Invention and uninvention in nuclear weapons politics

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If there is one uncontroversial point in nuclear weapons politics it is that uninventing nuclear weapons is impossible. This article seeks to make this claim controversial by showing that it is premised on attenuated understandings of invention and the status of objects operative through familiar but problematic conceptual dualisms. The claimed impossibility of uninvention is an assertion that invention is irreversible. Drawing on “new materialism” this article produces a different understanding of invention, reinvention, and uninvention as ontologically similar practices of techno-political invention. On the basis of empirical material on the invention and re-invention of nuclear weapons, and an in-depth ethnography of laboratories inventing a portable radiation detector, both the process of invention and the “objects” themselves (weapons and detectors) are shown to be fragile and not wholly irreversible processes of assembling diverse actors (human and non-human) and provisionally stabilizing their relations. Nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented! Why not?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-23
Number of pages18
JournalCritical Studies on Security
Issue number1
Early online date29 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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