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The Meanings of a Disaster: Chernobyl and Its Afterlives in Britain and France

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Volume 20

Environment in History: International Perspectives

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The Meanings of a Disaster

Chernobyl and Its Afterlives in Britain and France

Karena Kalmbach

236 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-702-6 $120.00/£89.00 / Hb / Published (December 2020)

eISBN 978-1-78920-703-3 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - edit   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


Through wide-ranging and careful research, Karena Kalmbach elaborates the many ways in which the Chernobyl accident became a European historical event closely turning around national politics in Great Britain and France. Kalmbach shows the irony of transnational nuclear technologies and nuclear fallout confined in national discourse.” • Kate Brown, MIT

The Meanings of a Disaster is a meticulously researched, readable, and intelligently argued analysis of over two decades’ worth of Chernobyl discourse in France and Britain.” • Sonja Schmid, Virginia Tech

“As a follow-up to her skillful study of discourses around nuclear power and radiation protection in France following the Chernobyl disaster, Karena Kalmbach has provided a fresh look at the problem in transnational and comparative perspective. Her argument is well-grounded, based on broad evidence, and embedded within a clear and effective conceptual framework.” • Anna Veronika Wendland, Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe


The disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was an event of obviously transnational significance—not only in the airborne particulates it deposited across the Northern hemisphere, but in the political and social repercussions it set off well beyond the Soviet bloc. Focusing on the cases of Great Britain and France, this innovative study explores the discourses and narratives that arose in the wake of the incident among both state and nonstate actors. It gives a thorough account of the stereotypes, framings, and “othering” strategies that shaped Western European nations’ responses to the disaster, and of their efforts to come to terms with its long-term consequences up to the present day.

Karena Kalmbach is Assistant Professor in History at Eindhoven University of Technology. She received her doctorate from the European University Institute in Florence for a dissertation that subsequently was awarded the 2015 Book Prize for Young Scholars from the International Committee for the History of Technology.

Subject: History: 20th Century to Present Environmental Studies (General) Media Studies
Area: Europe


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