This paper explores the connections between two seemingly disparate cases of socioenvironmental injustice: Flint’s water crisis in Michigan, USA, and Union Carbide’s toxic chemical release in Bhopal, India. Engaging our empirical and theoretical insights from these two cases, this paper illustrates how marginalized people in distant settings can face similar socioenvironmental struggles. Considering Bhopal and Flint as instances of slow violence and institutional betrayal, the article makes two key arguments. First, treating these crises as discrete events obscures their sustained assault on people deemed expendable by their governments. Second, institutions charged with protecting people in distress can magnify and extend suffering. The paper analyzes institutional betrayal as a mechanism of slow violence: survivors can suffer lingering consequences when seeking restitution from regulatory bodies that may be responsible or complicit. We find that government responses and denials have caused prolonged violence in these regions. The paper concludes by urging scholars to compare socioenvironmental injustice globally, to believe residents, and to reject false end dates for crises.
Socioenvironmental Injustice across the Global Divide: Slow Violence and Institutional Betrayal in Bhopal and Flint
Nikhil Deb is Assistant Professor of Sociology at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, USA. His research broadly examines whether the change in the governance of the global South (i.e., transition to market liberalization) has contributed to socioenvironmental problems in marginalized locales, with particular attention to India and Bangladesh. A significant portion of his ongoing research centers around the intricate interplay between development politics and climate change in Bangladesh.
Nikhil Deb, Louise Seamster; Socioenvironmental Injustice across the Global Divide: Slow Violence and Institutional Betrayal in Bhopal and Flint. Sociology of Development 2023; doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sod.2023.0008
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