• About me

    anthropologist of nuclear power, expertise, and bureaucracy

    My work mobilizes semiotic analysis to examine how technical knowledge infrastructures and political values combine to form the “common sense” of global environmental governance. I am currently a postdoctoral research and teaching associate (Universitätsassistentin) at the University of Vienna's Department of European Ethnology.

     

    From 2016-2018 I was a Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

    I earned my PhD in linguistic and sociocultural anthropology from the University of Chicago in August 2016.


    Contact

    weichselbraun@stanford.edu
    Twitter

    Academia.edu
    ORCID

  • Research

    Current projects

    IAEA Headquarters

    Nuclear Bureaucracy

    Bureaucracy, Boredom, & Objectivity at the IAEA

    This research provides an intimate view of the practices and activities of nuclear safeguards inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency, and connects these quotidian practices to the geopolitics of nuclear governance. It investigates the question of the organization's political legitimacy through the capacity for the bureaucracy to produce objective knowledge.

    Climate Change in California

    The Cultural Politics of Decarbonization

    This project ethnographically examines the concepts of “readiness” and “implementation” for climate adaptation policies that are designed to lead California to its ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. By interrogating what “climate readiness” looks like at various scales, this project will critically examine understandings of “implementation” across expert groups and local communities.

    Technologies of Truth and Trust

    The Problem of Verification

    This project explores technologies of verification as a problem of the unknowability of others’ intentions. By comparing the CTBTO's International Monitoring System with distributed-ledger technologies this project will explore the endurance of the aspiration for perfect information that restricts human agency while still relying on the invisible work of human beings.

  • Writing

    In-progress

    Book manuscript: The Order of Nuclear Things: Bureaucracy, Objectivity, and Boredom at the IAEA
    This book asks why the task of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons — with their spectacular destructive potential — was entrusted to an international bureaucracy. In answering this question, the book reveals globally held aspirations for bureaucratic organizations to calmly and rationally produce impartial knowledge about the world. Through a historical and ethnographic study of the international control of nuclear technologies ("nuclear safeguards"), with a particular focus on the International Atomic Energy Agency, this book shows the ideological force of these aspirations in the construction of the hierarchical global nuclear order while telling a story of bureaucracy's promises instead of its failures.

    Publications (academic)

    "Producing Credible Nuclear Knowledge: Bureaucratic Objectivity at the IAEA” (under review)

     

    "Of Broken Seals and Broken Promises: Attributing Intention at the IAEA" (under review)

     

    Review of Containment. Directed by Peter Galison and Robb Moss. Redacted Pictures, 2015. 81 minutes. In Environmental History, January 2018.

     

    “‘People here speak five languages!’: the reindexicalization of linguistic minorityhood among Carinthian Slovenes in Vienna, Austria.” 2014. Language in Society 43.4: 421–444.

     

    “Language and Law” (with Justin Richland). 2014. In Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology. Ed. John Jackson. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Op-eds, commentaries, blogs

    Not Talking about Disarmament at the IAEA, Anthropology News, July 19, 2018.

     

    Don't assume Trump is more responsible with nuclear weapons than North Korea, The Guardian, July 6, 2017.

     

    “Crisis Talk” in Crisis and Nuclear Scholars’ Responsibility to Imagine, First 100 Days, Harvard STS Blog, April 14, 2017.

    Page 99 for CaMP Dissertations, CaMP: Communication, Media and Performance Anthropology Blog, November 21, 2016.

  • Teaching

    Introduction to Anthropological Theory

    The development of social & cultural systems

    This course serves as an introduction to anthropological thought and theory to undergraduate students. Tracing the discipline from its problematic beginnings as colonial knowledge making enterprise up to the most recent "ontological" turn, the course examines the directions and disruptions that have shaped the way we understand anthropology today.

    Anthropology of Knowledge

    The atomic age

    This course introduces students to the anthropology of knowledge through the cultural, political, and scientific dimensions of the "atomic age." By reading primary source texts alongside critical ethnographic and historical works engaging various aspects of the nuclear age (including nuclear weapons strategy, studies of radiation in the environment, civil defense culture, nuclear accidents, nuclear law, and long term nuclear waste storage), we map out 20th century knowledge production across science, governance, and the environment.

    Bureaucracies and Power

    On the role of organizational forms in the establishment of social and political order

    This upper-level and graduate seminar conducts a historical survey of the structuring relationship between complex organizational forms and the order of social and political life. It examines the role of governance, the figure of the expert, and the function of files for communication, in order to trace out prevailing imaginaries of knowledge and power as they operate in contemporary culture.

  • Curriculum Vitae