Unmaking the Bomb: Environmental Cleanup and the Politics of Impossibility

Regular price $ 29.95

by Shannon Cram

University of California Press

9/26/2023, paperback

SKU: 9780520395121


"A powerfully researched and important look at the ravages of nuclear waste remediation."--​One of the Best Indie Books of 2023, Kirkus Reviews

What does it mean to reckon with a contaminated world? In Unmaking the Bomb, Shannon Cram considers the complex social politics of this question and the regulatory infrastructures designed to answer it. Blending history, ethnography, and memoir, she investigates remediation efforts at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a former weapons complex in Washington State. Home to the majority of the nation's high-level nuclear waste and its largest environmental cleanup, Hanford is tasked with managing toxic materials that will long outlast the United States and its institutional capacities. Cram examines the embodied uncertainties and structural impossibilities integral to that endeavor. In particular, this lyrical book engages in a kind of narrative contamination, toggling back and forth between cleanup's administrative frames and the stories that overspill them. It spends time with the statistical people that inhabit cleanup's metrics and models and the nonstatistical people that live with their effects. And, in the process, it explores the uneven social relations that make toxicity a normative condition.


"In prose that's both calm and solidly grounded in cited research, Cram presents. . . .a quietly devastating indictment that calls to mind such environmentalist classics as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring."-- "Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"

"In this deeply unsettling book, Shannon Cram plumbs the mangled intimacies of the nuclear across scales (from cellular to regulatory, bodily to planetary) and, through a series of figures, renders the surreal world of nuclear cleanup, remediation, risk assessment, and its forms of impossible governance. Unmaking the Bomb is an incredible read."--Shiloh Krupar, Provost's Distinguished Associate Professor, Georgetown University

"Unmaking the Bomb is a multimodal text: part ethnography, part history of science, part memoir. Cram's work is much more than an environmental justice study of nuclear damage. It is a critical assessment of how a society produces monumental forms of harm and then crafts itself to normalize those dangers as essential and potentially even banal. The overall effect is extraordinarily powerful and important. This is no small accomplishment."--Joseph P. Masco, Professor of Anthropology and of the Social Sciences, University of Chicago

About the Author:

Shannon Cram is Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell.