Wesleyan University

Deboleena Roy: Germline Ruptures: Methyl Isocyanate Gas and Transpositions of Life, Death, and Matter in Bhopal


December 2014 marked the 30th anniversary of the gas leak tragedy that occurred at the Union Carbide Corporation's pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. Due to the initial exposure to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas during the explosion, and due to the further exposure of residual chemical contaminants in the soil and ground water left after the disaster, the status of reproductive health continues to be an issue for both survivors of the Bhopal Tragedy, as well as new generations of local residents. As MIC continues to exert its effects on the reproductive biology of women, men, and children in Bhopal, remarkably, there is a growing market of in vivo human labor developing in this city that depends precisely on the promissory futures made possible by the remaining potential for reproductive value that exists in this very same population and location. By tracing the breakdown of Bhopali survivors' reproductive bodies, their chromosomes, and their bodily fluids due to MIC exposure, and by simultaneously examining the embryonic development of new fetal bodies through genetic materials and proteins provided by surrogate women, my aim is to explore the compound MIC as a catalyst for the placental migration of transnational biopolitics. By conducting an analysis of these entanglements and ruptures-genetic, reproductive, and otherwise-my hope is to contribute to interdisciplinary conversations between feminist science and technology studies (STS), postcolonial STS, and new materialisms.

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