The Politics of Nuclearity: Identity Relations in the Global Nuclear Regime

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Many key crises of international security are tied to the spread of nuclear weapons and technology, but what makes a state “nuclear†remains subject to controversy. The possession of nuclear technology does not always grant legal and political nuclear status—a phenomenon evident not only in the recent debate over Iran’s nuclear program but also in the global diffusion of nuclear materials across ostensibly “non-nuclear†countries. And while scholars and policymakers take the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear to be politically-consequential, what often goes unnoticed is how this distinction is constituted through technical, legal, and normative contexts. This dissertation theorizes the political constitution of the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear states. I advance a “practice approach†rather than a definitional one by locating this distinction in technical discussions about centrifuges and enrichment levels, in the legal distinction between “nuclear weapons states†and “non-nuclear weapons states†in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and in normative disagreements over what it means to be a responsible state. Existing scholarship assumes this distinction to reflect material differences in nuclear technology. In contrast, I argue that material differences acquire meaning through negotiation and contestation. As such, the distinction functions as a political and discursive resource: it provides a language by which states enact their identities and interests. The cases of Israel, India, and Iran represent different approaches to the negotiation of nuclear status but all illuminate the centrality of the distinction in shaping global nuclear politics.', 'I theorize three types of contestation over what it means to be a nuclear state: technical, legal, and normative, each of which constitutes a chapter of my dissertation. Each chapter presents a detailed historical analysis of diplomatic politics and discourse analysis of the use of “nuclear†and “non-nuclear†in technical, legal, and normative contexts. From a technical perspective, ambiguities in the difference between civilian and military nuclear technology result in contestation and manipulation of the material components necessary for nuclear statehood. I examine archival evidence to track how Israel’s diplomatic history with the United States unfolds through manipulation of what makes a nuclear weapon a “weapon.†From a legal perspective, I examine both the history and legal text of the NPT in order to show how it shapes India’s self-understanding in the global nuclear regime and becomes a resource for its continuing dissent to the treaty. Finally, the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear states is also driven by normative understandings of what it means to be a responsible nuclear state. I show how Iran’s recognition as nuclear or non-nuclear hinges on its recognition as responsible or irresponsible.

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  • 10/14/2019
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