Life ExposedBiological Citizens after Chernobyl

Life ExposedBiological Citizens after Chernobyl

Adriana Petryna

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780691151663

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Abstract

On April 26, 1986, Unit Four of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded in then Soviet Ukraine. More than 3.5 million people in Ukraine alone, not to mention many citizens of surrounding countries, are still suffering the effects. This is the first book to comprehensively examine the vexed political, scientific, and social circumstances that followed the Chernobyl disaster. Tracing the story from an initial lack of disclosure to post-Soviet democratizing attempts to compensate sufferers, the book uses anthropological tools to take us into a world whose social realities are far more immediate and stark than those described by policymakers and scientists. It asks: What happens to politics when state officials fail to inform their fellow citizens of real threats to life? What are the moral and political consequences of remedies available in the wake of technological disasters? The book illustrates how the Chernobyl explosion and its aftermath have not only shaped the course of an independent nation but have made health a negotiated realm of entitlement. It tracks the emergence of a “biological citizenship” in which assaults on health become the coinage through which sufferers stake claims for biomedical resources, social equity, and human rights. The book provides an anthropological framework for understanding the politics of emergent democracies, the nature of citizenship claims, and everyday forms of survival as they are interwoven with the profound changes that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union.