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Slow Violence and the Gas Peedit in Neoliberal India

Nikhil Deb
Published: 23 September 2021

Abstract: This article analyzes the ways in which slow violence and neoliberalism intertwine in the production of social and environmental destruction, evident in the lingering devastation from the 1984 Union Carbide catastrophe in Bhopal, India. Children are born with congenital abnormalities; women are plagued with reproductive health problems; and dangerous chemicals left in the abandoned factory continue to contaminate soil and groundwater. Yet Bhopal is remembered almost exclusively for the spectacle of its immediate aftermath. Drawing on 60 interviews with Bhopal victims and activists, field observations, archives, and official and independent reports, this paper examines how the neoliberal turn in Indian governance plays a role in the creation of slow violence. The paper advances our understanding of socioenvironmental destruction by tying slow violence to a temporal change in countries' governance in the Global South. The paper underscores the significance of considering political economic dynamics in the perpetration of slow violence. It also emphasizes how the neoliberal turn, now anchored in right-wing Hindutva politics in India, further constrains the possibilities for counter-measures that would address slow violence. The paper offers significant implications for analyzing the political economy of socioenvironmental and health disparities in the wake of corporate malfeasance.
Keywords: Children / neoliberal / contaminate / slow violence / India / Bhopal / destruction / socioenvironmental

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