The Dilemma of Nuclear Insecurity and Limits of Law

Thursday, January 30, 2020
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
  • Helen Kang,
  • Mary Mitchell

This event is co-sponsored by the Program in History and Philosophy of Science; Program in Science, Technology, and Society; and Stanford Center for Law and History.


Livestream: This event will not be live-streamed or recorded


Abstract: How have national practices of nuclear security produced local conditions of insecurity? After World War II, the United States’ nuclear testing program transformed the Marshall Islands into an experimental site for testing both new weapons and forms of territorial governance. During the same period, the Hunters Point Shipyard in southeast San Francisco became the launching point and return site for ships, scientists, and military personnel circulating between the mainland and the Pacific tests. These activities not only incorporated the Marshall Islands and Hunters Point into networks of militarization and scientific knowledge production, but also resulted in widespread radiological contamination. Professors Mary Mitchell and Helen Kang will discuss the entangled legal, environmental, and social legacies of radiological contamination at these two sites, shedding light on the consequential damages of the Cold War and ongoing efforts to demand accountability from the United States government.


Helen Kang Biography: Helen H. Kang is Professor of Law at Golden Gate University School of Law and Director of the school’s Environmental Law and Justice Clinic, which has received recognition for its work from the American Bar Association and the Clinical Legal Education Association, among others. She has devoted most of her legal career to environmental protection, first as Trial Attorney with the Environmental Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. Since joining the clinic in 2000, she and her students have successfully represented community and environmental groups, prevailing against agencies such as U.S. EPA and large sources of pollution, including power plants. The clinic’s work has contributed to developments in environmental law, reducing pollution in communities most affected by pollution in California and beyond, and improving public participation and regulatory accountability. Helen’s achievements include successfully arguing in the California Supreme Court to defend the California Environmental Quality Act from federal preemption and compelling California, after decades of abdication, to meaningfully regulate agricultural pollution. She graduated from Berkeley Law, University of California at Berkeley, and Yale University.


Mary Mitchell Biography: Mary X. Mitchell is an Assistant Professor of History at Purdue University where she works on issues at the intersection of environmental inequality and law. During the spring of 2020, Mitchell will be a faculty fellow at Princeton University's Shelby Cullom Davis Center. She earned her PhD in History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 and was an Atkinson Fellow in Sustainability at Cornell University from 2016-2018. Previously, she practiced law in Pennsylvania and served as a law clerk to Judge Anthony J. Scirica of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.