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'Give birth to nightmares': The Marshallese nuclear legacy and women’s health in Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner’s ‘Monster’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-155
Number of pages15
JournalMoving Worlds
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019


On 1 March 1954, the world’s first nuclear disaster began to unfold when the United States detonated the fifteen megaton BRAVO bomb – which was to be the largest and ‘dirtiest’ bomb in its Cold War arsenal – in Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Using new thermonuclear technology (which generates more explosive power than atomic bombs by fusing rather than splitting atoms), BRAVO was almost a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. It vaporized three islands on Bikini Atoll, left a mile-wide crater through the reef, and spread radioactive fallout across an area of 50,000 square miles. This article explores the legacy of BRAVO and other US nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, beginning with a discussion of its effects on the health of Marshall Islanders (who have suffered a wide range of illnesses across generations as a result of irradiation of their bodies and environments), and then analysing representations of the nuclear legacy in the work of Marshallese poet Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, and artists Munro Te Whata and Solomon Enos, with whom I collaborated in graphic adaptations of Jetñil-Kijiner’s antinuclear poems ‘History Project’ and ‘Monster’.

    Research areas

  • nuclear, Marshall Islands, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, graphic novel, performance poetry

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