Keynote: Nicole Shukin

“Species of Resilience in Precarious Japan”

Dr. Nicole Shukin, University of Victoria

The triple disaster of 3/11 – that is, the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan’s coast in March of 2011, damaging several nuclear reactors in Fukushima – unleashed a radioactive catastrophe that has intensified social and ecological insecurities in what Anne Allison terms “precarious Japan.” My talk begins by tracing various, sometimes competing, species of resilience that emerge out of the radioactive ruins of Fukushima. For instance, the animal solidarity demonstrated by “refusenik” farmers who defiantly insisted on staying back with their livestock inside the 20km exclusion zone from which humans were evacuated appears as one species of resilience. So does the lustiness of a population of wild boars in Fukushima that has rapidly reproduced in the same zone of exclusion. Yet in contrast to the kinship with vulnerable animality expressed by the refuseniks, the boars’ species of resilience is viewed as monstrous by seeming to opportunize upon the absence of humans and appearing invulnerable to the acute precarization of life in Japan.

Proposing that the resilience of other species is biopolitically imbricated in the “government of precarity,” as Isabel Lorey puts it, I look in particular at how hope is invested in interspecies relationships both before and after 3/11 as the social antidote to precarity.[1] While autonomist Marxists claim that “life is put to work” within current conditions of capitalism, their insight doesn’t account for how the social lives of other species are coextensively being “put to work” repairing and reproducing the futurity of the human and of capital as deadly social dominants. Any attempt to interrogate the promise of social repair and reproduction placed on other species in precarious Japan needs to account, finally, for the possibility that they might not cooperate. It is this possibility that is posed by the surplus resilience of the wild boars around Fukushima and the glitch they introduce into the government of precarious life.

Allison, Anne. Precarious Japan. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.

Lorey, Isabell. State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious. Transl. by Aileen

Derieg. London: Verso, 2015.

Miyazaki, Hirokazu, “The Economy of Hope: An Introduction.” In The Economy of

Hope, eds. Hirokazu Miyazaki and Richard Swedburg. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017.

[1] Allison notes the rise of “hope studies” in post-3/11 Japan, spearheaded by several hopology faculty at Tokyo University (Precarious Japan, 198).



IMG_5744%202.JPGNicole Shukin is Associate Professor of English and member of he graduate program in Cultural, Social, and Political Thought (CSPT) at the University of Victoria. Her work engages with the politics of species at various sites within the history of capitalism, tracing material entanglements of human and non-human life (and death) across (post)industrial resource, cultural, and affective economies. She is the author of Animal Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times(University of Minnesota Press, 2009), as well as of numerous articles and chapters which bring biopolitical thought to bear upon work in animal studies (and vice versa) by theorizing the relationship between slaughter and cinematic affect, extending the study of pastoral power and governmentality to non-humans, and examining the interspecies bonds which emerge under the shadow of climate change and in the nuclear ruins of Fukushima.



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