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Nuclear Bodies

The Global Hibakusha

Nuclear Bodies: The Global Hibakusha

by Robert A. Jacobs

Yale University Press (2022)

In the fall of 1961, President Kennedy somberly warned Americans about deadly radioactive fallout clouds extending hundreds of miles from H‑bomb detonations, yet he approved ninety‑six US nuclear weapon tests for 1962. Cold War nuclear testing, production, and disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima have exposed millions to dangerous radioactive particles; these millions are the global hibakusha. Many communities continue to be plagued with dire legacies and ongoing risks: sickness and early mortality, forced displacement, uncertainty and anxiety, dislocation from ancestors and traditional lifestyles, and contamination of food sources and ecosystems. Nuclear Bodies weaves these seemingly distinct legacies into a comprehensive global history, examining the colonialism(s) with which nuclear weapon states "select the irradiated," the political use of medical models to render their harm invisible, and the millennia-long legacies of our embrace of nuclear technologies.


Read the preface here:


"Inexorable clarity and care for his fellow humans mark Robert Jacobs's guide to the Cold War as a limited nuclear war, whose harms disfigure any possible future."—Norma Field, author of In the Realm of a Dying Emperor: Japan at Century’s End

"Jacobs leaves behind the division of nuclear power into civilian and military spheres. He argues convincingly that propagandists drew this line in order to clear the way for the unhindered pursuit of nuclear weapons. In so doing, he masterfully shows how military leaders waged a limited nuclear war on the environment and human bodies."—Kate Brown, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Nuclear Bodies is an urgent book, a work of great ethical gravity and political import that grapples with the pernicious legacies of radiological colonialism. Jacobs unsettles conventional distinctions between war and peace, exhorting us to reimagine the Cold War as a limited nuclear war."—Rob Nixon, author of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor

A "grimly important analysis of the Cold War." — Andrew Robinson, Nature

"In this carefully crafted book, Robert A. Jacobs explores the violence inflicted on millions of people worldwide with nuclear radiation since the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945….
Nuclear Bodies is a major contribution to the study of the global nuclear enterprise. Jacobs's refreshing analysis forces readers to rethink the consequences of nuclear activities." — Luis Rodriguez, H-Net

"A lifetime of reporting and research and masterful storytelling into parts of our world seldom before seen." — Bruce Krasnow,
Santa Fe New Mexican

"Historian Robert Jacobs has written a comprehensive investigation of nuclear weapons testing, reactor accidents, waste disposal leaks, and mining." — Judith Deutsch,

Nuclear Bodies…serves as an important reminder of the true long-term damage and dangers of pursuing nuclear technologies. We should focus on these problems, not as an individual state or nation, but look at the global impacts. We should be focusing on remediating the damage from the past, and limiting any new damage inflicted upon our descendants." — Brian Geislinger, Physics & Society

To read more about the book's contents, view short videos of the themes, full lectures on Global Hibakusha issues, or learn more about the author, continue on deeper into the website.

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