Anxious Care: Radioactive Uncertainty and the Politics of Life in Post-Nuclear Japan

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Since the 2011 meltdown, the health of “Fukushima children” has become a problem for parents, politics, and future imaginaries in post-nuclear Japan. What are the ethical and political implications of making life around a child imperiled by radiation when (re)productivity of life must be remade in a compromised environment? This dissertation investigates (re)production of life in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan by studying the strivings of families who seek to raise healthy children amidst radiation as a condition of living: what I call “anxious care.” By foregrounding the family as a site for environmental struggles in an emerging politics of life, I examine the work of making children live against and within radiation, looking to consider the radical implications of caring for children in radioactive uncertainty. In particular, this project focuses on inner cities of Fukushima Prefecture that have been on the frontline of radiation debates for having been exposed to disaster-induced radiation while not designated for evacuation. Shifting focus to the edges of delimited disaster zones, I examine the multifaceted aftermath of the nuclear disaster, ranging from differentially altered forms of life conditioned by radioactive uncertainty, the unequal distribution of radiation risk through public/private organizations such as the family form, and the everyday impact of post-Fukushima radiation. Theorizing the stakes of living with nuclear risk as situated political ecologies which generates tensions and possibilities for new forms of life, this dissertation argues that notions of life are undergoing a moment of reconfiguration in post-nuclear Japan by both real-life families and the family form. In doing so, it contributes to critiquing and broadening the anthropological horizons of life amid environmental uncertainty in and beyond Japan.





Cho, Jieun (2023). Anxious Care: Radioactive Uncertainty and the Politics of Life in Post-Nuclear Japan. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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