The Sounds of Nuclear Expertise

in on December 21, 2023

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In this activity you will engage with the sounds of nuclear expertise. Feminism encourages us to critically reflect on the criteria we use to judge whether someone’s voice and speech are authoritative and convincing. While some ways of speaking about nuclear weapons have become strongly associated with rationality, impartiality and scientific expertise, others have been silenced and side-lined as emotional, partisan and idealistic. Gender and racial hierarchies play a role in this process. In this activity, you will develop your own opinion on the sound of nuclear expertise. 

 

Please use the PDF for the Sounds of Nuclear Expertise activity. In the PDF, you can click on five audio clips. Please listen to all five clips. While you listen, pay attention to all characteristics of the clip that influence your opinion of the speaker and content (i.e., the gender of the speaker, their voice, their tone, their language, what they are speaking about). 

 

After listening to the clips, please write down your answers to the following questions. Then discuss your replies with other students in groups of 3 or 4. 

  1. Which of the clips stands out as most rational and most authoritative to you? Why?

  2. Were you paying more attention to the content of the clip or how the speaker conveyed that content? 

  3. Was there something you found particularly strong in this clip? If so: what?

  4. Were there elements that you did not like about the other clips?

  5. The core reading by Carol Cohn tells you something about the particular language of expertise that Cohn encountered. How do your answers to the questions above relate to Cohn’s findings? Was there a particular style in language that you identified as “rational”?

  6. Are there any similarities or differences between the criteria you used to decide whether a clip sounded rational and authoritative, and the criteria you used to choose a person to interview in Activity 1?

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  • The aim of this activity is to encounter and critically evaluate different forms of nuclear expertise. Feminism tells us that knowledge is not neutral but political, shaped by things like gender, race, and class. Some forms of knowledge are valued over others and some people are heard whilst others are silenced. These tasks will help you to identify and challenge the knowledge hierarchies in the nuclear field.
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