Conference CFP: Legacies II: The Manhattan Project and its Afterlives

Michael Mays's picture
Call for Papers
September 25, 2019 to September 28, 2019
Washington, United States
Subject Fields: 
American History / Studies, Environmental History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Social History / Studies, Political History / Studies

“Legacies II: The Manhattan Project and its Afterlives”

September 25-28, 2019

Hanford History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities

Richland WA

Proposal deadline: May 1, 2019


Following upon the success of its 2017 conference, “Legacies of the Manhattan Project: Reflections on 75 Years of a Nuclear World,” the Hanford History Project (HHP) at Washington State University Tri-Cities announces “Legacies II: The Manhattan Project and its Afterlives,” an international interdisciplinary conference to be held September 25-28, 2019.

In a century filled with shattering events, none proved more far-reaching or impactful than the U.S. government’s secret nuclear program known as “Manhattan.” More important for what it inaugurated—the new nuclear age—than for what it helped to end—the Second World War—the Manhattan Project and its Cold War legacies irrevocably altered the course of human history.

Those legacies, or “afterlives,” in ways both perceived and actual, imagined or real, have fundamentally recast the world and our experience of it over the last three-quarters of a century. They pervade our collective consciousness and loom over us still, personified in the iconic image of the mushroom cloud, at once menacing and absurdly incongruous, much like the cloud itself.

For decades, the details of that history remained shrouded in secrecy and obscured by fear. Only now—even as the last embers of the Cold War fire are stoked by a resurgent populist nationalism—are we beginning fully to understand the cataclysmic effects of those afterlives and their impacts upon us. Ongoing declassification of governmental records and the increased access to historical archives is necessitating reevaluations of key decisions and outcomes in virtually every field of research, from engineering to the physical and human sciences to the humanities, public policy, and beyond. Coupled with the recent creation of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and the National Park Service’s mission to interpret all aspects of that story, the time is ripe for an extensively multi-disciplinary reconsideration of the key roles, decisions, outcomes and effects of this critical period in history.

In this spirit, we invite papers from across all disciplines and areas of professional expertise or personal experience (academics, practitioners, policy experts, etc.) that foster greater understanding of the origins and consequences of our nuclear past, present, and future.

Topics may include but are certainly not limited to the following:

  • Environmental afterlives of nuclear materials production
  • The afterlife of science: The politicization of science and the scientific community
  • Diversity and difference: The contested spaces of/after the Manhattan Project and Cold War
  • Nowhere to remember: The afterlives of displaced indigenous and settler communities
  • Atomic diplomacy and the Cold War
  • Nuclear borderlands: The afterlives of nuclear testing/test sites
  • The afterlives of the secret cities
  • After Manhattan: “Managing” the new postwar nuclear industry in the public sphere
  • Radiation Safety: Facts and fictions
  • The atomic frontier and its afterlives
  • The afterlife of public policy and practice in the atomic age
  • Activism as afterlife
  • Making things up: Invention, innovation, fabrication, statistics
  • The afterlife of nuclear weaponry: The rise (and fall) of the nuclear power industry
  • The nuclear uncanny: The culture of the new atomic age
  • The Manhattan Project National Historical Park: Memory, commemoration, and the challenges of public history and interpretation
  • Afterlife as/and “slow apocalypse”
  • The Manhattan Project in the popular imagination
  • The after-afterlife: Can there be a post-nuclear age?

Please send abstracts (not to exceed 300 words) along with a brief professional biography to no later than May 1, 2019.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute panel papers, complete panels of 3-4 panelists, and plenary sessions of no more than 60 minutes. Sessions will run 75 minutes with fifteen minutes reserved for discussion. A limited number of grants will be available to subsidize travel costs incurred by graduate students presenting papers.

We invite and encourage proposals from graduate students and from those residing outside the United States. Please submit all proposals in English. Also, please note that no travel support is available to conference participants except as noted above.

For additional information or inquiries, please contact or visit


Contact Info: 

Dr. Michael Mays, Director, Hanford History Project

Washington State University, 2710 Crimson Way, Richland, WA 99354


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