DRF News

CCDS Event: The Bhopal Disaster, Literature, and Charity Advertising (November 2012, UK)

Event: Centre for Culture & Disability Studies (CCDS) Research Seminar 

Date: Wednesday 7th November 2012: 2.15pm-3.45pm ~ Venue: Eden, 109, Liverpool Hope University, UK. 

Brief Description:

The Bhopal Disaster, Literature, and Charity Advertising ~ Dr. Clare Barker (University of Leeds, UK)

The 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy was the world’s worst industrial disaster. It has killed 25,000 people to date, injured many thousands more, and is still causing sickness and disabilities nearly 30 years later due to toxic chemicals in the city’s groundwater supply. Dr. Clare Barker considers representations of the disabled inhabitants of Bhopal in both charity advertising and literary works relating to the disaster, in particular Indra Sinha’s Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Animal’s People (2007). As a former advertising copywriter, Sinha was instrumental in setting up the Bhopal Medical Appeal in the UK and is still involved in its activities. Dr. Barker contends that there is a productive synergy between literature and advertising in the BMA’s campaigns: while disability charities frequently rely on tropes of helplessness and pity, often supported by sensational or sentimental images of disabled children, Dr. Barker argues that the BMA engages with fictional narrative techniques and consequently achieves more empowering representations in its publicity. As a complement to this, Animal’s People contributes to the BMA’s agenda by promoting awareness of Bhopal’s unresolved medical crises while also interrogating the politics of “western” medical aid interventions and problematizing the representational strategies of charity discourse. Dr. Barker considers literature’s role within health activism and points to ways in which literary texts such as Animal’s People might be used to inform the representations of disability and medical aid within charities’ campaign strategies.

Clare Barker is Lecturer in English at the University of Leeds. She is author of Postcolonial Fiction and Disability: Exceptional Children, Metaphor and Materiality (2012) and guest editor, with Stuart Murray, of a special issue of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, namely, Disabling Postcolonialism: Global Disability Cultures and Democratic Criticism (2010).

For further information from the organisers, please contact: Dr. David Bolt: boltd@hope.ac.uk

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