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Morality of the Past: How Two Committees Judged Past Human Subject Experiments

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In 1996, President Clinton ordered the formation of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE), which undertook to evaluate the morality of a myriad of secret and publicized radiation experiments ranging from 1944 to 1974. The goal of this

In 1996, President Clinton ordered the formation of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE), which undertook to evaluate the morality of a myriad of secret and publicized radiation experiments ranging from 1944 to 1974. The goal of this thesis is to analyze the ways in which that committee formed moral evaluations and the extent to which its strategies related to a broader historical and philosophical discourse. Here I attempt to describe two specific techniques of simplification the committee deploys in order to make a retrospective moral analysis possible. Although the techniques comprise specific problems, frameworks, subjective perspectives, and conceptual links, their unifying principle is the field of choices the techniques produce. In the first technique I outline, I argue that by focusing on the problem of historical relativism, the committee gains a platform through which it would be granted flexibility in making a distinction between moral wrongdoing and blameworthiness. In the second technique of simplification I outline, I argue that the committee's incorporation of a principle to reduce uncertainty as an ethical aim allow it to establish new ways to reconcile scientific aims with moral responsibility. In addition to describing the structure of these techniques, I also demonstrate how they relate to the specific experiments the analysts aim to evaluate, using both the ACHRE experiments as well as the Nuremberg Trial experiments as my examples. My hope is not to show why a given committee made a particular moral evaluation, or to say whether a decision was right or wrong, but rather to illustrate how certain techniques open up a field of choices that allow moral analysts to form retrospective moral judgments.

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2015-05

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This Fissured Democracy: Nation-Building, Civic Epistemologies, and Nuclear Politics in India

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This dissertation examines how Indian polities have resisted and accommodated nuclear energy into their existing culture, politics and environment from the 1960s to the present. I document sites of friction between the nuclear establishment, urban activists, and local communities to

This dissertation examines how Indian polities have resisted and accommodated nuclear energy into their existing culture, politics and environment from the 1960s to the present. I document sites of friction between the nuclear establishment, urban activists, and local communities to trace how their engagements changed because of key ruptures in Indian nuclear history, namely Chernobyl, the US-India nuclear deal, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. I interrogate the concept of ‘civic epistemologies,’ which was developed by comparative regulatory policy analysts in STS to explain how different national regulatory systems follow distinct cultural modes of evaluating the objectivity and credibility of policy-relevant scientific knowledge, evidence and expertise to arrive at different conclusions about similar technologies. By following how various actors are mobilizing cultures and institutions of knowledge production and deliberation to further political goals around nuclear power in India, as well as how these goals shape knowledge practices, I demonstrate that citizens’ desire to ‘scientize’ politics by creating a political culture of scientific debate around nuclear matters—thereby creating the forms of public reason as seen in Western nuclear debates—requires politicizing science to render it a publicly accessible rationality. As such, I argue that the creation of science- based, policy-relevant knowledge and politics should be seen as part and parcel of a particular variant of liberal democratic nation-building—albeit one that is inherently exclusionary, coercive and politically fraught. Using a mixed-methods approach of multi-sited ethnographies of five villages opposing nuclear energy, interviews with a wide range of actors, event ethnographies, oral histories and document collection and analysis, I discovered that urban and rural activists, politicians and regulatory officials articulate and enact different imaginaries of nuclear energy and democratic politics and participate in competing processes of knowledge-making and political formation. Democratic maneuvering and full access to the privileges of civil society are allowed actors who share the state's imaginary of nuclear power's role in achieving sovereignty and self-reliance, while others are not granted such affordances. Moreover, the state reproduces colonial sociopolitical categories in how it deals with the differential knowledge politics espoused by its rural, agrarian constituents and its urban elite citizens.

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2016