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School of Politics and International Relations

Hunker in Your Bunker: Doomsday Prepping in the United States

When: Wednesday, May 24, 2023, 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Where: The Hitchcock Theatre, Arts One Building, Room G.19 Queen Mary University of London Mile End Campus London E1 4NS, Mile End Campus

During the middle of the twentieth century, the United States encouraged citizens to take it upon themselves to construct domestic fallout shelters in the case of nuclear war. Leaving aside the wisdom of this policy or its actual implementation, what makes the US a unique site of analysis is that it never was required to use any of these bunkers for their intended purpose, either from nuclear or conventional warfare. As bunkers remained a fantastical abstraction, dovetailed with the rise of neoliberal responsibility about protecting oneself, Americans could envision bunkering so perfectly that it reproduced everyday life, in perhaps smaller quarters. This persistent abstraction, and at the zenith of personality responsibility for risk management, leads to the phenomenon of ‘bunkerization’. Bunkerization is an organizing principle of everyday life where rather than building exterior fallout shelters or bunkers, Americans are invited to reimagine their domiciles as bunker spaces. This talk theorizes the political valence of such a bunkerized life.


Robert E. Kirsch is an assistant professor of Leadership and Integrative Studies at Arizona State University (USA). He is the co-author, with Emily Ray, of the forthcoming book Worst Case Scenario: The Politics of Prepping in America, from Columbia University Press. His broader research agenda focuses on Frankfurt School critical theory, in particular Herbert Marcuse, as well as environmental political theory.

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