Atomic aesthetics: gender, visualization and popular culture in Egypt

Hebatalla Taha
Fri, 01/07/2022

How was the atomic age visualized in Egypt in the years immediately after the creation of the bomb? What role did gendered images, symbols and metaphors play in narrating and normalizing nuclear technology? How can these help us understand nuclear policy today? This article engages visual and textual media, including satirical magazines, cultural journals and film. It presents a plurality of images: the depiction of the bomb as an egg, as a miniscule and aesthetically pleasing object, alongside more alarming illustrations of the bomb as a monster. Through fluid and unstable visualizations, nationalist modernizers highlighted the ambivalence of nuclear technology, seen as containing potential for postcolonial rebirth and global death simultaneously. By exploring nuclear imaginaries from the decolonizing world, the article challenges the dominant narratives, histories and aesthetics of the atomic age. Despite the continuous reiteration of nuclear weapons as masculine in feminist International Relations, this conceptualization is not necessarily universal, and this research illustrates that feminizing nuclear imagery can still reinforce the nuclearized world. Considering visualization from, and not only of, the global South, the article emphasizes that people in non-nuclear weapons-possessing states also participated in the production of the nuclear-armed world and in discussions on the nuclear condition.

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