Development and Urbanization
The city of Bhopal has been deeply and durably marked by the 1984 chemical disaster, which has cost at least 3800 lives. Neighborhoods around the factory have been contaminated by toxic wastes for decades and their inhabitants have drunk polluted water for years. Therefore, the town has become a symbol of the criminal excesses of capitalism. This presentation will first focus on the everyday life of two informal workers, Ali and Ahmed, coming from Muslim neighborhoods siding Union Carbide factory’s ruins and working in metal workshops. Here, in an unprotected sector marked by an omnipresence of concurrence and employment uncertainty, they are struggling for the mastery of the skills, sharing with the other metal workers' values that enables them to sometimes develop a positive identity through work. Facing uncertainty, though, is not always solved by adopting the values. Falls in underemployment for Ali, the need to change line for Ahmed, are crises which come with their price of stress. Moving the lens to a bigger perspective, the presentation will then show that these trajectories are typical examples of the daily struggles against multifaceted forms of uncertainty performed by the subaltern, Muslim, low caste inhabitants of their neighborhoods. Amongst these issues, the environmental and health risk caused by the disaster, the scar of the fateful night, are just some of the many stresses experienced by people whose narratives show a cynical view of their trajectories. Beyond the disaster, facing the fallouts of unregulated capitalism keeps on shaping these people’s life.