Obedient Rebellion: Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and the Paradoxes of ‘Nuclear Order’

Presented by Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh

Monday, 8 April, 2019 - 15:00

NWFZs are a firm feature of the global nuclear political landscape, affecting territories from Africa to Latin America, and from the South Pacific to Southeast Asia. Yet traditional and critical scholars alike have under-valued the importance of this occurrence. In a comparative study of four cases (Latin America, Africa, the South Pacific and Outer Space) and drawing on archival and interview evidence, I contend that the paradoxes of global nuclear order are illustrated by the emergence and persistence of NWFZs. I claim that NWFZs are the product of conflicting impulses, of obedience to - and rebellion against - global nuclear order. On one hand, NWFZs echo a tradition of Third World anti-colonial nuclear aversion; on the other, they represent an acceptance of the discriminatory legal status-quo in the global South. In one sense, NWFZs are a convenient non-threat to the nuclear powers; in another, they allow the P5 to perform ‘responsible’ nuclear rhetoric. These ambivalences paradoxically consolidate NWFZs and, thereby, nuclear order by catering to multiple, conflicting elite audiences at once. I support these claims by analysing the rhetoric of elite decision-makers in signatory states.

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