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The Disposition of NatureEnvironmental Crisis and World Literature$
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Jennifer Wenzel

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823286782

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823286782.001.0001

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How Far Is Bhopal? Inconvenient Forums and Corporate Comparison

How Far Is Bhopal? Inconvenient Forums and Corporate Comparison

(p.195) Chapter 4 How Far Is Bhopal? Inconvenient Forums and Corporate Comparison
The Disposition of Nature

Jennifer Wenzel

Fordham University Press

This chapter proposes the multinational corporation as an axis for literary comparison. Charting Dow Chemical’s history of harm, it links Indra Sinha’s Bhopal novel Animal’s People to Agent Orange and the silicosis epidemic resulting from Union Carbide’s excavation of the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel in West Virginia. To avoid liability for Bhopal, Union Carbide and Dow invoked the legal doctrine of forum non conveniens (inconvenient forum): a comparative doctrine, concerned with language, location, and the difficulty of interpreting across geographical divides, that resonates with the concerns of comparative literature. Animal’s People’s multilingualism and intertextual allusions derive from its ambivalence about the possibility of environmental justice and planetary solidarity. Aware of its global circulation, Animal’s People is caught between the conventionality of a bourgeois marriage plot and a revolutionary, eco-apocalyptic sublime. This formal tension is the novel’s solution to the challenge of imagining justice for Bhopal without ignoring the historical fact of justice still undone. The chapter demonstrates the pitfalls of bourgeois sympathy and radical solidarity as responses to the calculations of risk logic and its contradictions among toxic, financial, and media exposure. Globalization works through localization, a corollary of neoliberalism’s socializing risk and privatizing profit.

Keywords:   Agent Orange, Animal’s People, Bhopal, corporation, exposure, forum non conveniens, globalization, localization, risk, translation

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