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Social Movements and the Scaling of Memory and Justice in Bhopal

Bisht, Pawas

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Abstract

This paper examines the politics of scale in the commemorative work undertaken by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), a coalition of social movement organisations (SMOs) seeking justice for the victims of the Bhopal Gas Disaster of 1984. The argument traces how the ICJB attempted to contest the localisation of the disaster by the Indian state and the transnational corporations involved. I outline how the disaster, which had been scaled down from an extraordinary global event to a private non-issue, was re-scaled successfully across multiple scales of meaning and regulation through ICJB’s mobilisation of the frame of ‘second/ongoing poisoning’. This contestation over the scaling of the disaster crucially involved multiple processes of memory-work. Drawing on archival research and ethnographic fieldwork, this paper reveals how the remembrance of the disaster functioned as a key site of the discursive and performative re-framings required to reinstate multi-scalar accountability for the disaster. Overall, the paper establishes the utility of the politics of scale approach in mapping the dynamics of the transnational mobilisations of memory by SMOs in pursuit of justice.

Acceptance Date Dec 15, 2017
Publication Date Jan 16, 2018
Journal Contemporary South Asia
Print ISSN 0958-4935
Publisher Routledge
Volume 26
Issue 1
Pages 18-33
DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/09584935.2018.1425673
Keywords politics of scale; memory-work; transnational memory; social movements; Bhopal Disaster
Publisher URL https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09584935.2018.1425673

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