This research project, tentatively titled ‘Nuclear Afterlives’, examines the complex and conflicting residues of nuclear contamination, and some of nonhuman harborers of these residues. Following Sperling’s first book project on weird embodiment in modernism, this new project seeks to chart what (may be called) the weird across more contemporary texts and landscapes. Currently this research is focused on radioactive boar, which have, according to popular journalism coverage world-wide, run rampant and free in areas that are now too toxic for human life to thrive. Through scientific and cultural studies of post-nuclear catastrophe sites like Fukushima and Chernobyl, including contemporary cultural texts about these disasters, as well as 21st century weird fiction exemplified by Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, this project seeks to examine the contours of contaminated life in the Anthropocene.
Against popular framings of resilience and adaptability, Sperling hopes to challenge the ways we think about toxic bodies and environments in an age when toxicity is not the exception but the rule. What do these (relatively) new forms of radioactive bodies (human and nonhuman, alive and not) enable us to understand about embodiment in the Anthropocene? How does the temporality of nuclear contamination reframe ecological time and potentially refuse the teleology of reproductive futurity?