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date: 15 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The United States conducted sixty-seven nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands from 1946 through 1958. The program was shrouded in secrecy; information about the tests conducted on Marshallese bodies and their land remains classified. This essay considers how Marshallese women from Bikini Atoll and Rongelap Atoll musically sound physical and physiological disruptions and dislocations that expose broader damages caused by the nuclear testing program. Analyzing compositions and performances from a repertoire of Marshallese “radiation songs,” the essay proposes a stylistic framework that works to familiarize listeners with a sonorized logic of radiation which is compiled through recurring motifs of the disabled voice, text setting and silences, and the figure of the question, literal and rhetorical. I stress the political import of these songs as highlighting the failures of biopolitical controls on communities by exposing the production of confined disability at the level of cultural and structural violence.

Keywords: Marshall Islands, “radiation song, ” nuclear testing, biopolitics, disabled voice, violence

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