Nikhil Deb’s current research broadly focuses on how economic/development activities typically favor some human groups at the expense of other existing or future human groups or the environment. His research draws on and critiques a range of political-economic theories and uses a mixed-methods approach.
In his dissertation Slow Violence and Movement Resistance by the Gas Peddit in Neoliberal India, he investigates the way in which the slow violence of biosocial and environmental destruction continues to affect marginalized people living in Bhopal, India, three decades after the initial Union Carbide explosion in 1984. [The image on the left displays Union Carbide’s abandoned plant which continues to contaminate soil and groundwater in Bhopal].
Most research on Bhopal has highlighted the proximate causes and immediate consequences of the catastrophe. His research goes beyond the spectacle-driven understanding of the Bhopal tragedy by examining the disaster’s
ongoing adverse consequences stemming from a neoliberal dynamic that overshadows the slow violence of biosocial and environmental harms affecting vulnerable populations in the global South.
His research draws upon and critiques (a) political-economic perspectives dealing with socioenvironmental destruction affecting marginalized populations; and (b) postcolonial and subaltern perspectives that demonstrated the ways in which marginalized populations experience, contest, and penetrate power in this age of global market dominion. He draws data from interviews with Bhopal gas and water victims and activists, field observations, archives, and official and independent reports. He also created a cross-national dataset of all major industrial disasters since 1980. The dataset centers on the long-term social and environmental consequences of these disasters, demonstrating the vulnerability of impoverished areas to slow violence.