Getting rid of Nuclear Weapons: Philosophical Foundation and Historical Circulation of Ideas in Nuclear Disarmament

guillaume DE ROUGE's picture
May 29, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Contemporary History, Cultural History / Studies, European History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Philosophy

Since the dawn of the nuclear era, nuclear deterrence has been contested and criticized, both as a legitimate policy on the basis of its immorality, and as a practical policy on the basis of its inefficiency and dangerosity.

These questionings opened the path to a great diversity of movements that have been involved in nuclear disarmament, either directly – peace and antinuclear movements, national and international peace organisations, including professional (notably scientific and religious) organisations – or indirectly – direct action groups (more common in anti-nuclear energy groups), environmental, feminist, anticolonial or human/civil rights groups, and political parties.

Despite their differences, these entities have all contributed to the edification and circulation of a broad corpus of criticism against nuclear weapons.

Recent studies and movements have re-energized the pro-nuclear disarmament agenda in the West and the strong criticism against nuclear deterrence, especially on ethical, moral and philosophical grounds (see, for example, changes in religious thoughts, notably the Catholic Church in Rome). 

New studies have also opened up new avenues to better understand the transnational circulation of ideas and concepts related to disarmament, the role of inter/trans/national nuclear imaginaries, the connection between national and transnational histories, and the interactions between grassroots activism and “transnational professional activism” in the creation of nationally based movements, in order to shed light on the complex dynamics that interact to favour the development of disarmament movements.


Therefore, the researchers gathered for this conference will investigate the following themes:

  • the philosophical, religious and ethical foundations of disarmament movements, their evolutions and interactions with the political sphere, with a focus on the Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox Church (panel 1);
  • the circulations, transfers and re-appropriations of ideas, practices and peoples among disarmament movements and more broadly among transnational activist movements (involved in other issues such as environment, technology, fight against corruption, etc), their interactions with states apparatus, political parties and civil societies, and their roles in the emergence and reconfiguration of inter/trans/national networks and communities. These topics would be approached through a variety of contemporary case studies, including: South-African and 'Oceanian' movements, as well as global advocacy perspectives (panel 2); Western European movements and their Western connections, both in the post-World War Two and in the 'Second Cold War' eras.





Registration and welcome coffee



Welcome address by Nicolas Roche (Director of the CIENS)



PANEL 1: Religious and philosophical foundations of the role of nuclear weapons

Chair and discussantNicolas Roche (Director of the CIENS)


Hubert Tardy-Joubert (CIENS, Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense / Sophiapol), Philosophical foundations of disarmament

Mgr Bruno-Marie DUFFE (Vatican State, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, General Secretary), Catholic Church positions about nuclear weapons and conditions of an ethical approach of a political peace

Dmitry Adamsky (IDC Herzliya), Russian nuclear orthodoxy: sources and consequences of the pro-nuclear ecclesiastical position in Russia



Coffee break




PANEL 2: Circulations of Ideas, Peoples and Practices among Contestation Movements: Views from the 'South' and Global Perspectives

Chair and discussantJean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer(Director of the IRSEM / CIENS) – to be confirmed 


Jo-Ansie Van Wyk (University of South Africa), Liberation movements and nuclear disarmament: The case of the African National Congress and the South African nuclear weapons programme

N.A.J. Taylor (The University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales), Charting an Oceanic nuclear politics

Céline Jurgensen (CIENS) The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons: transnational circulation of ideas, concepts and practices among activist movements



Lunch break



PANEL 3: Circulations in Europe and the western world

Chair and discussantGuillaume de Rougé (CIENS – ENS-Ulm)


Ilaria Parisi (CIENS – ENS-Ulm), The pacifist contagion in 1980s Europe: explaining the force of a divisive movement

Susan Colbourn (Yale University), Battlefield Europe: Limited Nuclear War, the Euromissiles, and the Quest for a Nuclear-Free Europe

Henning Fauser (Université de Tours), French concentration camp survivors and their associations in the struggle against nuclear armament (1949-1991)

Sylvia Kesper-Biermann (Universität Hamburg, Faculty of Education), “To imagine [...] what nuclear weapons actually do”. Transnational Circulation of Anti-Atomic War Comic Books during the 1970s and 1980s



Concluding remarks by Nicolas Roche (Director of the CIENS)



Contact :

Registration here

Contact Info: 

Interdisciplinary Center on Nuclear and Strategic Studies - CIENS

Paris Sciences & Lettres (PSL) – École normale supérieure (ENS-Ulm)

In partnership with the Non-Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP, Washington)

Paris, 29 May 2019

ENS, 45 rue d’Ulm, salle des Actes

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