Nuclear France, French nuclear imperialism, and Algerian and Polynesian decolonial anti-nuclear visual arts


This lecture and seminar were designed as part of the Francophone strand of the co-taught final year module ‘Languages and Ecologies’ for students of Modern Languages (French, Spanish, German and Italian). The module introduces students to the field of Environmental Humanities through a transnational and interdisciplinary approach. It focuses on the French-, Hispanic-, Italian- and German-speaking contexts, and on the intersections of environmental, political, social and cultural issues. Through this module, students develop a critical understanding of key natural-cultural topics in different geopolitical and historical contexts, entwinements of anthropocentric, gendered, colonial and capitalist ideologies, and how these have been addressed and challenged by artists and activists. In the first week of the module, students are introduced to key concepts in Environmental Humanities, such as natureculture, transcorporeality, the Anthropocene and counter-formulations, toxicity, environmental justice, slow violence…, and these concepts are then deployed and developed throughout the module in relation to different geographical, historical and cultural contexts. The lecture and seminar included below focus on the topic of ‘Nuclear France and French Nuclear Imperialism’. The lecture provides students with an overview of France’s development as a nuclear power in the post-WW2 context (drawing in particular on Gabrielle Hecht’s analysis of the relation between nuclear power and national identity) and French nuclear imperialism and its toxic legacies in Algeria and Māʻohi Nui. The seminar focuses on Algerian and Polynesian visual artworks that address these toxic legacies. We discuss works by Lazhar Hakkar; Cronos (as part of the collective exhibition Moruroa Forever); and Alexander Lee (see also Talk and Q&A with Alexander Lee on this site) to explore the powerful ways in which artists have represented and challenged French nuclear imperialism, its colonial ideological foundations and its violent and long-lasting impacts on bodies and territories.