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Accounting for the Bhopal disaster: footnotes and photographs

Matilal, Sumohon and Höpfl, Heather (2009) 'Accounting for the Bhopal disaster: footnotes and photographs.' Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 22 (6). pp. 953-972. ISSN 0951-3574

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Abstract

Purpose – The aim of this paper is to find the relationship between the purely representational aspects of the statements of account and the everyday lived experiences of those who were directly affected by the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in India in 1984. The paper seeks to consider the rhetorical force of photography in capturing the tragic and to compare this with the position adopted by Union Carbide in accounting for the catastrophe. Design/methodology/approach – The paper reviews the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and draws on the works of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Julia Kristeva to examine the relationship between photographic representation and statements of account. Findings – The rhetorical character of the ways in which the tragedy has been represented and the impact of the photographic image when set against the statement of account is considered. The photographic image is an attempt to restore the body to the text, to bear in mind that, in the face of inevitable abstract, it is important to remember the body, albeit with the caveat that the image too succumbs to the force of rhetoric. Nonetheless, the image reminds one that one is dealing not only with figures and statements but also with life and death. Originality/value – The paper contributes to discussions about the need for a dialogic approach to accounting. Frequently, in disaster analysis, the co-existence of multiple perspectives and fragmented stories i.e. a dialogic approach, is paramount to gaining an insight into the complexity of the system which has failed. The paper demonstrates how images can complement cosy, coherent, monologic statements of accounts and help to retain the human character of disaster.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Accounting; India; Man-made disasters; Narratives; Photographs; Visual media
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School
Depositing User: Jo Wiltshire
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2013 13:53
Last Modified: 02 Sep 2013 13:53
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/5324

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