Samudra Report

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Issue No:56
  • :0973–1121
  • :July
  • :2010

The Fisherwoman
The fisherwoman
in her boat
under the sky,
deep blue above,
deep blue below,
salty, skin
the fisherwoman

A soft song
o my love, o my lord,
carry me, float me, rock me, rescue me
a soft song for the fish and the sky
and the broad ocean and all the things on islands
that call to her.

Buildings, streets, people, suits
on green islands
across the ancient ocean,
the endless sleeping sea.

Through the light she sees the islands
and the fish watch
and wait.

—Janet Jackson

Review : BOOKS

Marginalized Histories

This book under review focuses on recovering the politics of the Mukkuvar fishers of Kanyakumari District in the south Indian State of Tamil Nadu

This review is by Karen Coelho (, an anthropologist and Assistant Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, India

The Mukkuvar fishers of the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore on India’s southwestern coast have found themselves implicated, over the centuries, in ongoing and interlocked battles over territory and trade, religion and rule, economics and ecology, caste and class, as this work by Ajantha Subramanian points out. In the early 21st century, they emerge as a complex and dynamic society, actively negotiating structures such as caste discrimination, State-sponsored technological transformation, class formations and regulations on their livelihood systems.

Predominantly artisanal fishers, the Mukkuvars also comprise a powerful subsection of wealthy merchant trawler-owners, with the two groups chronically at loggerheads over fishing methods and access to marine resources. A mainly Catholic population governed by church authority in economic and political as well as social and religious matters, the Mukkuvars have periodically risen to...

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