This conversation with Joe Masco can be seen as the third archipelic episode of what I like to call “counter-history of the American suburbia.” After talking with Olivia Ahn about the suburban house as a gender making apparatus, and with Karen Tongson about processes of queering the suburbia, Joe and I converse about the territorial strategies at work in the creation of suburbia itself. The strategies were very much informed by both the propension of capitalism, as well as the militarized prospect of a large-scale nuclear attack. Joe explains how an imaginary of fear — similar to the one we currently experience through the so-called “war on terror” — had to implemented to generate an useful tension among the American population. The 1955 Operation Cue that simulated on live television the nuclear annihilation of a mock-up village is used as a paradigm of such an imaginary throughout the conversation.
Joseph Masco teaches anthropology and science studies at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico (2006, Princeton University Press), and The Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror (2014, Duke University Press). His current research explores the science, politics, and visualization practices informing today’s environmental crisis.