Quadrant: Contemporary environmental ethics and former nuclear facilities

This post is published in connection with the University of Minnesota Press’s launch this week of an an online research archive (www.quadrant.umn.edu) and book series that stems from Quadrant, a new initiative to foster collaborative scholarship and revolutionize interdisciplinary publishing. This is Quadrant post 3 of 3; please see below for links to other posts.

“Absurdity is a part of my approach to the topic.” Shiloh Krupar appears inside a wildlife display at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

Quadrant fellow and assistant professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University

Can you talk briefly about your work on environmental justice and military industry? What is one critical question to have emerged from your research?

I’m currently working on a book titled Hot Spotter’s Manifesto that examines the fraught relations between humans and waste, nature and waste, the body and technology, involved in the conversion of former arsenals and nuclear facilities into nature refuges. The book tracks some of the subtle shifts in memory, rhetoric, and politics needed to naturalize military-industrial territories as “wild” space, and the reframing of military practices as compatible with—even contributing to—environmental protection. Drawing connections between labor and landscape, memory and bureaucracy, contamination and green regulation, reproduction and militarism, the project raises a series of questions about contemporary environmental ethics: What kind of ethical response do radioactive natures demand? How does the spectacle of nature as separate, external, and pure obscure toxicity contribute materially and discursively to ongoing military occupation? What futures might be cultivated by an environmental ethics that takes waste as inspiration? What forms of subjectivity, ethical practices, and aesthetics might emerge? How might acts of criticism, under conditions of exposure and uncertainty, cultivate opportunities for regeneration rather than just survival?

How has your experience with the Quadrant program uniquely informed or supported your research?

Much of my work has been collaborative, and, unfortunately, such ways of working continue to be misunderstood and/or undervalued in the humanities and social sciences, particularly in merit review and tenure point systems. I’m used to collaborative work taking place on the fringes of the academy, largely on my own dime, and in contrast to conventional writing technologies and publishing. The Quadrant program has fundamentally challenged these ideas and practices for me, demonstrating another way of conducting collaboration that utilizes and builds on institutional connections between the university and scholarly press. While the solo-authored manuscript has not been my modus operandi, the Quadrant program has prompted me to reconsider the possibilities of the scholarly single-authored manuscript. Essentially, the Quadrant has provided me with an infrastructure within which to “practice” my book as a collaborative public event. While in residence at the University of Minnesota, my regular interfacings with the press and Quadrant research collaboratives have deeply enriched my project, provided institutional support for my experimentations with visual and textual representations, and enlivened my intellectual life in general. The Quadrant program has immersed me in the energy, inquiries, research, and relations of scholars on campus; the Quadrant research collaboratives in particular have enabled me to participate in experimental scholarly ‘arrangements’ that draw on different disciplinary and area studies expertise, without directing such conversations to any particular end-product. I am now committed to building on such collaborations in my future writing of the book.

How does the Quadrant program support sustainable scholarly communication?

Quadrant supports all sorts of fascinating interdisciplinary networks, workshops, and conversations that potentially generate a surplus of intellectual life—an excess of trans-institutional collaboration focused on particular kinds of projects and questions (rather than disciplines). What sustains this ‘intellectual excess’ is the gifted labor of participating faculty, the commitment of the press and faculty to organizing concrete practices of interdisciplinarity, such as research collaboratives, and the shared desire to treat the scholarly manuscript as a collaborative event.

In my case, and on a more ‘everyday’ level, Quadrant has provided me the opportunity to work on an ongoing project that’s always had to take a backseat to other work, namely my dissertation. It’s been exhilarating—and a great privilege—to be able to focus my attention on this one particular project, and to workshop chapters-in-progress with interdisciplinary faculty, Quadrant fellows, and other fellows in the Institute for Advanced Study. I’ve had invaluable space/time to write, and numerous opportunities to work face-to-face with my editor and the press on developing my work into an exciting publishable format.

What are some other Quadrant projects that most interest you?

Many of the questions and concerns of the “Humannonhuman” Quadrant research collaborative are of immediate interest to me, specifically the effort to re-imagine biopolitical practices. The investigations of the “Intersecting Performance and Social Justice” research collaborative are also exciting to me; I both experiment with forms of artistic performance and explore in my written work how performance might cultivate opportunities for collective regeneration under conditions of toxicity. I am fascinated by the “Choreography of the Moving Cell” Quadrant collaborative of dance and biomedical engineering and hope to learn more about it and incorporate this into the materials for a course on the body and biopolitics/bioethics/biotech arts.


Watch Shiloh Krupar present this project October 7th, 2010.

Learn more about Quadrant.

Monday: Lisa Uddin, researcher at the American Philosophical Society Museum in Philadelphia, on race and renewal in American zoos.
Tuesday: Kelly Quinn, assistant professor in the American studies program at Miami University, on architect Hilyard R. Robinson’s contributions to place-making and public culture.
Today: Shiloh Krupar, assistant professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, on the politics of nature conservation and environmental memory at decommissioned military sites and nuclear facilities in the U.S.

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