Nuclear alienation: a literary analysis of race, space, and resistance surrounding the nuclear coloniality of Los Alamos, 1942-2012
My dissertation seeks to decolonize the modern account of New Mexico in atomic history and U.S. national myth by recovering the polyphony of voices of the men and women who were displaced and effaced by the scientific empire known today as the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The U.S. emerged as a world power after WWII as a result of the atomic bomb, and New Mexico was central to the development of atomic weaponry. The history of Los Alamos has been presented through nationalist discourse of an "American" city that was born overnight, which ignores how Indigenous people and Hispanas/os were forcefully removed from the land and became subjects of modernity. That is, under modernity, different forms of life were destroyed--human and non-human life. Indigenous, Hispana/o, and white locals were forced, through the necessities of a modernist political economy, to become workers at "The Lab." These people and their land have been permanently diseased by nuclear waste and dis-eased by the racism and classism that has pervaded the region. The U.S. government intended to emancipate U.S. residents from war, including New Mexicans. However, Los Alamos's role in the Manhattan Project and the U.S. government's reorganization of local epistemologies and hierarchies forced local people of color into subordinate positions in national discourse, and the critical thinking from this level "below" modernity was erased. My project draws from and extends labor historiographies and historiographies of industrialization of Los Alamos by examining testimonios and multiethnic literature by and about Chicana/o, Native American, Chinese American, Japanese, African American people for the purpose of contesting the master narrative and spatial poetics of this place. By introducing previously silenced voices to relay an alternative story of Los Alamos, I map a new epistemology of nuclear coloniality in northern New Mexico that may then be applied to other locations where nuclear coloniality has occurred. The term "coloniality" refers to the power structures that emerged from colonialism instead of focusing on the process of colonization itself.