020. milestone_un_treaty_on_the_prohibition_

3. N.D. Jayaprakash, ‘Disarmament Negotia-tions’, Counter Punch, 26 May 2007.

4. Nuclearism or the nuclear ideology addresses how imaginaries and discourses of nuclear weapons, war and energy shape national goals, political culture, subjectivities and so on. See Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age. University of Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2015.

5. Michael D. Gordin and G. John Ikenberry (eds.), The Age of Hiroshima. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2020.

6. N.D. Jayaprakash, op. cit.

7. Vinay Lal and Roby Rajan (eds.), India and the Unthinkable: Backwaters Collective on Metaphysics and Politics. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2016.

8. Rejaul K. Laskar,‘Respite from Disgraceful NDA Foreign Policy’, Congress Sandesh 6(10), June 2004, p. 8.

9. N.D. Jayaprakash, op. cit.

10. Dibyadyuti Roy,‘Strategic Science vs. Tactical Storytelling: Disrupting Radioactive Masculinity through Postcolonial Ecologies’, South Asian Review 37(3), 2016, pp. 37-61. doi:10.1080/02759527.2016.11978318.

11. Valerie L. Kuletz, The Tainted Desert: Environmental and Social Ruin in the American West. Routledge, 2016.

12. Ibid., p. 5.

13. Ibid., p. 296, 184.

14. Gabriele Schwab, Radioactive Ghost. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2020.

15. Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Episte-mologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide. Taylor & Francis, UK, 2015.

16. Ann Laura Stoler, Duress: Imperial Durabilities in Our Times. Duke University Press, Durham, 2016, p. 7.

17. Vinay Lal, ‘Thesis Two: Postcolonialism Has Had Nothing to Say about the Imperialism of Categories’, 30 November 2010. Lal Salaam: A Blog by Vinay Lal – Reflections on the Culture of Politics & the Politics of Culture. https://vinaylal.

18. Although excellent works in their subject matter, see M.V. Ramana and C. Rammanohar Reddy  (eds.), Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream. Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2003; Itty Abraham, The Making of the Indian
Atomic Bomb: Science, Secrecy and the Postcolonial State
. Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1999; Monamie Bhadra Haines, ‘(Nation) Building Civic Epistemologies around Nuclear Energy in India’, ISA e-Symposium for Sociology, December 2019, pp. 1-13.

19. Itty Abraham, South Asian Cultures of the Bomb: Atomic Publics and the State in India and Pakistan. Orient Blackswan, Hyderabad, 2009.

20. Itty Abhraham, ‘What (Really) Makes a Country Nuclear? Insights from Nonnuclear Southeast Asia’, Critical Studies on Security 4(1), 2016, pp. 24-41.

21. See Jayati Sarkar, ‘From the Peaceful Atom to the Peaceful Explosion: Indo-French Nuclear Relations During the Cold War, 1950-1974’, Nuclear Proliferation International History Project Working Paper 3, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC, 2013; Zia Mian,‘Fevered with Dreams of the Future: The Coming of the Atomic Age to Pakistan’, in Itty Abraham (ed.), South Asian Cultures of the Bomb: Atomic Publics and the State in India and Pakistan.Orient Blackswan, Hyderabad, 2009, pp. 20-40.

22. Denisa Kostovicova, Ivor Sokoliæ, and Orli Fridman,‘Introduction: Below Peace Agreements: Everyday Nationalism or Everyday Peace?’ Nations and Nationalism 26(2), 2020, pp. 424-430. Accessed 28 November 2020. doi:10.1111/nana.12595.

23. Ibid., pp. 424-25.

24. Itty Abraham, ‘What (Really) Makes a Country Nuclear? Insights from Nonnuclear Southeast Asia’, Critical Studies on Security 4(1) 4 March 2016, pp. 24-41.

25. Shiv Visvanathan, ‘On Saying NO to Nuclear Energy’, Dianuke.Org, 12 June 2012.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

29. Misria S. Ali, ‘Solving Nuclear Fear’, Seminar 719, July 2019, pp. 92-101.

30. Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism. Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2009.

31. Misria S. Ali,‘Solving Nuclear Fear’, op. cit.

32. Interview, 10 January 2016.

33. Interview, 3 January 2016.

34. T.S. Subramanian, ‘A Mission at Kalpakkam’, Frontline 17(26), 23 December 2001 (print ed.), p. 126 (124-128).

35. Interview, 16 January 2021.

36. Steven Epstein, ‘The Construction of Lay Expertise: AIDS Activism and the Forging of Credibility in the Reform of Clinical Trials’, Science, Technology, & Human Values 20(4), 1995, pp. 408-37, 410. JSTOR, Accessed 13 June 2022.

37. Gwen Ottinger, Refining Expertise. NYU Press, NY, 2013, p. 19.

38. Also read, Dibyadyuti Roy,‘Radioactive Masculinity: How the Anxious Postcolonial Learnt to Love and Live in Fear of the Nuclear Bomb’. Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports, 6536, 2016.

39. M.K. Gandhi, Women and Social Injustice. Navjivan Publications, Ahmedabad, 1947.

40. I have no intentions to redeem Gandhi’s naturalizing discourse around sexuality.

41. Joseph S. Alter,‘Gandhi’s Body, Gandhi’s Truth, The Journal of Asian Studies 55(2), May 1996 , pp. 301-322.

42. Anuradha Veeravalli, Gandhi in Political Thought. Ashgate Publications, Farnham, UK, 2014, p. 130.

43. Ibid., p. 131.

44. Shiv Visvanathan, ‘Planetary Peace’, The Telegraph Online, 17 July 2020. Accessed 29 November 2020. https://www.telegraphindia.

45. Ibid.

46. Supra note 32.

47. Shiv Visvanathan, ‘Planetary Peace’, op. cit.

48. Ibid.

49. A version of this article was presented at the panel, ‘Everyday Archives of Justice: Imaginaries, Infrastructures, and Legacies in/of the Nuclear Postcolony’ organized by Dibyadyuti Roy at the annual meeting of the British Association of South Asian Studies, 2021. The author considers talking about ‘postcolonialism’ as significant only to the extent itchallenges conditions of post-coloniality like imperialism of categories, as discussed by her.