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The nuclear imperialism-necropolitics nexus: contextualizing Chinese-Uyghur oppression in our nuclear age

Alexis-Martin, Becky (2019) The nuclear imperialism-necropolitics nexus: contextualizing Chinese-Uyghur oppression in our nuclear age. Eurasian Geography and Economics. pp. 1-25. ISSN 1538-7216

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Abstract

This paper provides a review of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) nuclear warfare and uranium mining programs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Its scope spans from the PRC’s first nuclear weapon test in Lop Nor, to contemporary issues surrounding in-situ leach uranium mining in the Yili basin, which now provides a third of PRC’s uranium. By exploring these scenarios, a lens can be placed on the parameters and limitations to Uyghur life within a nuclear state. This paper draws on the work of Achille Mbembe’s necropolitics, whereby power is persistently exercised as violence, to consider the entangled aftermath of nuclear imperialism and its effects to Uyghur bodies, environment and culture. While racialized nuclear imperialism presented Uyghur lives as inconsequential to progress in Xinjiang, post-Cold War necropolitics presents Uyghur culture as a direct threat to the progress and values of the PRC sovereign state. This paper proposes that the ongoing exploitation of nuclear Xinjiang provides an additional motivation for state-imposed necropolitical sanctions upon Uyghur people. This paper also presents anew theoretical contribution, the “nuclear imperialism-necropolitics nexus”, which offers away to consider the entangled legacies of spaces of nuclear activity, from nuclear imperialism to the post-Cold War world.

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