Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Donna M. Goldstein

Second Advisor

Carla Jones

Third Advisor

Paul Shankman

Fourth Advisor

Len Ackland

Fifth Advisor

Kate Brown


Drawing on sixteen months of fieldwork in the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site region in Kazakhstan, this ethnography is an account of the local understandings of health, livelihood, and suffering among rural Kazakh communities. Using the 1949-1989 Soviet atomic testing program as a historical backdrop, my research is situated in histories of overlapping regimes, episodes of heightened secrecy, disinformation campaigns, as well as Kazakhstan's contemporary nationalist ambitions to become a leader in the global energy market. In `Radioactive Knowledge', I trace the lesser-known history of the Soviet nuclear program from the perspective of people who were most affected by its military-industrial complex, exploring how they cope with their own present-day nuclear challenges.