Jessica A. Schwartz F'11

Jessica A. Schwartz
Assistant Professor
University of California, Los Angeles

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2011
Doctoral Candidate
New York University
Resonances of the Atomic Age: Hearing the Nuclear Legacy in the United States and the Marshall Islands, 1945 - 2010

This dissertation focuses on the sonic evidence of the United States nuclear weapons testing program in the Marshall Islands (1946–1958). It offers both a sonic history of the early American atomic age and the first focused ethnomusicological study of Marshallese music. The research suggests that silence emerged as the paradigmatic atomic-age sensibility and was instrumental in controlling bodies and information in both countries. New sounds developed in response to these silences, ranging from air raid sirens and Geiger counter clicks to Marshallese musical expressions that archive experiences of social upheavals and material devastation caused by nuclear weaponry. The project argues that hearing the interplay between sounds and silences from the postwar years onward is key to unraveling epistemological shifts, geopolitical strategies, and cultural ramifications constitutive of the Cold War era and its enduring nuclear legacy.