'Sea is for the fishing communities'





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Contributed date

March 23, 2020 - 8:05am

Critical Commentary

The image here shows a map used by the National Fishworkers Forum (and other organizations working on coastal issues in Tamil Nadu and India) to depict the route of the Coastal Yatra they organized. The Yatra was a campaign to spread awareness among both the general public and to engage with fisher communities all along the East coast. They would stop at different villages along the coast, take part in meetings organized with local leaders and articulate the issues faced by fisher communities. Some of the issues highlighted include the national government policy of Sagarmala which aims to develop port-led industrialization all along the coast. They also touched on other issues like new tax policies like GST, demonetization policies which adversely affect the poor and fishing in particular. As such, I use this image to contrast between the "coastal cities" narratives identified in the images such as the World Flood risk map. If those maps depict the coast as comparable with other coastal places based on their elevation above sea level, then this map evokes a call for organizing fishers as a category of labor who need to coalesce in response to specific policies of governments and structural marginalization of the fishing economy.

As ethnographers of the present we often attune to practices and the everyday processes of people's lives. In studying toxicity this means paying attention to toxic processes like enviromental pollution, its effects on the ecology, bodies, the human and nonhuman and so on. I think with this image to ask how ethnographers might attune to toxic processes which cause fishers to be alienated or to be written out from forums of policymaking and politics. How might we see toxicity when it assumes the form of structural processes of marginalization? Situating this question within ongoing debates around what it means to be a fisher--is it a category of labor (fishworker), or an identity (fisherfolk), among others--also means the meaning of toxicity is always epistemically plural at every scale.

Group Audience