Chapter 10 ‘I Used To Be Human Once’: Trauma and Reconfigurations of the Body in Chemical Disasters

In: Topography of Trauma: Fissures, Disruptions and Transfigurations
Elwin Susan John
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The chaos or the disorder initiated by a traumatic experience/event leaves visible scars on the selves reminding one about a painful lived experience. The human body becomes a space and canvas for the expression of such sufferings. These incidents strike both physical and mental markings on a body and it results in an explosion of questions. Writers in fact consider the body as a tool to communicate the misery and agony of the victims. In this chapter, an attempt is made to identify and record the ‘identities’ that have emerged out of the incidents that have left a mark on the Indian psyche. Narratives on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and the Endosulfan Tragedy in Kerala are chosen for this study. More than a comparative study of these two incidents, I try to make sense of the physical transformations of the individual bodies that accompanied these tragedies and the resulting identity formations. On one hand, the emerging images of the victims are considered to be ugly and monstrous and they are treated as outcasts in society. Or are we sympathetic towards such individuals? On the other hand, these victims try to live their lives by compromising on a lot of things. My study will explore the strategies employed by the victims to move forward with their lives and obtain justice, and the scheming done by the State. In a larger framework, the presence of such figures in society questions our own existence. The notion of being normal and a life without defects is an abnormality to these people. In such a context, these people find their own ways to fit in which are articulated in the narratives selected for this study. I will be drawing on trauma theory, body criticism and postcolonial theories to substantiate my arguments.

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