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Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the…

Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War

by Hugh Gusterson

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In conclusion, through an elaborate display of paradoxes and real blends of two opposing cultures, Gusterson (1998) tells why there can’t be an end to “war” and a beginning to “peace” because of the fixated behaviors that each the nuclear scientists and the anti-nuclear activist observe to keep momentum within the context of their culture. Each group will inevitably be blind to the realities and illusions that barrage its members. This is even true inter-culturally. Conventions in culture specify where each group stands in its aligning discourse of supporting or deterring nuclear arms (Dillon 1989; Kenney 1985). When one is immersed into another exploit that is unfamiliar to the socialized experience that is normative, re-structuring and re-socializing occurs bringing the individual to a definite political and moral ethos. These ethoses have their own breaths and pulse rates; they will survive inter-dependently. ( )
  nieva21 | Aug 6, 2010 |
I actually really enjoyed the book Nuclear Rites. It's a study on the socialization of nuclear weapons engineers from an anthropological perspective. *yawn* right? It turned out to challenge many assumptions I held on how we may come to end up on one side or another of the political spectrum. Gusterson talks about the "language of fear" and how it is possible for one person to be completely against nukes and another to firmly believe that they are viable deterrent. He keeps things very balanced and concludes with a statement on the ramifications of taking extreme sides. ( )
  lilygirl | Jun 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520213734, Paperback)

Based on fieldwork at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory--the facility that designed the neutron bomb and the warhead for the MX missile--Nuclear Rites takes the reader deep inside the top-secret culture of a nuclear weapons lab. Exploring the scientists' world of dark humor, ritualized secrecy, and disciplined emotions, anthropologist Hugh Gusterson uncovers the beliefs and values that animate their work. He discovers that many of the scientists are Christians, deeply convinced of the morality of their work, and a number are liberals who opposed the Vietnam War and the Reagan-Bush agenda. Gusterson also examines the anti-nuclear movement, concluding that the scientists and protesters are alike in surprising ways, with both cultures reflecting the hopes and anxieties of an increasingly threatened middle class.
In a lively, wide-ranging account, Gusterson analyzes the ethics and politics of laboratory employees, the effects of security regulations on the scientists' private lives, and the role of nuclear tests--beyond the obvious scientific one--as rituals of initiation and transcendence. He shows how the scientists learn to identify in an almost romantic way with the power of the machines they design--machines they do not fear.
In the 1980s the "world behind the fence" was thrown into crisis by massive anti-nuclear protests at the gates of the lab and by the end of the Cold War. Linking the emergence of the anti-nuclear movement to shifting gender roles and the development of postindustrial capitalism, Gusterson concludes that the scientists and protesters are alike in surprising ways, and that both cultures reflect the hopes and anxieties of an increasingly threatened middle class.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:22 -0400)

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