Article ID: CBB753030836

Toxic Lunch in Bhopal and Chemical Publics (September 2016)


On November 28, 2009, as part of events marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the disaster at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, gas survivors protested the contents of the report prepared by government scientists that mocked their complaints about contamination. The survivors shifted from the scientific document to a mediated lunch invitation performance, purporting to serve the same chemicals as food that the report had categorized as having no toxic effects. I argue that the lunch spread, consisting of soil and water from the pesticide plant, explicitly front-staged and highlighted the survivor’s forced intimate relationship with such chemicals, in order to reshape public perception of risks from toxins. Chemical matter like sevin tar and naphthol tar bound politicians, scientists, corporations, affected communities, and activists together, as these stakeholders debated the potential effects of toxic substances. This gave rise to an issue-based “chemical public.” Borrowing from such theoretical concepts as “ontologically heterogeneous publics” and “agential realism,” I track the existing and emerging publics related to the disaster and the campaigns led by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal advocacy group.

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Authors & Contributors
Allen, Barbara L.
Reihana Mohideen
Pankaj Batra
Prabhjot Khan
Van Hollen, Cecilia Coale
Sharma, Aviram
Science, Technology and Human Values
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
Engineering Studies
Comparative Technology Transfer and Society
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
University of California Press
MIT Press
Oxford University Press
Technoscience; science and technology studies
Protest movements
Power (social sciences)
Time Periods
21st century
20th century
20th century, late
United States
South Africa
New York (U.S.)
Love Canal
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

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