UCLA » College » Social Sciences » Anthropology
February 28, 2018
12:00pm to 1:45pm
Haines 352 Reading Room
Spencer Chen

In August 2005, workers at a uranium processing facility in the Islamic Republic of Iran removed security seals that had been applied by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors as part of a process of negotiations with the US, the UK, France, and Germany to ascertain and limit the extent of the country’s nuclear energy program. Six months later, when the IAEA referred Iran to the UN Security Council, the broken seals stood in for Iran's broken promises to adhere to legal agreements. The story of Iran’s broken seals provides a window onto the meaningful (pragmatic) consequentiality waiting in the seal’s material quality/affordance of fragility. This article will explore how the seal comes to be, in Peirce's words, “known as a sign” for the bureaucrats and diplomats at the IAEA, as well as for the international community. Through a study of seal materiality and sealing practices at the IAEA, this article demonstrates that the seal is known as different types of signs—conventionally/symbolically, indexically, and iconically indicating inspector virtue, skill, and sealing circumstance, as well as the Agency’s authority and legitimacy—throughout its lifespan as technocratic artifact of nuclear safeguards verification.

Discourse Lab provides opportunities for faculty and students to share their ongoing research, to present original work-in-progress, such as conference papers, thesis or dissertation work, and to get commentary. 

The Lab also provides a professionalization series for all graduate students—from proposal writing, to fieldwork method discussion to the last years of writing the dissertation and applying for jobs.