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Friday, October 12, 2012

[UK Event] CCDS seminar Culture and Disability: Changing Attitudes. The Bhopal Disaster, Literature, and Charity Advertising

The Bhopal Disaster, Literature, and Charity Advertising

Dr. Clare Barker
University of Leeds

Date: Wednesday 7 November 2012
Time: 2.15pm–3.45pm
Place: Eden 109, Liverpool Hope University, 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

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).

This seminar is part of the series Culture and Disability: Changing
Attitudes. For further information, please visit:

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