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Entangled GeographiesEmpire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War$
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Gabrielle Hecht

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262515788

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262515788.001.0001

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Rare Earths: The Cold War in the Annals of Travancore

Rare Earths: The Cold War in the Annals of Travancore

(p.100) (p.101) 5 Rare Earths: The Cold War in the Annals of Travancore
Entangled Geographies

Itty Abraham

The MIT Press

This chapter traces the changes in the political economy with respect to “rare earths,” which are mineral-laden compounds that are hard to find. The discovery of one such “rare earth”—monazite, a phosphate compound composed of several rare earth elements, including radioactive thorium, a potential source of nuclear fuel—in large quantities in the beach sands of a stretch of land between the coastal towns of Kollam and Nagercoil in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore (now Kerala) in India marks another aspect of the the Cold War, viz., the technopolitics of the rare earths. The chapter shows how India—by harnessing the extraordinary global demand of Thorium as an atomic fuel in the heat of the Cold War—was able to transform the rare earths into a strategic national resource. Thorium also, the author posits, reinforced India’s territorial sovereignity.

Keywords:   rare earths, monazite thorium, Travancore, technopolitics, nuclear fuel, Cold War, strategic national resource

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