"Historian Gabrielle Hecht has brilliantly deployed the tools of the engineer, anthropologist, literary critic, and social theorist to analyze how the nuclear industry became integral to France's revival after World War II. The book has become a landmark in the literature on postwar France and a model for how to blend the history of technology with the study of politics and culture."--Herrick Chapman, New York University "Thanks to Gabrielle Hecht's talent and insight, the French nuclear program she explores has turned out to be for STS what the drosophila was for genetic research. This book not only sheds new light on the role of technology in the construction of national identities. It is also a seminal contribution to the history of contemporary France."--from the foreword by Michel Callon, coauthor of Acting in an Uncertain World "This elegantly written book is an important contribution to the history of modern France and sets a demanding new standard for social studies of technology." Donald MacKenzie , University of Edinburgh, author of An Engine, Not a Camera "This is a superb book, one that takes up the hazy notion of technological 'style' and transforms it into a complex story of conflict and negotiation about what it means to be French in the late twentieth century, and--more generally--what it means to be a participant in a world of high technology." Ken Alder , Department of History, Northwestern University
In the aftermath of World War II, as France sought a distinctive role for itself in the modern, postcolonial world, the nation and its leaders enthusiastically embraced large technological projects in general and nuclear power in particular. This text asks how it happened that technological prowess and national glory (or "radiance", which also means "radiation" in French) became synonymous in France as nowhere else. To answer this question, Gabrielle Hecht has forged a combination of technology studies and cultural and political history. Focusing on the early history of French nuclear power, Hecht explores the design and development of the reactors, the culture and organization of work at reactor sites, and the ways in which local communities responded to nuclear power and state-directed technological development. She also describes the eventual abandonment of the French (gas-graphite) system in favour of the American (light-water) system and shows how the American system was then "made French". A central argument of her book is that engineers and workers shaped artifacts and practices in a deliberate effort to implement specific political and cultural programs.
Combining research in previously untapped archival sources along with oral interviews, Hecht demonstrates the relationship between history and memory in technological France.
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