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Globalisation and abstraction in the Bhopal survivors' movement

By Eurig Scandrett and Suroopa Mukherjee


In the context of globalisation, the internationalisation of social movements\ud has become a focus of research and theorisation. In particular there is a\ud suggestion that new forms of internationalisation have emerged in response to\ud globalised economic and technological developments. The movement of\ud survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster has been cited as a “new/old breed of\ud transnational social movement” whose internationalisation has been\ud facilitated by the anti-toxics movement. Here it is argued that the dynamics of\ud this movement are more complex than has been recounted, and that\ud association with the international anti-toxics movement should be regarded as\ud one form amongst several, of generalisation from the experience of local\ud campaigning. By focusing on the divisions within the movement, the diversity\ud of generalisations may be more properly understood. Raymond Williams’\ud conception of militant particularism, as expounded by David Harvey, is a\ud useful theoretical tool for interpreting the various forms of abstraction which\ud the movement has developed. It is argued that not only does this approach\ud provide a more nuanced understanding of the dynamics of this and potentially\ud other social movements, it is also valuable for movement activists to make\ud sense of otherwise negative experiences of division, and thereby reduce the risk\ud of such divisions being exploited

Publisher: Interface
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