Current Institutional Affiliation
Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Chicago
Regulating the Nuclear: The Textual Production of Technical Independence at the International Atomic Energy Agency

The proposed study is an ethnography of the communicative practices through which civil servants at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seek to establish and maintain the organization's legitimacy as the sole arbiter in the regulation of global nuclear technology. This project asks how, against accusations of politicization and regulatory capture, various actors at the Agency work to display and communicate "technical independence"—the unbiased technical competence and legal judgment by which the IAEA's missions can be made globally acceptable—to a vast international audience. The results of this study aim to expand anthropological knowledge in four domains: (1) the study of bureaucracy and documents, (2) historical and social scientific studies of knowledge and expertise, (3) analyses of legal and political language, and (4) understandings of a changing nuclear age. This project's careful attention to language as embedded in a range of other semiotic (sign) systems can offer a novel perspective on how the nuclear order with its laws and knowledge is constituted and contested. The research is based on 14 months of participant-observation, interviews, and archival work at the public information, legal, and training divisions of the IAEA and will be completed by rigorous linguistic anthropological analyses of the actors' interactional, ritual, and documentary practices.