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Kate Brown Lecture on ‘Plutopias’

The Department of History will host acclaimed historian Kate Brown as a part of its annual lecture series in modern European history.

Brown, professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, will speak at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 13, at the East Tennessee Historical Society. Her lecture, which is free and open to the public, is titled “Everyday Life in the Spectacular World of the Atom.” It will explore the creation of the first two cities in the world to produce plutonium: Richland, Washington, and Ozersk, Russia.

“The history department is honored that Professor Brown accepted our invitation to come to UT,” said Monica Black, associate head of the history department. “Her talk will address the creation of what she calls ‘plutopias’ in the USA and the Soviet Union — model cities designed and built to produce plutonium — and the social, political and environmental impact that entailed. We hope the topic’s historical connection to Oak Ridge, and thus to our region, will appeal broadly to the public and the university community.”

Brown contends that the demands of nuclear secrecy reshaped the American and Soviet landscapes, militarizing and compartmentalizing them in order to conceal nuclear secrets and the spillage of nuclear waste.

The multiple-award-winning historian refers to herself as “a professional disaster tourist.” Her fascinating work has taken her all over the world, including Russia, Kazakhstan, Montana, and the Chernobyl Zone of Exclusion. Her most recent books include Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters and Dispatches from Dystopia: Histories of Places Not Yet Forgotten.

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