31 Oct. 2019 — 3:30 pm — GAR 4.100

Abena Osseo-Asare (UT)

“Atomic Junction”

Abena Osseo-Asare discusses her new book, Atomic Junction: Nuclear Power in Africa after Independence (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

After Atomic Junction, along the Haatso-Atomic Road there lies the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, home to Africa’s first nuclear program after independence. Traveling along this road, Abena Dove Osseo-Asare gathers together stories of conflict and compromise on an African nuclear frontier. She speaks with a generation of African scientists who became captivated with ‘the atom’ and studied in the Soviet Union to make nuclear physics their own. On Proton Street and Gamma Avenue, these scientists displaced quiet farming villages in their bid to establish a scientific metropolis, creating an epicenter for Ghana’s nuclear physics community. By placing interviews with town leaders, physicists and local entrepreneurs alongside archival records, Osseo-Asare explores the impact of scientific pursuit on areas surrounding the reactor, focusing on how residents came to interpret activities on these ‘Atomic Lands.’ This combination of historical research, personal and ethnographic observations shows how Ghanaians now stand at a crossroad, where some push to install more reactors, while others merely seek pipe-borne water.


Abena Dove Osseo-Asare is an historian of medicine and science who focuses on cases in African societies. Her first book, Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (University of Chicago Press, 2014) is a study of six plants that scientists in Ghana, South Africa, Madagascar and other countries sought to transform into new pharmaceuticals. It received the 2015 Melville J. Herskovits Prize in African Studies, the American Historical Association Pacific Coast Branch 2015 Book Award, and the 2014 Choice Magazine Academic Titles Book Award. Dr. Osseo-Asare received her PhD in the History of Science from Harvard University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. She has received grants from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Hellman Family Foundation. Previously, she taught in the History Department at the University of California-Berkeley. She is a faculty associate of the new Health and Society major in the College of Liberal Arts and holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Population Health of the Dell Medical School.