Disarming Hearts and Minds

Disarming Hearts and Minds

Citation: George E. Griener, Pierre Thompson & Elizabeth Weinberg (2020) Disarming Hearts and Minds, Peace Review, 32:3, 303-312, DOI: 10.1080/10402659.2020.1867347

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Introduction

For seventy-five years, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, widely known as the hibakusha, have carried a great burden. As the first population to suffer the indiscriminate violence of the atomic bomb, they felt responsible for preserving the collective memory of nuclear warfare so that it might never happen again. Many hibakusha became publicly involved in international, civil society campaigns advocating for the total elimination of nuclear arms, while other hibakusha dedicated their lives to the much less visible effort of transforming the hearts, minds, and societal attitudes that promote reliance on nuclear weapons. Thus, the legacy of the hibakusha can be fully appreciated by examining both manifestations of their leadership in the nuclear age.

While the hibakusha share a common vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, those who have demonstrably advanced this cause may be grouped into two schools of thought. The “structural” approach is concerned with shifting the global politics of disarmament and indeed the postwar structure; the role of these hibakusha is mainly to weaken the nuclear-armed states and their allies by stigmatizing the very weapons on which their power rests. The “personalist” approach is concerned with establishing a culture of peace within the nuclear-armed states; the role of these hibakusha is arguably to initiate a societal process of truth-telling and reconciliation that can overcome the politics of fear that states use to justify the possession of nuclear weapons. The personalist approach to nuclear disarmament, and especially its connection to the structural approach, has received little attention in academic and policy circles.

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