South Asian Cultures of the Bomb

South Asian Cultures of the Bomb

Atomic Publics and the State in India and Pakistan
Edited by Itty Abraham
Distribution: World
Publication date: 2/17/2009
ISBN: 978-0-253-00267-9
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Since their founding as independent nations, nuclear issues have been key elements of nationalism and the public sphere in both India and Pakistan. Yet the relationship between nuclear arms and civil society in the region is seldom taken into account in conventional security studies. These original and provocative essays examine the political and ideological components of national drives to possess and test nuclear weapons. Equal coverage for comparable issues in each country frames the volume as a genuine dialogue across this contested boundary.

Author Bio

Itty Abraham is Associate Professor of Government and Director of the South Asia Institute at The University of Texas, Austin. He is author of The Making of the Indian Atomic Bomb and editor (with Willem van Schendel) of Illicit Flows and Criminal Things: States, Borders, and the Other Side of Globalization (IUP, 2006).


"Many observers trace the origins of the nuclear 'problem' in South Asia to 1998, the year in which India and Pakistan together conducted 11 nuclear tests and declared themselves nuclear powers. Some, more historically minded, trace the coming of the nuclear age to South Asia to 1974, when India set off a single underground 'peaceful' nuclear explosion. Both views are substantially wrong. The people of India and Pakistan have been subject to nuclear power for over 60 years. . . . [N]uclear matters became a part of the region's conceptual and industrial landscape from practically the moment of political independence." —from the introduction

"[A]n illuminating volume on the ways in which modern science, state secrecy and popular culture have been used to sanction active atomic weapons projects in India and in Pakistan. Those interested in cultural insights into how and why South Asia became a nuclear flashpoint will find this book indispensable." —Arvind Rajagopal, author of
Politics After Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Public in India

"For the first time scholars in this book present a multivoiced assessment of the subtle sociocultural effects of the 1998 nuclear tests in India and Pakistan. ...This book proves conclusively, again, that a partition done haphazardly in 1947 led to very different experiences in the evolution of military–industrial–political complexes in each country. But where others have focused largely on states and strategic cultures, these authors, under Abraham’s able editorship, show how these two atomic publics are constructed and interact with their surroundings." —Robert S. Anderson, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada, Pacific Affairs

"[The author] Abraham has brought together scholars writing on both Pakistan and India to reflect on the place of science, the atomic question, popular culture and the state. In doing so, he has managed to push forward a perspective that is transnational in a meaningful way for the subcontinent. . . ." —Jahnavi Phalkey

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Table of Contents



1. Introduction: Nuclear Power and Atomic Publics / Itty Abraham
2. Fevered with Dreams of the Future: The Coming of the Atomic Age to Pakistan / Zia Mian
3. India's Nuclear Enclave and the Practice of Secrecy / M. V. Ramana
4. The Social Life of a Bomb: India and the Ontology of an "Overpopulated" Society / Sankaran Krishna
5. Pride and Proliferation: Pakistan's Nuclear Psyche after A. Q. Khan / Ammara Durrani
6. The Politics of Death: The Antinuclear Imaginary in India / Srirupa Roy
7. Pakistan's Atomic Publics: Survey Results / Haider Nizamani
8. Gods, Bombs, and the Social Imaginary / Raminder Kaur
9. Nuclearization and Pakistani Popular Culture since 1998 / Iftikhar Dadi
10. Guardians of the Nuclear Myth: Politics, Ideology, and India's Strategic Community / Karsten Frey

List of Contributors