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Dr. Peter C. van Wyck, PhD

Professor, Communication Studies

Dr. Peter C. van Wyck, PhD
Reading at U. Sydney, April 2019
Lindsay Kelley
Office: L-CJ 4327  
Communication Studies and Journalism Building,
7141 Sherbrooke W.
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 2561
Availability: By Appointment or chance


Forest Technology Dip., Sir Sandford Fleming College, 1983

BSc, Environmental Science / Social Ecology, Trent University, 1987

MA, Methodologies for the Study of Western History Culture, Trent University, 1992

PhD, Graduate Program in Communication, McGill University, 1997

Postdoctoral Fellow, Methodologies for the Study of Western History and Culture / Environmental Studies – SSHRC, Trent University, 1997-1999

Postdoctoral Fellow, Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities (formerly Webster Fellowship) and Assistant Professor of Geography, Queen’s University, 1999-2000

Academic Life

I am a researcher, writer, teacher and photographer. My academic background is broadly interdisciplinary and committed to what has come to be called the Environmental Humanities. I have training in forestry, environmental and ecological sciences (primarily wetlands), continental philosophy, environmental and cultural studies, and communication and media studies. I teach undergraduate and graduate courses (Diploma, MA and PhD) in semiotics, communication theory, visual culture, photographic theory, and special topic seminars such as: Reading Freud; Theory in a Cold Climate; The Arts of Memory; Landscapes of the Local: Rethinking Space and Place; and Landscapes of the Sign: The Place of the Photographic Image.

My current research and writing interests are broadly in the areas of the theory and philosophy of communication; semiotics of environment; atomic & nuclear history; landscape, memory, chorography, topistics and critical topographies; discourses of North and nordicity; radiation and the photographic image.

At the moment I am completing a SSHRC-funded project with Dr. Myra Hird of Queen’s University concerning nuclear waste, the media of apology, justice and the future. I am also writing about nuclear waste repositories, the Cloud Chamber, Harold Jacobson and the Japanese relationship with the atom, the Anthropocene, tsunami stones, and, with my long-time collaborator Julie Salverson of Queen's University, survivor trees. 
From all of this a new book is emerging – tentatively entitled The Angel Turns – Memos for the end of the Holocene.

My last book (2010) published by McGill Queen’s University Press, is entitled The Highway of the Atom. It was awarded the 2011 Gertrude J. Robinson book award for the best new book in communication studies by the Canadian Communication Association, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Canada Prize in the Social Sciences – The Harold Adams Innis Award of the Canadian Federation of Social Sciences and Humanities.

My previous book, Signs of Danger: Waste, Trauma, and Nuclear Threat (2005), published in the Theory out of Bounds series at the University of Minnesota Press, was also awarded the Gertrude J. Robinson Book Prize. And my first book, Primitives in the Wilderness: Deep Ecology and the Missing Human Subject, was published in 1997.

In 2019 I was invited for membership in the Atomic Photographers Guild.

Teaching activities (Fall / Winter 2024-2025)

Fall 2024

COMS 240

Communication Theory

Winter 2025

COMS 240

Communication Theory

Recent and Ongoing Work

Selected Texts

Preface, in Julie Salverson, Lines of Flight: An Atomic Memoir. Wolzak and Wynn, Hamilton, 2016, pp. 1-5.

“The Anthropocene’s Signature.” The Nuclear Culture Source Book, ed. Ele Carpenter. Black Dog Publishing in partnership with Bildmuseet, Sweden and Arts Catalyst, London, 2016, pp. 23-30.

“A Note on Common Ground,” The Goose – Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada / Association pour la littérature, l'environnement et la culture au Canada.

Invited contribution for Routledge Companion to Media and Risk, edited by Bhaskar Sarkar and Bishnupriya Ghosh (2017).

Invited contribution for “MicroTate” section, Tate etc. Magazine, publication of the Tate Gallery consortium, October 2015.

"What was the Anthropocene?" with Myra Hird. Chapter invited for volume
Assembling the Planet: The Post-War Politics of Globality. Rens van Munster and Casper Sylvest (eds.), Routledge London. Accepted. A version of this text was given as the Leverhulme Lecture with Myra Hird, Lancaster University, June 2014.

Recent and upcoming talks


Invited, Annual Provost Lecture, with Julie Salverson, "The Highway of the Atom: Memory, Methodology, and the Geographies of the Nuclear," Nevada State University, Las Vegas, February 2020

Invited talk, International Forum: Transpacific Nuclear Imagination and Colonialism, Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, September 2020


Invited Lecture, Mary Kavanagh's Uranium's Daughters, Founders' Gallery, University of Calgary, November 2019

Keynote talk, "Exposure and Entanglement on the Highway of Atom," Energy and Scale Conference, hosted by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Banff, September 2019

Keynote talk, seminar and field work at Everyday Militarisms symposium hosted by the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry. University of Sydney, March 2019

Invited Public talk and Seminar at the Art NOW series at the University of Lethbridge, March, 2019

Invited presentation, “Walking Towards: Writing about Japan,” Return to Hiroshima Symposium. With Julie Salverson. University of Toronto, August, 2018


On leave.


Talk and PhD Seminar at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London, Spring 2017

“Deep Uncertainty” Perpetual Uncertainty: Art and the Deep Time of Radiation. Panelist and facilitator. Bildmuseet, Umeå University, Sweden, November.

Lines of Flight: A reading” With Julie Salverson. Queen’s University, Kingston, September.

Plenary Panel. "Nuclear Imprescriptibility in the Late Holocene." Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada (ALECC), Kingston, June.


“The lens of Fukushima: an inventory of afters,” Invited talk, with Julie Salverson, “Through Post-Atomic Eyes: Toxic Legacies, Post-nuclear Futures,” OCAD University and Art Gallery of Ontario, October 2015.

Invited Discussant, Session on Life, for Infrastructure, Environment and Life in the Anthropocene,” SSHRC workshop, Concordia University, October 20.

“Placing the Anthropocene,” Invited talk for the Critical Topography Symposium session on Forensic Landscape and the Nuclear Paradigm. Ryerson and Trent University, May 20.

“Journeys Along the Atomic Highway: History, Politics, Performance and Memoir,” Invited Lecture, with Julie Salverson. Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture, Sophia University, Tokyo, April 20.

“From Great Bear Lake to Japan,” Invited talk, with Julie Salverson. International Symposium: From Hiroshima and Bikini to Fukushima and the World – Exchanging the voices and actions of the citizens, Japanese Scientists’ Association Fukushima Branch, Fukushima University, April 11.

"The Uranium Highway from Great Bear Lake, Canada to Hiroshima," Invited Lecture, with Julie Salverson, HPI Research Forum, Hiroshima Peace Institute, Japan, April 7.

“The Other Spike.” Invited presentation, “Rethinking Radiation Ecologies: New Approaches to the History, Aesthetics, Epistemology, and Politics of Radioactive Environments ,” International Workshop, Université de Montréal, March 14.

“Sounding out the Nuclear,” with Julie Salverson (Queen’s University) and juliet Palmer (composer), chapter for edited volume Sonic Contestations of Nuclear Power, eds. Noriko Manabe (Princeton) and Jessica Schwartz (UCLA). Chapter workshop, October 2015, Center for Human Values at Princeton University, October

“The Trail of the Atom: Image, Witness and Archive,” Invited talk. Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Regina, March 10.

Invited Talk, Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, Tokyo, April.

“The Anthropocene’s Archive,” Keynote at “Construire la mémoire: An International Conference and Debate on the Preservation of Records, Knowledge and Memory of Radioactive Waste across Generations.” Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Nuclear Energy Association (NEA), Verdun, France. September.

Selected Publications


The Angel Turns: Writing at the End of the Holocene, monograph in preparation.

Theory in a Cold Climate: Cultural Studies of the Canadian North.
Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies 32 (Fall 2014).

The Highway of the Atom, Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010.

Signs of Danger: Waste, Trauma, and Nuclear Threat. Minneapolis: Theory out of Bounds series, University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

Primitives in the Wilderness: Deep Ecology and the Missing Human Subject. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

Selected Essays and other Writing

“Signing the Holocene,” in Critical Topographies. eds., Jonathan Bordo and Blake Fitzpatrick. McGill-Queen’s University Press. 2023.

“Sounding the Nuclear.” With Julie Salverson and Juliet Palmer. In Toxic Immanence: Nuclear Legacies, Futures, and the Place of Twenty-First Century Nuclear Environmental Humanities. 2022.

“The Lens of Fukushima,” Audio recording and text. Through Post-Atomic Eyes. eds. John O’Brian and Claudette Lauzon. McGill-Queen’s University Press. 2022.

“Act in such a way that the Angels have something to do.” Photograph and text. "Postcards from the Anthropocene: Unsettling the Geopolitics of Representation." University of Edinburgh, June.

“A Note on Common Ground,” The Goose: A Journal of Arts, Environment, and Culture in Canada. (Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada / Association pour la littérature, l'environnement et la culture au Canada) 15.2 (2017).

Invited contribution for Routledge Companion to Media and Risk, edited by Bhaskar Sarkar and Bishnupriya Ghosh (2017). Withdrew for health reasons.

“Lines of Flight: An Atomic Memoire – A Preface,” preface for Julie Salverson’s Lines of Flight, Hamilton: Wolsak and Wynn, 2016.   

Commission for “MicroTate” section, Tate etc. Magazine, 36 (Spring 2016): 98.

“The Anthropocene’s Signature.” The Nuclear Culture Source Book, ed. Ele Carpenter. Black Dog Publishing in partnership with Bildmuseet, Sweden and Arts Catalyst, London, 2016, pp. 23-30.

“Theory in a Cold Climate,” Introduction to Theory in a Cold Climate special issue of Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. 32 Fall 2014.

“Nuclear Topographies,” Review Essay of Hot Spotter’s Report: Military Fables of Toxic Waste (Krupar), Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. Online, May 3, 2014.

“An Archive of Threat.” Future Anterior, 9.2 Winter (2013): 53-80.

“The ciphered river of the streets
– being a very preliminary collection of notes and thoughts toward an abécédaire for young people, with particular reference to the conditions of life during the printemps érable.” Out of the mouths of “casseroles” / textes qui bougent au rythme du carré rouge. A special open-wi issue of wi: journal of mobile media, part II, 19 june 2012.

Numbering Numbers: Urban Semiology and Practical Pedagogy. With June Ying-Li Aldinucci. Juried exhibition “Archives and the City,” with the Universities Art Association of Canada/ Association d’art des universities du Canada (UAAC) Conference hosted by Concordia University, November.

"An Emphatic Geography: Notes on the Ethical Itinerary of Landscape." Canadian Journal of Communication 33.2 (2008): 171-91.

“The Highway of the Atom: Recollections along a route” Topia 7 (Spring 2002): 99-115.

“The American Monument,” Alphabet City, No. 8 (Lost in the Archives, 2002): 740-767.

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