Elemental Memory: The Solid Fluidity of the Elements in the Nuclear Era

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The epistemological challenges of the Anthropocene trouble distinctions of solid and fluid. In this contribution, I propose, after Gabrielle Hecht, that the nuclearity of the Anthropocene contributes significantly to destabilising these categories. Nuclear materials and ideas of nuclearity force (re)consideration of deep timescales and imperceptible processes, problematising fixed material ontologies. I engage with nuclear matters and query the logic of solids and fluids by developing the notion of elemental memory. An attention to elemental memory – an element’s capacity to auto-affect over time – reveals the inadequacy of terms like solid and fluid and highlights the expressiveness of solid fluid substances. Empirically, I demonstrate, first, how elemental memory informs the solid-fluid processuality of radioactive glasses, especially trinitite. Second, engaging with the work of artist-jewellers Mari Keto and Erich Berger I address the slow auto-transformations of radioactive minerals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTheory, Culture and Society
Early online date30 Sept 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Sept 2021

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