The Koli community in Mumbai—which has been practising fishing for centuries—has experienced rapid changes over the last few decades, in the forms of increased mechanization, export of fish to global markets, and the pressure of urbanization on their living and workspaces. The capitalist transformation in fishing has altered what was once a caste-based practice to one that brought to it investors from outside the community, migrant workers and ecological degradation. The resultant loss of revenue, jobs and catch for artisanal fishers has led to movements demanding fishing rights to be granted to traditional fisher communities alone and for a return to older fishing practices. This call found resonance with populist politics in the city: Koli women organized themselves to stridently resist the entry of migrant men into the sector and Koli men—particularly the young—became inclined to move out of the practice of fishing. Through an examination of the lives and struggles of fishers in one of India’s wealthiest cities, this book looks at how contestations around livelihoods map out in the shadow of significant encounters between capitalism and ecology.
Gayatri Nair is Assistant Professor in Sociology, Department of Social Sciences and Humanities at the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology in Delhi, India. She received her MPhil (2012) and PhD (2016) in Sociology from the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her research interests lie in urban informal labour and livelihood patterns with an emphasis on the question of technology, caste and gender. With a focus on political economy, she has published work examining the links between caste, gender and cultures of modernity, working caste lives and popular culture. She is the author of Set Adrift: Capitalist Transformations and Community Politics along Mumbai’s Shores, published by Oxford University Press (2021). She is currently researching platform work and workers in Indian cities.
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