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Literature Review

As part of the Fukushima Forum, we would like to maintain a current list of references to benefit all scholars who are working on Fukushima and who wish to examine Fukushima and other disasters from a comparative perspective.

Current References (Wiki)

We view this as a collective effort; as such we have developed a wiki-based implementation for the literature review. Find it here at:

Major External Resources

There are also external sites that anyone looking for relevant references on Fukushima and the Higashi Nihon Dai Shinsai may want to consult:

Teach 3.11
Anyone interested in broadening their understanding of literature related to the three disasters should examine this treasure trove of resources built around annotations of relevant works and multimedia tied to the history of science, technology, and medicine in global East Asia. The project, which is part of the Forum for the History of Science in Asia, is run by a multilingual team of scholars (cofounders Lisa Onaga, Honghong Tinn, and Tyson Vaughan; and editors Kristina Buhrman and Chihyung Jeon).

General References

The most detailed, current references should be at the wiki-based site provided above. We also hope to provide a relatively current introduction to relevant literatures below. (What follow is “static” information that we hope to update periodically, also through a voluntary effort. If you are willing to update, or provide an alternative to what appears below, please contact Atsushi Akera at

[NOTE: The following is currently an excerpt from our NSF proposal for organizing the STS Forum on Fukushima]

Current State of the Field

Within the past two decades, and especially after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, “disaster research,” including social scientific studies of disasters, has emerged especially within the United States as a major interdisciplinary field, one which has gained visibility in numerous public policy domains including public health, homeland security, and environmental policy (for example, Erikson 1994; Barry 1998; and Mileti 1999 for early foundational works; Klinenberg 2002; Birkland 2006; Steinberg 2006; Brinkley 2007 since 9/11) . However, as Kathleen Tierney notes in her 2007 review essay, there remain opportunities for further integration of this literature with other literatures and broader conceptual developments in sociology. Our survey of the review essays in other social scientific disciplines (Oliver-Smith 1996; Gilk 2007; Comfort 2005) also suggests that the integration and internal coherence of social scientific studies of disaster are still in the formative stages, and would benefit from organized conversations designed to span different disciplinary approaches to the study of large-scale disasters.

Especially in directing this proposal to the Science, Technology, and Society Program at NSF, our particular focus is on the significant disengagement that still remains between the wider disaster research community and disaster studies as practiced within the field of STS; we also have the opportunity, through Fukushima, to integrate several relevant literatures within the general domain of STS. STS and scholars from some of its most closely allied disciplines are certainly uniquely positioned to study the Fukushima incident. In addition to formative studies in the general arena of nuclear power (Nelkin and Fallows 1978; Wynne 1982; Downey 1988; Balogh 1991; Frickel 1996; Hecht 1998; Perin 1998), there are historical and retrospective studies of past accidents (Petryna 2002; Walker 2004), as well as highly relevant studies focusing explicitly on radioactive risks and risk assessment (Carlisle 1997; Perin 2005; Boudia 2007). Many of these studies delve into the questions of public participation, expert authority, and public debate, including studies that focus explicitly on concerns about radiation exposure and environmental management (Kuletz 1998; Schoch-Spana 1998; Kirsch 2004; Hecht forthcoming).

There are also numerous works in the adjoining arena of nuclear weapons research whose insights into science, expert authority, and the public image of nuclear things inform the debates about nuclear energy (Gusterson 1998, 2004; Eden 2004; Hecht 2010; Masco 2006; Taylor, Kinsella, Depoe, and Metzler (eds.) 2007). Key works in our discipline, including Langdon Winner’s The Whale and the Reactor (1986), Charles Perrow’s Normal Accidents (1984) and Diane Vaughn’s The Challenger Launch Decision (1996) have been widely cited as providing interpretive frameworks for the disaster. Beyond this more obvious literature, foundational STS-based studies of expertise (Jasanoff 1990; Fischer 1990); the relationship between scientific authority and other forms of expertise (Jasanoff 1995; Wynne 1996; Fischer 2000; Collins and Evans 2007; Ottinger and Cohen (eds.) 2011); the process of inclusion and exclusion in the governance of expert authority (Reardon 2005; Maasen and Weingard (eds.) 2005; Epstein 2007; Fischer 2009; Brown and Mark 2009); and expert assessments of risk (Allen 2003; Macfarlane 2003; Jasanoff 2005; Brown 2007), including the assessment of risk under emergent conditions and conditions of considerable uncertainty (Lindblom and Woodhouse 1993; Hisschemöller, Hoppe, Dunn, and Ravetz (eds.) 2006) are also germane to an understanding of Fukushima. These and other works have yet to be fully integrated into current studies of Fukushima, or with the broader arena of disasters studies.

Extant studies of disasters and disaster experts within the general sphere of STS, including the foundational works by Perrow (1984), Vaughn (1996), Fortun (2001), and Knowles (2011), integrate these foundational concepts, to a somewhat varying extent, and demonstrate their efficacy in understanding how experts and expert authority function in the context of other disasters and institutionalized assessments of risk. This includes the role that standards, such as fire safety codes—or the radiological safety standards associated with Fukushima—play in mediating political disputes, and define in turn the policy options and public debates that follow from those standards. Other recent studies such as those by Lakoff, Shrum, Frickel and Vincent have also homed in on specific questions related to how disasters unfold, including, respectively, the institutional configurations and logics that shape government responses to “catastrophic risk” (Lakoff 2010; Lakoff (ed.), 2010); institutional politics, disciplinary differences, and the different epistemic cultures as evidenced within the different teams charged with evaluating the levee failure associated with Hurricane Katrina (Shrum 2010); and systematic knowledge gaps that can appear within the regulatory apparatus as a result of specific hazards assessment protocols (Frickel and Vincent 2011; also Frickel Campanella and Vincent 2009). In addition to the growing body of STS scholars who have or currently are studying other major disasters such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil Spill, investigations into different kinds, and in some cases less well known incidents have the potential to shed light on specific aspects of the Fukushima incident. This would include, for instance, Klinenberg’s (2002) assessment of the 1995 Chicago heat wave investigations, which documents how public and journalistic responses shaped the policy arena and outcome; Kirsch’s (2006) study of mining operations in indigenous lands, which documents the interactions between corporate science and local knowledge; and Matsumoto’s (2006: Chap. 6) sociological study of a serious accident involving a standard military system before the outbreak of World War II, which analyzes the phenomenon of “self-reliant failures.”

We should also note that foundational studies related to disasters and the underlying scientific and engineering disciplines in Japan already exist in English. Most relevant, within the field of STS would be Greg Clancey’s  Earthquake Nation: The Cultural Politics of Japanese Seismicity, 1868-1930 (2006); while the most noted comparative study of the U.S. and Japanese scientific community, which also contains relevant insights about characteristic national differences in the interaction between scientists and engineers, remains Traweek (1988).

The purpose of the forum is to also introduce U.S. and other non-Japanese scholars to the significant and growing body of Japanese scholarship. The earliest scholarly responses to the incident include Kainuma (2011), Yamamoto (2011), and Yoshioka (2011). Meanwhile, foundational studies that are already informing the interpretive work going on in Japan include Juraku, Suzuki and Osamu (2007), Sugawara and Kohta (2010), and Tateishi (2011) on the historical and engineering decision making background to Fukushima; Matsumoto (2002; 2009) for studies of the ”structural failure” between science and technology policy and societal systems during catastrophic crises; Suzuki (2004) for the most germane studies of past disasters in Japan such as the Kanto Dai-Shinsai; and Kodama (2011) for an analysis of the social conditions for stepwise decontamination procedures.

Clearly, there is an opportunity, with Fukushima, to forge a transnational research agenda based on the integration of these literatures, and to do so in a way that engages and makes these works relevant to the wider disaster studies and policy communities.


Akera, Atsushi. 2009. Synopsis of INES affiliated regional workshop on engineering identities: deepening theoretical perspectives, July 22-24, 2009, Grafton, New York. Engineering studies 1/3:241-243.

Allen, Barbara. 2003. Uneasy alchemy: citizens and experts in Louisiana’s chemical corridor disputes (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003).

Balogh, Brian. 1991. Chain reaction: exert debate and public participation in American commercial nuclear power, 1945-1975 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Barry, John M. 1997. Rising tide: the great Mississippi flood of 1927 and how it changed America (New York, Simon & Schuster).

Birkland, Thomas A. 2006. Lessons of disaster: policy change after catastrophic events (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press).

Boudia, Soraya. 2007. Global regulation: controlling and accepting radioactivity risks. History and technology 23:389-406.

Brinkley, Douglas G. The great deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (New York: Morrow 2006).

Brown, Phil. 2007. Toxic exposures: contested illnesses and the environmental health movement (New York: Columbia University Press).

Carlisle, Rodney P. 1997. Probabilistic risk assessment in nuclear reactors: engineering success, public relations failure. Technology and culture 38:920-941.

Clancey, Gregory K. 2006. Earthquake nation: the cultural politics of Japanese seismicity, 1868-1930 (Berkeley: University of California Press).

Collins, Harry and Robert Evans. 2007. Rethinking expertise (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Comfort, Louise K. 2005. Risk, security, and disaster management. Annual review of political science 8:335-356.

Downey, Gary L. 1988. Reproducing cultural identity in negotiating nuclear power: the Union of Concerned Scientists and emergency core cooling. Social studies of science 18:231-264.

______. 2009. What is engineering studies for?: dominant practices and scalable scholarship. Engineering studies 1/1:55-76.

EASTS: East Asian science, technology and society: an international journal. n.d. editorial. >“Editorial” (retrieved 11/14/2011).

Eden, Lynn. 2004. Whole world on fire: organizations, knowledge and nuclear weapons devastation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press).

Epstein. 2007. Inclusion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Erikson, Kai. 1994. A new species of trouble: explorations in disaster, trauma, and community (New York: W. W. Norton).

Fischer, Frank. 2009. Democracy and expertise: reorienting policy inquiry (Oxford; Oxford University Press).

______. 2000. Citizens, experts, and the environment: the politics of local knowledge (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).

______. 1990. Technocracy and the politics of expertise (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications).

Fortun, Kim. 2001. Advocacy after Bhopal: environmentalism, disaster, new global orders (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).

Frickel, Scott. 1996. Engineering heterogeneous accounts: the case of submarine thermal reactor Mark-I. Science, technology and human values 21:28-53.

______. 2010. Disaster science: between calamity and recovery. Items and issues, online newsletter of the Social Sciences Research Council. (Accessed 1/23/2012)

Frickel, Scott, Richard Campanella and M. Bess Vincent. 2009. Mapping knowledge investments in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: a new approach for assessing regulatory agency responses to environmental disaster. Environmental science and policy 12/2:119-133.

Frickel, Scott and M.Bess Vincent. 2011. Katrina’s contamination: regulatory knowledge gaps in the making and unmaking of environmental contention. In dynamics of disaster: lessons in risk, response, and recovery, ed. Rachel A.Dowty and Barbara L. Allen (London: Earthscan).

Glik, Deborah C. 2007. Risk communication for public health emergencies. Annual review of public health 28:33-54.

Gusterson, Hugh. 2004. People and the bomb: portraits of America’s nuclear complex (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).

______. 1998. Nuclear rites: a weapons laboratory at the end of the Cold War (Berkeley: University of California Press)

Hecht, Gabrielle. Forthcoming. Being nuclear: Africans and the global uranium trade (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

______. 2010. The power of nuclear things. Technology and culture 51:1-30.

______. 1998. The radiance of France: nuclear power and national identity after World War II (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

Hischemöller, Matthijs, Rob Hoppe, William N. Dunn, Jerry R. Ravetz (eds.). 2006. Knowledge, power, and participation in environmental policy analysis. Policy studies review annual, volume 12 (Transaction Publishers).

INES (International Network for Engineering Studies) Workshop. 2006. Locating engineers: education, knowledge, desire. Overview and notes on workshop format. (Accessed 1/23/2012)

______. 2008. Global perspectives on engineering. Overview and notes on workshop format. (Accessed 1/23/2012)

Jasanoff, Sheila. 2005. Designs on nature: science and democracy in Europe and the United States (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

______. 1995. Science at the bar: law, science, and technology in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

______. 1990. The fifth branch: science advisers as policymakers (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

Juraku Kohta, Suzuki Tatsujiro, and Sakura Osamu. 2007. Social decision-making processes in local contexts: an STS case study on nuclear power plant siting in Japan. East Asian science, technology and society 1/1:53-75.

Kainuma Hiroshi. 2011. “Fukushima” ron: genshiryokumura wa naze umaretanoka (Tokryo: Seidosha).

Kirsch, Scott. 2004. Harold Knapp and the geography of normal controversy: radioiodine in the historical environment. Osiris 19:167-181.

Kirsch, Stewart. 2006. Reverse anthropology: indigenous analysis of social and environmental relations in New Guinea (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press).

Klinenberg, Eric. 2002. Heat wave: a social autopsy of disaster in Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Kodama Tatsuhiko. 2011. Josen nitsuite ima wareware ni dekirukoto. Kotoba 5.58-61.

Kuletz, Valerie L. 1998. The tainted desert: environmental and social ruin in the American West (New York: Routledge).

Knowles, Scott. 2011. The disaster experts: mastering risk in modern America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).

Lakoff, Andrew. 2010. Too big to fail: catastrophic risk after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Items and issues, online newsletter of the Social Sciences Research Council. (Accessed 1/23/2012)

______ (ed.). 2010. Disaster and the politics of intervention. (New York: Columbia University Press).

Maasen, Sabine and Peter Weingart (eds.). 2006. Democratization of expertise? Exploring novel forms of scientific advice in political decision-making. Sociology of the sciences yearbook. (Dordrecht: Springer).

Macfarlane, Allison. 2003. Underlying Yucca mountain: the interplay of geology and policy in nuclear waste disposal. Social Studies of Science, 33/5. 783-807.

Masco, Joseph. 2006. The nuclear borderlands: the Manhattan Project in post—Cold War New Mexico. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Matsumoto, Miwao. 2009. Tekunosaiensurisuku to shakaigaku. (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press).

______. 2006. Technology gatekeepers for war and peace (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).

______. 2002. Chi no shippai to shakai (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten).

Lindblom, Charles E. and Edward J. Woodhouse. 1993. The policymaking process (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall).

Mileti, Dennis. 1999. Disasters by design: a reassessment of natural hazards in the United States (Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press).

Miller, Clark, Daniel Sarewitz, and Andrew Light. 2008. Science, technology, and sustainability: building a research agenda. NSF workshop report. (Accessed 1/23/2012).

Monroe, Joseph G. and Edward J. Woodhouse. 1989. The demise of nuclear energy? Lessons for democratic control of technology (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).

Nelkin, Dorothy and Susan Fallows. 1978. The evolution of the nuclear debate: the role of public participation. Annual review of energy 3:275-312.

NSF-OISE-0527163. 2005. International Network for Engineering Studies workshop #1: engineers and education. (PI: Gary Downey, $27,390, 15 August 2005).

NSF-SES-0402142. 2004. New England workshop on science and social change. (PI: Peter Taylor, $6,000, 15 March 2004).

NSF-SES-0551843. 2006 Ecological research and the complexities of participation in social and environmental change. (PI: Peter Taylor, $14,400. 15 March 2006).

Oliver-Smith, Anthony. 1996. Anthropological research on hazards and disasters. Annual review of anthropology 25:303-328.

Ottinger, Gwen and Benjamin Cohen (eds.). 2011. Technoscience and environmental justice: expert cultures in a grassroots movement (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

Perin, Constance. 1998. Operating as experimenting: synthesizing engineering and scientific values in nuclear power production. Science, technology and human values 23:98-128.

______. 2005. Shouldering risks: the culture of control in the nuclear power industry (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

Perrow, Charles. 1984. Normal accidents: living with high-risk technologies (New York: Basic Books).

Petryna, Adriana. 2002. Life exposed: biological citizens after Chernobyl (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

Reardon, Jenny. 2005. Race to the finish: identity and governance in an age of genomics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

Schoch-Spana, Monica. 1998. Reactor control and environmental management: a cultural account of agency in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex (Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins University).

Shrum, Wesley. 2010. Negotiating neutrality: Hurricane Katrina and the failure of STS. Unpublished manuscript.

Smithson, Michael. 1990. Ignorance and disasters. International journal of mass emergencies and disasters 8/3:207-235.

Steinberg, Theodore. 2006. Acts of god: the unnatural history of natural disaster in America (New York: Oxford University Press).

Sugawara Shinetsu & Juraku Kohta. 2010. Ko reberu haikibutsu saishushobunjo ricchi purosesu omeguru kagakugijutsushakaigakuteki kosatsu. Japan journal for science, technology & society 19:25-51.

Suzuki Jun. 2004. Kanto daishinsai. (Chikuma shobo).

Tateishi Yuji. 2011. Kankyomondai no kagakushakaigaku (Kyoto: Sekaishiso-sha).

Taylor, Brian C., William J. Kinsella, Stephen P. Depoe, and Maribeth S. Metzler (eds.). 2007. Nuclear legacies: communication, controversy, and the U.S. nuclear weapons complex (Lanham, MD: Lexington).

Taylor, P. J., S. J. Fifield, C. Young. 2011. Cultivating collaborations: concepts and questions emerging interactively from an evolving, interdisciplinary workshop. Science as culture 20/1:89-105.

Tierney, Kathleen J. 2007. From the margins to the mainstream? Disaster research at the crossroads. Annual review of sociology 33:503-525.

Traweek, Sharon. 1988. Beamtimes and lifetimes: the world of high energy physicists (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

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Vaughan, Diane. 1996. The Challenger launch decision: risky technology, culture, and deviance at NASA (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Walker, J. Samual. 2004. Three Mile Island: a nuclear crisis in historical perspective (Berkeley: University of California Press).

Winner, Langdon. 1986. The whale and the reactor: a search for limits in an age of high technology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)

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Wynne, Brian. 1982. Rationality and ritual: the Windscale Inquiry and nuclear decisions in Britain (Chalfont St. Giles: British Society for the History of Science).

______. 1996. May the sheep safely graze? A reflexive view of the expert-lay knowledge divide. In Risk, environment, and modernity: towards a new ecology, ed. S. Lash, B. Szerszynski, and B. Wynne (London: Sage), 27-83.

Yamamoto Yoshitaka. 2011. Fukushima no genpatsu juko wo megutte: ikutsuka manabi kangaeta koto (Tokyo: Misuzu Shobo).

Yosioka Hitoshi. 2011. Shinban: genshiryoku no shakaishi—sono Nihonteki tenkai (Tokyo: Asahishinbun shuppan).

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