22 Apr Instead of Disaster: Cinema after ‘3.11’
Akira Mizuta Lippit (Film, USC)
Wednesday, April 22, 2015 / 4:00 PM
Among the most enduring effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake (Higashi nihon
daishinsai) that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 is the total disruption of spatial order
it produced. The earthquake struck the Tohoku region of Japan; the tsunami wiped
away numerous coastal cities and their inhabitants, while the subsequent nuclear crisis
released invisible radiation into the air and sea, and into the soil, creating “hot spots,”
or discrete areas of high radiation throughout an even wider area. Residents in the
immediate vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear reactor were forcibly evacuated while
others fled eastern Japan (Kanto) entirely, dividing the country into largely imaginary
safe and unsafe zones. Much of Japan watched the unfolding nuclear catastrophe at
Fukushima as if from another country, diminishing the sense of national participation in
an event that seemed at once national and radically denational. Fukushima might be said
to have deterritorialized Japan, dismantling the state of Japan in the unthinkable return of
This talk looks at the ways in which films made after 2011 have sought to address the
peculiar effect of disaster on geology, geography, and geopolitics. It seeks to understand
the relation between the way that natural and unnatural disasters permeate the experience
of space and the specific quality of this disaster, singular in its absolute heterogeneity.
The paper looks at films after “3.11” that appear to question Fukushima’s finitude: not
its singularity as an event, but rather the possibility of its containment as an apocalyptic
event that exposes its spectator to a metaphysical radioactivity, to disaster without end.
Sponsored by the Dept. of Film & Media Studies, Crossroads Program, the Environmental Humanities Center, and the IHC.