Core Concepts 2.0

Timespace and/or future geographies– What initially attracted me to working on the issue of radioactive wastes is the way that they are implicated in and help create strange temporalities, and the possibility that these temporalities contained the seeds of a critique of nuclear sociotechnical regimes (among other things). “Timespace,” a concept put forward by geographers Jon May and Nigel Thrift in an edited volume (2001), seems like a helpful—perhaps helpfully vague—concept to orient an investigation of this aspect of radioactive wastes. The term is helpful in that it preserves and connects both the dynamism of space and time, where many thinkers tend to view space (particularly) as static and deadening (e.g., concerns about the spatialization of time), and, with the emphasis on geographies, suggests an investigation of multiple and heterogeneous temporalities (or, to quote a quote from the book, “time, timing, and time consciousness’) that are interrelated. It also begins to suggest that “scale” (along both dimensions) involves no simple movement from the small or singular and simple to the large, collective/multiple, and complex.

Perhaps the similar, but less esoteric, concept of “future geographies” (Anderson & Adey, 2012) could be more helpful. I recently came across the concept tonight, and so it is still not quite fully through, although I was surprised by how closely it followed my thinking on the subject. In a nutshell, however, the idea is to investigate how “a range of substantive geographies are made and remade through processes of governing the future,” as well as the “achievement of specific relations to the future, and specific future presences, in the midst” of these geographies (ibid., 1530). The term—and I believe this is not the case with the concept—seems to exclude the past/history. Something I might be able to add to the concept is bringing in some of the problematics/politics of representation when it comes to future subjects, as with efforts to institutionalize obligations to future generations. This would not be done in a negative spirit (“one must not speak for future generations”), but, rather, in a reflexive one (misrecognition and exploitation are always possible, and perhaps plausible, when subjects are absent, and it always constitutes a form of power). The article (an introduction to a special issue) is available online here.

I hope one or both of these concepts will help me to get at how Hanford in particular (and radioactive geographies, perhaps even wastelands in general), are constantly (re)shaped by and (re)shaping:
Representations of and “relations of [ethical] proximity” to future generations and various present populations
The definition of the “here and now” (sphere of immediacy, urgency, action)
The relation of place science, politics, etc.
mutant ecologies
Modes of “governing the future:” Risk / Security / Sustainability / Development / Conservation / Innovation
--By the way, does anyone know what “postrelational” means (mentioned in “future geographies”)? My Google searches on the subject are all about databases.

Ethics – I am still working out exactly what this means for me, particularly how it should be related to politics.
The basic idea here is that our ethical relations to the future are part of the process described by “future geographies” in that they involve making the future “present” in one sense or another. This has obvious relevance to the question “how far should we care?” (Smith 1998), which raises issues like whether it is (among other things) “care”—because many would claim to be the impossibility of generalizing the affective partiality it implies—or justice (or whether the two can be so neatly separated) that should guide forms of recognition, participation, responsibility, etc. In terms of how to approach the topic, I want to see what ethics are implied in policies, knowledge practices, and (both extant, past, and proposed) modes of “governing the future” that are at play around Hanford and nuclear wastelands more generally.

Anderson B, Adey P, 2012, "Future geographies" Environment and Planning A 44(7) 1529 – 1535
May, Jon, and Nigel Thrift, eds. 2001. Timespace: Geographies of Temporality. New York: Routledge.
Probyn, Elspeth. 2001. “Anxious Proximities: The Space-Time of Concepts.” Pp. 171-186 in Timespace: Geographies of Temporality, edited by Jon May and Nigel Thrift. New York: Routledge.
Smith, D M. 1998. “How far should we care? On the spatial scope of beneficence.” Progress in Human Geography 22(1):15-38.