Toxic Bodies: Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People
This chapter examines Indra Sinha’s fictionalized account of the 1984 toxic chemical spill in Bhopal, India, Animal’s People, to critique Dow Chemical’s evocation of humanity in its “The Human Element” ad campaign (2006–2012). When toxic chemicals enter the narrator’s body, his spine is twisted forward, and he adopts the name “Animal.” Walking on his hands and feet, Animal offers up an often-overlooked perspective on non-human relations as he empathically converses with dogs, trees, and others. Not only does Animal refuse to be recognized by western definitions of what constitutes the human, he also helps transform a community of local activists by broadening their coalition to include non-human subjects, the “people of the apocalypse.” I argue, therefore, that the neoliberal call to “be more human” by acquiring more human capital echoes nineteenth-century imperialist discourses, which called on colonized subjects to “be more civilized.”
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