Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Hill, Michael. 1987. “Bomb Talk: Framing the Unthinkable.” Paper presented to the Midwest Sociological Society, Chicago, Illinois, April 15-18.


Copyright 1987 Michael R. Hill


Our cultural apparatus appears ill-equipped, if not unable, to conceptualize or frame the present nuclear reality in a way that lets us effectively come to grips with it as it really is: a deployed, targeted, industrialized capacity to instantaneously annihilate all human life. This paper demonstrates that we key or transform our nuclear reality in virtually every conceivable way, thus normalizing it and treating it culturally the same as any other phenomenon, including the most mundane. I argue therefore that we have before us the immense and challenging task of finding a way – working with flawed and inadequate intellectual tools – to transcend the fundamental constructs of an outmoded and deeply imbedded cultural framework for “making sense of” events in our world. We apparently require a new cultural invention, comparable in magnitude to language, writing, or numbers before we can both grasp and solve the nuclear menace. Our present techniques, be they books, lectures, protests, debates, are not working. We need a new cultural framework, and it is our task as cultural laborers to develop it.