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Teaching the Fukushima Disaster with “A Journey To Namie”

Vivek Kant, Nanyang Technological University

04 April, 2016

Many of us in STS are looking for ways to teach about the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. Teach311.org is a valuable resource. The goal of the project is "to enhance the collective knowledge of scholars worldwide working at the intersections of history of science and technology and Asia by presenting, annotating and organizing pertinent scholarly work and teaching materials." This post, originally published here, provides ideas for classroom discussion of a documentary film by 4S Council member, Sulfikar Amir. Do you teach the Fukushima disaster? Share your teaching ideas in the comments. - Backchannels

While textual representations of the Fukushima disaster and its aftermath provide a conduit for the imagination to construct the scenario, visual depiction renders the landscape with visceral immediacy. “A Journey To Namie” is a short visual documentary by Sulfikar Amir, a professor at Nanyang Technological University and a scholar in the field of Science & Technology Studies. The documentary presents a journey that the director takes with his guide to Namie, a town caught in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. The journey is shot through the first-person perspective of the director. The audience is privy to this perspective and views Namie through this viewpoint.

The film takes us through the somber landscape, in the drive to Namie. In the town, the director depicts a kind of humanscape that is devoid of humans. The film emphasizes the mundane: shoes, park benches, cycles, unopened bottles of wine. These objects make the viewer wonder about the people who once completed the equation of this humanscape. The movie ends with information on the uncertain future of the inhabitants of Namie.

Questions for undergraduates:

1) Every documentary is a political (and aesthetic) creation. In this light, and considering the context of the Fukushima Disaster, deconstruct and comment upon the director’s journey. Emphasize the themes and symbols that the director depicts.

2) Two major themes of the film are spatiality and materiality. Critically examine these themes in terms of the pre-disaster and post-disaster scenarios. [Prompt: What does spatio-material dimension of the movie add to scholarly knowledge of Disaster Studies].

 3) Diagram the actor-network relations for Namie based on the information presented in the movie.

Additional question for science fiction buffs:

4) Compare the theme and setting of the movie with the one presented in the sci-fi short story, “There Will Come Soft Rains,” by Ray Bradbury.

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Descriptions of current work—the makings and doings—of STS scholars across the globe. This includes individual work, as well as collaborations between / with academics, practitioners, and policy makers.