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In the spotlight: Anaïs Maurer

What were your first thoughts when you saw the call for applications for the fellowship?

I recalled the famous poster sign by an anonymous bookstore worker: “FYI: post-apocalyptic fiction has been moved to our current affairs section” 

What does the apocalypse and/or post-apocalypse mean for you? 

In the field of critical nuclear studies, the nuclear apocalypse is often presented either as narrowly avoided during the Cold War era, or as a looming catastrophe dependent on the whims of unpredictable world leaders. It is rarely conceived of in its true temporal dimension, as an ongoing apocalypse. With thousands of nuclear and thermonuclear “tests,” nuclear-armed nations have already unleashed the nuclear Armageddon onto the bodies of the Indigenous, colonized, and/or racialized peoples on whose lands these weapons of mass destruction were overwhelmingly detonated. It is important to provincialize northern speculative nuclear futures, and to foreground historically informed narratives from the Global South that analyze the environmental racism at the roots of the apocalyptical nuclear industrial complex. 

Image Anais Maurer

What is your fellowship trying to achieve, which questions is it addressing, and with which methods?

I am working on a manuscript retracing the artistic history of Mā’ohi reistance to French nuclear colonialism. With a collective payload hundreds of times the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, French nuclear tests constitute an apocalyptic event that ushered the end of a world in Mā’ohi Nui. I seek to retrace the half-century of Mā’ohi creative resistance to the bomb, from the 1960s to the present. I argue that 

Mā’ohi artists retrieve the traces left by the most marginalized victims of nuclear colonialism, which cannot be found in state archives. Antinuclear art thus offers a cathartic space through which to express the ongoing emotions associated with half a century of state lies, medical negligence, and environmental racism.

How does the fellowship project build on or connect to your previous career or biography?

This fellowship expands on my previous book, The Ocean on Fire: Pacific Stories from Nuclear Survivors and Climate Activists (Duke University Press, 2024), and on all my previous publications on Pacific decolonial ecologies. There is a lot of work to be done in Pacific Studies to dismantle the linguistic boundaries erected by centuries of colonialism, and to highlight the strategies of resistance to environmental racism uniting all the islands of Oceania. 

What do you hope to take with you from the project and its results?

Germany relies upon American and French nuclear umbrella policies for its international defence. I find it meaningful to see a nuclear-complicit state fund a Centre like CAPAS, which recognizes nuclear colonialism as an apocalyptic event. I am grateful to be able to use research funds from a nuclear-complicit state to further irradiated communities’ quest for nuclear reparations and nuclear disarmament. The results of my work will be shared with various associations for nuclear justice in the Pacific, and will contribute to disseminating the history of decolonial indigenous resilience in various languages across the region.

What are the aspects you are looking forward to with respect to input from other disciplines, other perspectives, and the exchange with the fellows and people at CAPAS?

Given the systemic nature of the issues I study, I immensely value interdisciplinarity and collaboration. The reading groups at CAPAS present wonderful opportunities to discover foundational texts in other disciplines. When sharing my work-in-progress, I find it particularly helpful to discuss with psychoanalysts, historians, and philosophers about the way their disciplines deal with colonial trauma. A (post)apocalyptic world cannot be apprehended through disciplinary silos, and I am very grateful for the jargon-free and inclusive discussions taking place at the CAPAS. 

To get some practical advice: What would be the three things you would definitely need in a post-apocalyptic world?

Many communities already live in a post-apocalyptic world. As Potawatomi philosopher Kyle Powys Whyte puts it, “some indigenous peoples already inhabit what our ancestors would have likely characterized as a dystopian future.” These communities have needed and continue to need love: love of the land despite the harms it has suffered, love of each other to communally heal broken pasts. 

What are some of your favourite pop culture references to the/an (post)apocalypse?

Everything related to nuclear colonialism and the nuclear apocalypse written or performed by Chantal Spitz (Mā’ohi Nui/French-occupied Polynesia), Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner (Aelōn. in M̧ajeļ/Marshall Islands), and Julian Aguon (Guåhan/Guam). 


Anaïs Maurer is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University. In addition, she is an Affiliate Faculty at the K=1 Project in the Center for Nuclear Studies at Columbia University. Her research focuses on topics related to nuclear studies, post-apocalyptic narratives, climate activism, decolonization, and indigenous knowledges in the context of the Pacific region.