IDS working papers;329

‘Show me the evidence’ : mobilisation, citizenship and risk in Indian asbestos issues

Published on 1 January 2009

This paper examines asbestos issues, mobilisation and citizenship in India. It
shows how asbestos has been considered as a tool for Indian economic growth
and modernisation and explores the scientific debates around its ‘safe’ use. In
seeking to locate experiences of citizenship within a globalised context, this
research has focused on anti-asbestos mobilisation and protest in cosmopolitan
cities as well as more decentralised contexts. It argues that the state’s narrow
definition of asbestos diseases enables it to officially document the lack of
asbestos diseases experienced by Indian workers. This process, which defines
sufferers as politically invisible and inconsequential, accompanied by the 30 year
delay between exposure and the onset of disease, hinders anti-asbestos
organisations as there is no constituency to be mobilised. Parallel (and partially
interrelated) grassroots asbestos movements which are more worker-orientated
are, however, marginalised from the transnational protests. The paper argues that
mobilisation around identity issues thus creates different contexts in India, in
which activists are simultaneously both intimately connected and enormously
distant to different aspects of the mobilisation process. In addition, while
geographic and political differences are compressed through transnational
mobilisation; class, regional and educational differences are expanded.
Keywords: asbestos; mobilisation; citizenship; anti-asbestos mobilisation; India;
asbestos diseases.

Cite this publication

Waldman, L. (2009) 'Show me the evidence' : mobilisation, citizenship and risk in Indian asbestos issues. Working paper series, 329. Brighton: IDS.

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Waldman, Linda


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