February 12, 2019

Bhopal Dance Web Banner

NYU Washington, DC hosted a Salon Series conversation with Dr. Jennifer Natalya Fink, author of the Catherine Doctorow Prize-winning novel, Bhopal Dance.

On the night of December 2, in the midst of the Reaganomic era, an explosion at an American-owned factory in Bhopal, India, released untold amounts of toxic gas on uncounted numbers of people, creating a human and environmental disaster of insurmountable proportions. Known as the Bhopal disaster, it once dominated international headlines, and is now barely remembered.

Yet Bhopal remains emblematic of all the many quickly forgotten disasters that followed, and of the permanent state of globalized disaster in which people now dwell. What does it mean when corporations instead of states control not only the means to create environmental disasters, but also the tools to bury them? How does one revolt against these unelected entities? How do the most private desires get shaped by this stateless horror? Jennifer Natalya Fink’s Bhopal Dance is an epic and epochal tale of such a horror and its buried consequences.

NYU DC faculty member, Victoria Kiechel, served as interlocutor for the evening's discussion.

Dr. Fink

Dr. Jennifer Natalya Fink

Vicky Kiechel

Victoria Kiechel

Bhopal Dance Book Cover

At the center of the novel is Cordelia, an owlish woman with a ménage of lovers, who leads a revolutionary Canadian political movement catalyzed by the Bhopal disaster, only to end up imprisoned with just a toilet to talk to. Who she hallucinates is her father. Who is her father. Who is the State. Who may be her mother. Or her twin/lover. Cordelia is a remarkable bird in her own right, and ‘owlishness’ is a feathery conceit deployed in both the book’s form and content, a way of exploring queer possibilities for altering the terms of one’s imprisonment. For setting corporatized corporeality alight. Ablaze. Pets and punk rock, dentists and dyslexia, Shakespeare and salsa: they all dance together here.


The NYU Washington, DC Salon Series: Conversations with Writers & Artists presents an opportunity for the NYU and Washington, DC community to meet and engage in dialogue with acclaimed writers and artists as they reflect on their craft. This program provides facilitated conversations that aim to illuminate the guests’ creative processes, discuss their current works, and explain the impact of their work on the world around us. The Salon Series is made possible by NYU Washington, DC through the collaboration of NYU schools, departments and centers, as well as through special relationships with selected external organizations.