I. Five Nuances to the Traditional “Atomic America” Course


 Our approach to teaching Atomic America sought to nuance the traditional curriculum in five intersecting ways:  

1. Through an interdisciplinary approach, we read across the disciplines of history, anthropology, geography, geology, ecology, and environmental health sciences. 

2. At an institute of mining and technology, it makes sense to focus on mining technology, among other applied sciences and engineering involved in the entire cradle-to-grave lifetime of nuclear things

3. New Mexico is an exceptional place in the Cold War history of the US. Because the students and the instructor are situated in New Mexico, this course takes a place-based approach to learning by identifying literature that focuses on how nuclear development and radioactive nation building took course within the state of New Mexico, selecting local sites for our collaborative case studies, and collectively considering how the state scale of analysis reflects a national and international history of nuclear development.

4. The acquisition of raw materials and the extraction of uranium ore resources are scarcely mentioned in the historical record of the atomic age, and virtually absent in Atomic America courses. In this course, we foreground this area of ignorance by focusing on geologic memoirs that have kept rigorous records on how uranium mining in the US Southwest contributed to the Manhattan Project and subsequent radioactive nation building.

5. A final contribution of our work to the Atomic America tradition is a focus on the ongoing environmental health legacies of uranium mining and milling, among other nuclear “sacrifice zones,” and the interdisciplinary environmental and biomedical sciences and engineering involved in monitoring and managing uranium mine waste and mill tailings.


Creative Commons Licence


Contributed date

January 12, 2021 - 4:05am


Critical Commentary


De Pree, Thomas. 2021. I. Five Nuances to the Traditional “Atomic America” Course. In Afterlife of Atomic America. Disaster STS Research Network.


New Mexico
United States

Cite as

Thomas De Pree, "I. Five Nuances to the Traditional “Atomic America” Course", contributed by Thomas De Pree and Tim Schütz, Disaster STS Network, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 22 January 2021, accessed 15 August 2022. https://disaster-sts-network.org/content/i-five-nuances-traditional-“atomic-america”-course