SUFFERING MADE REAL by M. Susan Lindee

SUFFERING MADE REAL

American Science and the Survivors at Hiroshima
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 This account of how US authorities studied the surviving victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ought to be of wide interest, but Lindee's version of the story will not attract a general readership outside academic circles. Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe, the 1994 Nobel laureate in literature, has described the atomic bomb survivors as ``people who, despite all, didn't commit suicide.'' After the war these people comprised the world's best sample by far for studies of how exposure to radiation affects individuals and their offspring. An Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission was set up under the US Atomic Energy Commission, and the work of the ABCC over nearly three decades is the subject of this book. Lindee (History and Sociology of Science/Univ. of Pennsylvania) refers to the ABCC's work as ``colonial science,'' by which she means primarily that the dominant power could not carry out its work without the cooperation of its defeated subjects. How was the organization and work of the commission affected by this dilemma? Did any kind of systematic bias creep into the many scientific papers published under its auspices? These are the kinds of questions that interest Lindee, but the language in which she cloaks her conclusions sometimes makes it hard to tell what they are. Take the question of why it was decided that the ABCC would not provide medical care to the survivors as it was studying them: ``I suggest that the treatment debate was a forum in which various parties explored the proper relationship of the Americans to the Japanese.'' Although this is an authoritative scholarly work, it suffers from an excess of sophistication and circumspection, so that the questions readers most want answered are not addressed squarely enough.

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 1994
ISBN: 0-226-48237-5
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994