I am a budding nuclear policy wonk rooted in activism and art.
For years I thought I would be crafting an anthology of poems or spearheading a grassroots movement, but instead my life took a strange turn towards learning about nuclear weapons, a subject rarely associated with creativity or social engagement. The transition from poet to nuclear nerd was totally unplanned, but I try to incorporate the creative spirit from my early years in my research and writing. The fusion of my two passions — appreciating art and studying nuclear politics — produced the philosophy behind Bombshelltoe: making nuclear-related knowledge accessible and relevant through artistic and cultural exploration.
I didn’t enter the nuclear field, but rather stumbled into it. And during this process, I wasn’t sure how to embrace my new interest and retain my identity as an artist. It was partly due to the process of learning a new language – the acronyms and jargon – that constitutes the nuclear world. Nuclear politics is almost always nonsensical to the outside world — its discourse is coded by generations of scientists, academic experts, and policymakers, which limits the possibility for wider engagement. As a person who has worked with communities to eliminate social barriers, it’s difficult to see myself contributing to the reinforcement and preservation of one.
And yet nuclear politics permeate our daily lives, from tv reports on a possible Iranian nuclear weapons program to debates about nuclear energy expansion post-Fukushima. It also influences us in profound and subtle ways, through stories and images – the narrative of the iconic mushroom cloud, Blinky the fish, the black suitcase holding the nuclear codes. Through popular culture, we have constructed our own abstract, ill-informed, and ominous understanding of anything associated with the word “nuclear.” The consequence: We deal with nuclear issues without proper understanding of it, which bars us from discussing it in a meaningful way. It is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
I am interested in the ways in which nuclear politics can overlap with the act of being creative. I want to help bridge the gap between the wonks, advocacy groups and the general public, and foster a healthier relationship between them. Bombshelltoe is my attempt to share these goals to the world and push a reconceptualization of what it means to be engaged and creative in the nuclear field. I hope that you, too, can be part of it.
Lovely Umayam is a graduate research assistant at the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies in Monterey, California. Prior to her studies in Monterey, Lovely conducted nuclear policy research in the DC think-tank community. Lovely also acted as a non-proliferation policy advisor to the Chilean delegation at the 2012 Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference in Vienna. She recently finished a summer research project at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as part of the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative (NGSI). She is currently in Beijing, China studying the origins of China’s No First Use policy. After her travels, she will move back to DC for more nuke wonking.
Lovely also enjoys running outdoors, listening to Erykah Badu, drinking Yakult, and baking scones.