Part Three of Carceral Dreams, Nuclear Afterthoughts
Guest Post by Lisa Guenther
Practices of seeing and not-seeing structure our world, along with the possibilities that we imagine for ourselves and others as Being-in-the-world. In this third installment of Carceral Dreams, Nuclear Afterthoughts, I will argue that social-perceptual practices like seeing and ignoring don’t just add a layer of subjective interpretation to an already-existing objective world; they literally materialize and dematerialize the world. They make things and people appear and disappear.
Take, for example, the Hartsville Nuclear Complex. In my first blog post in this series, I mentioned that Hartsville was supposed to be the largest nuclear power plant in the world, before the project was canceled in 1984. But in local news reports about the deal to build a private prison in Hartsville, the nuclear power plant is never mentioned, despite the fact that the proposed building site is directly below the main cooling tower. It’s as if decades of avoiding the huge white elephant in their midst have made the reactor all but invisible to local residents (or at least to reporters). And yet, to outsiders and neighbors like me, the cooling tower stands out like a sore thumb. It evokes the surprise of something out of place and even absurd: a palimpsest of disaster in the midst of lush natural beauty.
In the midst of this normalized absurdity, the nuclear fantasy of limitless power and growth has morphed into a deal with the world’s largest private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America. How is Hartsville shifting from a nuclear-industrial complex to a carceral-neoliberal complex, and what remains of the former in the latter? What role do social-perceptual practices play in this ongoing transition, and what hope is there for counter-practices of resistance and transformation beyond both the nuclear and the carceral?