CFP (Conference): Reshaping Nature: Atomic Agriculture in the Cold War Era (University of Genoa, 8-9 September 2022)

Francesco Cassata Discussion


The University of Genoa-Department of Antiquities, Philosophy, History (DAFIST), and the Unit 2 of the Research group Prin 2017-Inventing the Global Environment (, are pleased to announce the International Conference Reshaping Nature: Atomic Agriculture in the Cold War Era, which will be held on 8-9 September 2022 in Genoa, Italy.

Historians of science have widely investigated the impact of the atomic bomb on the development of the life sciences after World War 2, thoroughly documenting how the dissemination of scientific resources associated with nuclear energy shaped biological knowledge, laboratory instrumentation, and medical practices.

In this burgeoning historiographic context, the application of nuclear science in agriculture has hitherto attracted relatively little scholarly attention. In particular, despite the pioneering contributions of Helen Anne Curry, Jacob Darwin Hamblin and Karin Zachmann, the development of mutation breeding in other national contexts different from the United States and, more in general, the global spread of atomic agriculture remains uncharted territory. 

The aim of this workshop is to partially bridge this gap, by providing a broader perspective, both geographically and analytically. First of all, we intend to examine the transnational dimension of atomic agriculture, drawing attention to little known, yet fundamental, national case studies (in Europe, Asia, Latin America) but also delving into the transnational circulation of research methods, technological systems, irradiated organisms. Secondly, we aim to explore the complex interaction between the establishment of atomic agriculture as a transnational scientific field, on the one hand, and its Cold War geopolitical dimension, on the other, involving conflicting actions and relationships between different United Nation organisations, such as the FAO and the IAEA. Finally, we are also interested in proposals which analyse the visual and rhetorical strategies of atomic agriculture, its techno-pastoral imaginary, its particular approach to the aesthetics of the atomic sublime.

Submissions should preferably, but not exclusively, deal with:

  • Mutation breeding and food irradiation: national and international programmes
  • Seeds and soil irradiation
  • The insect sterile technique
  • Circulation and networks of scientific knowledge in the field of atomic agriculture
  • Atomic agriculture and the Green Revolution: narratives and tensions
  • Visual and material cultures of atomic agriculture

Please send a paper proposal of no more than 300 words, along with a 1-page CV, to Francesco Cassata ( by May 15, 2022. Final notification will be given by June 5, 2022. Please also express whether you would present in person or online. The conference is intended in person, but hybrid sessions are planned to accommodate both preferences.

There are limited funds available to cover travel and accommodation costs up to a certain amount for scholars who have not access to institutional funding.

The conference language will be English. A selection of the papers will be published in either an edited volume or a special journal issue.


The conference is part of the National Research Project (PRIN 2017) Inventing the Global Environment: Science, Politics, Advocacy and the Environment-Development Nexus in the Cold War and Beyond.