8th ISHORE Webinar | Prof. Filippo Osella: "Covid-19 and the Politics of Bio-Moral Marginality on the South Kerala Coast"

Mahmood Kooria's picture

The Institute for Social Sciences, Humanities and Oceanic Research (ISHORE), Kerala, India, is deligted to invite you to the next session of the webinar series led by Filippo Osella (Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies, University of Sussex) on Friday, 29 October 2021 ​at 7.00pm IST. Together with Johnson Jament, Max Martin, OB Roopesh and Visakh Subha, he will present a paper on the consequences of Covid-19 interventions on coastal communities in south Kerala (India). The abstract is copied below.

Professor Janaki Abraham​ (​​Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University​)​ will chair and moderate the session and Dr. Salah Punathil​ (Assistant Professor​ at the Centre for Regional Studies, University of Hyderabad​) will be the discussant. ​

The session is open for only registered participants. Please register by sending an email to ishorekerala@gmail.com

In my talk I reflect on the consequences of covid-19 interventions on coastal communities in south Kerala (India), and the complex responses of the local population to the latter.  In particular, I map out the events which led to spontaneous protests in a number of fishing villages during the second phase of the epidemic in July 2020.   I will show that whilst during the first phase of the epidemic coastal communities remained supportive of government intervention—regardless of constraints imposed on fishing and the selling of fish, as well as on everyday sociality—such an initial support begun to wane as the epidemic unfolded over time and became more aggressive and widespread.  I argue that such a shift in fishing communities’ attitudes were a response not only to the consequences of a more forceful policy of containment of the epidemic, but also to a sudden identification of coastal communities as the main locus of contagion in the district.  I will suggest that the consequent restrictive measures enforced on coastal communities—from renewed bans on fishing and restrictions on fish selling, to the deployment of police commandoes to enforce the lockdown—were driven as much by epidemiological concerns as by a media-driven social panic built upon widespread negative stereotypes that have historically worked to marginalize, and even criminalize coastal communities in Kerala.  I deploy the notion of bio-moral marginality to reveal ways through which the attribution of specific—and largely stereotyped and negative—physical attributes and moral dispositions to the bodies and behaviour of people belonging to fishing coastal communities constituted the ground upon which a social panic concerning the spread of the covid-19 virus unfolded in south Kerala, and for fishers’ militant response.