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Cosmopolitan Disasters: from Bhopal to the Tsunami in South Asian Anglophone Literature

O'Loughlin, Liam (2015) Cosmopolitan Disasters: from Bhopal to the Tsunami in South Asian Anglophone Literature. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines the representational conflict over sites of disaster in the contemporary period of neoliberal globalization. I name these disasters “cosmopolitan” not to assign value but to designate a set of political and representational problems that stem from each event’s position of global prominence.

Interpreting Anglophone literatures of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, I pair dominant modes of representation with particular disasters: humanitarian representations and the Union Carbide Bhopal gas leak; images of apocalypse that circulated after the 1998 nuclear tests in India and Pakistan; bureaucratic aesthetics and a set of coal mine collapses in 2001; and the wilderness aesthetics of the 2004 tsunami. South Asian disaster writing engages, disrupts, and reworks these dominant modes by redirecting disaster imaginations away from moments of sensational violence towards recurrent forms of structural violence. These narratives challenge the reductive notions of “natural disaster” and “accident” by treating disasters not as moments of rupture but as moments within a longer historical continuum, thus confronting the global media’s routine stigmatization of the Global South as an ahistorical disaster zone, or what I refer to as the disaster exotic.

Moreover, these narratives explore the subtle possibilities of emergent communities of reconstruction, attending to disaster solidarities at the local and transnational levels. Bringing together conversations in trauma and memory studies, ecocriticism and media studies, as well as
globalization theory and the sociology of disaster, I contend that South Asian narratives both critique dominant disaster discourses and excavate utopian imaginations from the detritus of the aftermath.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairPuri, Shalinispuri@pitt.eduSPURI
Committee MemberBoone, Troyboone@pitt.eduBOONE
Committee MemberDoshi, Neildoshi@pitt.eduDOSHI
Committee MemberJohnson, Hannahhrj4@pitt.eduHRJ4
Committee MemberMajumdar,
Date: 22 June 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 6 April 2015
Approval Date: 22 June 2015
Submission Date: 16 April 2015
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 238
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Disaster, Postcolonial literature, Cosmopolitanism, Neoliberalism, Humanitarianism, Bureaucracy
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2015 17:54
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2020 05:15


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