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Please note you may be encountering graphic or disturbing accounts of bodily harm. 


The “Irradiated Bodies” activity has two parts. Part 1 invites students to imagine how they would react to a nuclear attack. Part 2 encourages students to critically reflect on the political dimension in representations of bodies in materials on responses to radiation emergencies. For Part 1, the instructor needs to print off radiation exposure cards and fill the cards out prior to the activity. The cards need to be handed to each student at the beginning of the activity. For Part 2, students need to have access to electronic devices that enable them to watch a video. 


We thank the Austrian Red Cross for allowing us to use their Radiation Exposure Cards as inspiration for the cards that are used in this activity. 


Part 1: Nuclear weapons’ effects on human bodies

A nuclear armed state has exploded a nuclear weapon in your town/a city near you. You have all been impacted, but in different ways. The details of your exposure are indicated on the card you have been given upon entering class. 


In groups of 2-3 students, discuss the following questions: 

  • How would you feel if you would experience the injuries indicated on your card?

  • What would be the first thing you would do?

  • Do you think it would be safe for you to go outside?  

  • Who would you turn to for help?

  • What would you do if there is no infrastructure available? 

  • Where would you go if the hospitals in your region have been destroyed? 

  • Are there people who are wounded around you who you would have to support? 

  • Are communication channels operational?

Part 2: The representation of bodies in plans to respond to a nuclear emergency

Please watch the following video by Mary Olson, Founder and Acting Director of the Gender and Radiation Impact Project: 


Now discuss the following questions in groups of 3 or 4 students:

  • How are bodies represented on the emergency response card that you received? 

  • What is included in the representation?

  • What is excluded? 

  • What is problematic about the way the body is represented on your card? 

  • If you could design your own card, what kind of body would you draw? 

In the light of Olson’s video, reconsider the online sources consulted for the first task:

  • How are bodies represented in the NYC Nuclear Preparedness video? Are there any images of bodies?

  • How do race, gender and class feature in the resources on emergency responses to nuclear emergencies? 

  • The core reading by Terry Tempest Williams presents a story about bodies and families in the nuclear world. Do you find her story represented in materials on responses to nuclear emergencies?

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  • This activity puts a spotlight on the experiences and representations of bodies in the nuclear world. Representations of bodies are political. They reinforce body and gender norms. Feminism reveals the catastrophic effects of nuclear technologies on bodies and allows you to see how a person’s class, race and gender determine the likelihood of their exposure to nuclear harm. By completing the activity, you can experience how feminism puts bodies and the politics of the representation of bodies at the center of the nuclear world.

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