Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

South Asian Review

For a Special Issue on

Bhopal at 40: Remembering and Storytelling

Abstract deadline
15 August 2024

Manuscript deadline
28 February 2025

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Clare Barker, University of Leeds, UK
[email protected]

Antara Chatterjee, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Bhopal, India
[email protected]

Lynn Wray, University of Leeds, UK
[email protected]

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Bhopal at 40: Remembering and Storytelling

The evening of 2 December 2024 will mark 40 years since a gas leak from a Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India, caused the world’s worst industrial disaster, which has killed 25,000 people to date and left more than 120,000 people with continuing health effects, including respiratory problems, blindness, and reproductive disorders. Less well known than the gas disaster is the ongoing ‘second disaster’ in Bhopal: the contaminated groundwater supply, caused by the unsafe disposal of chemical waste from the factory from the 1970s onwards, which is gradually spreading through surrounding communities and producing untold environmental damage as well as high rates of congenital disabilities in what is now the third generation to be affected by the Union Carbide disasters.

For survivors of the gas leak, the last 40 years have seen ongoing legal action and campaigns for justice, compensation, clean water and adequate healthcare. Most recently, in March 2023 the Supreme Court of India dismissed a curative petition for compensation from Dow Chemical (who bought out Union Carbide in 2001) for survivors of the 1984 disaster. This latest ruling means Dow Chemical continues to evade justice and emphasises the power and impunity of transnational wealth in this ongoing fight against corporate negligence. The Bhopal disasters mark a particular moment in uneven transnational corporate relations – a consequence of the Green Revolution – while also exemplifying many of the most urgent environmental concerns of the present moment: increasing levels of chemical toxicity, persistent organic pollutants, and the human right to safe drinking water. The health and environmental impacts of both the 1984 gas disaster and the ‘slow and silent’ groundwater contamination are both still unfolding, entangled with one another in a continuing story that becomes more complex as the years go by.

This special issue of South Asian Review explores the manifold ways in which the Bhopal gas and water disasters have been represented, narrativised, visualised, imagined, interrogated and remembered in cultural and creative productions over the past 40 years. Certain cultural texts have become iconic in local and global representations of Bhopal, from Raghu Rai’s haunting 1984 photograph, ‘Burial of an Unknown Child’, ubiquitous in survivor group campaign materials and international mobilisations, to Indra Sinha’s 2007 novel Animal’s People, shortlisted for the Booker Prize and widely discussed within academic literary criticism. But the disasters have also been the subject of countless other storytelling and awareness-raising initiatives, by survivors and campaigners and by global writers, artists and photographers: to name just a few, the Remember Bhopal Museum; the campaigns of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal and the Bhopal Medical Appeal; photography by Micha Patault, Alex Masi, Judah Passow and Francesca Moore; fiction by Arundhati Roy and Megan Delahunt; and films including the Hollywood take on the story of 1984, Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain (2013), documentaries including Van Maximilian Carlson’s Bhopali (2011) and Bala Kailasam’s Where Do the Children Play? (2019), and most recently the 2023 Netflix drama The Railway Men. The narrativisation and temporalities of the disaster have necessarily shifted over time, after 40 years now often encompassing impacts across generations, the Bhopal ‘marathon’ of endurance and suffering, slow violence, and ‘forever’ chemicals.

In this issue we want to turn critical attention to Bhopal storytelling over the last four decades, inviting articles on the disasters’ representations across art forms. We are interested in how cultural commentators and creative practitioners choose to engage with or frame this complex story spanning decades, the strategies used to keep Bhopal in global public consciousness in a world facing the compassion fatigue associated with frequent environmental disasters and climate crises, and in what is remembered and commemorated. We welcome articles in English exploring representations of the Bhopal disasters that are in Hindi, English or other languages and that are produced for local and/or global audiences. Critical approaches from the environmental humanities, medical humanities, disability studies, memory studies, legal studies, gender studies and other fields are welcome, as are creative submissions (poetry, short fiction, visual art, photography) that engage with the history of Bhopal.

Submission Instructions

This special issue invites articles on cultural/creative representation and storytelling on the Bhopal disaster of 1984 across art forms over the last 40 years.

Topics for consideration may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Representations or narratives of the Bhopal disaster and/or groundwater contamination in fiction, photography, film, poetry, visual art, music and other forms.
  • Memory and its politics: remembering, memorialisation, commemoration, forgetting.
  • Health, disability, debility, care.
  • Environments, pollution, chemicals, toxicity, waste.
  • Time and temporality: slow violence, anniversaries, the Bhopal ‘marathon’, forever chemicals.
  • Subalternities and intersectionalities: transnational power and subaltern narratives.
  • Storytelling or campaigning for local and/or global audiences; solidarity, empathy, humanitarianism.
  • Comparative studies of the Bhopal disaster and other industrial disasters, acts of corporate crime, or water crises.
  • How the disasters frame the urban imaginaries and memoryscapes of the city of Bhopal.

To submit a proposal for the special issue, please send an abstract of 250 words and a bionote of 100 words to [email protected] by the specified abstract submission deadline. Selections will be made by 30 September 2024.

The editors will be hosting an online workshop to commemorate Bhopal at 40 in November 2024 and will invite potential contributors to present and gain feedback on works in progress. Further information about this event will be circulated once abstracts have been reviewed. Please note that South Asian Review’s peer review protocols will be followed and participation in the workshop does not guarantee publication in the special issue.

Please direct all queries about the issue to [email protected].

Instructions for Authors