nuclear posturing, ritual, myth, symbol, totem, shaman
Since their inception, the actual use of nuclear weapons in conflict is extremely limited. There have been only two documented occurrences which were committed exclusively by the United States. By contrast, however, state posturing with nuclear weapons occurs with regularity transcending historical situations, national wealth, military power, or even the actual possession of nuclear weapons. Rationalist arguments that depict nuclear posturing as a means of deterrence appear insufficient given its tendency to unbalance perceptions of equilibrium, and the public nature in which it occurs. Instead, I examine nuclear posturing by the United States during the Cold War as a form of political ritual providing for three distinctive, but complementary functions. First, posturing was a means to create coherence between foreign nuclear policy and domestic civil defense by manipulating symbols of fear. Second, posturing allowed the state to present itself in its new role as a shamanic authority over a new and powerful realm. Finally, posturing allowed for a normalization of the contradictory roles assumed by the state as it upheld its commission to defend the citizenry by means that would most probably destroy them all.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Walsh, Sean Noah, "Ritual, Myth, And Symbol In The Field Of Nuclear Posturing" (2005). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 512.