Accepted Paper:

"Anti-nuclear technopolitics and the scientization of democracy in India  

Author:

Monamie Bhadra

Paper short abstract:

Using the case study of Indian activists leveling charges that Russian reactors contain substandard parts, I show how Indian anti-nuclear activists are opening up spaces for technopolitical activism, and opposing the Indian state’s technopolitics embedded in how it vouches for Russian technology.

Paper long abstract:

Using the case of anti-nuclear activism in India, I argue that technopolitics, in the sense of strategies deployed by actors in the design and governance of technologies to advance political goals, is not available to all. Rather, spaces for technopolitics must be pried open. Historically, the Indian state has performed technopolitics through its institutionalization, technological development and public acculturation of nuclear power. The Indian state's overarching goal has been, and continues to be, creating a centralized technology that will demonstrate Indian sovereignty and self-reliance, whether by developing indigenous thorium-based reactors, or by importing foreign reactors but domestically making reactor parts under the "Make in India" movement. Yet, activists have been unable to translate and embed their own politics into nuclear design and governance until now. India's rapid enrollment into the global nuclear economy, populist mobilizations against government corruption in India, and increased availability of technical documents on the Internet have created spaces for technopolitical activism. Using the case study of Indian activists leveling charges that Russian reactors contain substandard parts, I show how activists are enacting technopolitics in ways that align with wider cultural norms of public accountability. I also show how activists are opposing the state's technopolitics embedded in how it vouches for Russian technology. I conclude that these technopolitical engagements can be read as attempts by activists to "scientize" politics with the goal of democratizing nuclear power, and developing new forms of deliberative rationality other than sovereignty and self-reliance with which to have public debates over nuclear energy.

Panel T093
Infrastructures of nuclearity: Exploring entangled histories, spaces and futures