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Suspending failure: temporalities, ontologies and gigantism in fusion energy development

Alexander, Catherine

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Tracing the history of terrestrial fusion energy to a giant multinational experimental fusion facility under construction reveals a series of consequential failures, re-evaluations of once defunct designs, but also persistence. To account for how this vast enterprise, dogged by failure, endures, I suggest different ontological narratives re-orientate the enterprise temporally and vis-à-vis different forms and valences of failure. Thus the rhetoric of mission-driven project vies with that of open-ended, present-focused experiment; the former is positioned as the crucial solution to the threat of climate change; the latter ‘bakes in’ virtuous failure as integral to creative practice. Visionary promise moves to the meanwhile. Finally, the sheer unfurling size to which attention is constantly drawn offers a disorientating spectacle, denying perspective or closure and acting to suspend judgments of failure.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 6, 2022
Online Publication Date Feb 10, 2023
Publication Date 2023-04
Deposit Date Dec 7, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 29, 2023
Journal Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Print ISSN 1359-0987
Electronic ISSN 1467-9655
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue S1
Pages 114-132
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Copyright Statement
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Anthropological Institute.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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