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Changing Courses

A Comparative Analysis of Ethnographies of Maritime Communities in South Asia

Acc. No: 1025-S

Category: Soft Documents

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As compared to the ethnographic study of agrarian communities in South Asia, there has been a relative lack of attention accorded to the study of maritime communities as a distinct occupational category with unique cultural and economic significance. This raises a concern about the specific contribution that maritime anthropology has made and could make to South Asian anthropology as a whole. This paper undertakes a comparative review of some of the major ethnographic studies of South Asian fishing communities. The paper identifies the major issues and themes that might be said to characterise South Asian maritime anthropology, and examines the differences in theoretical frameworks used to understand processes of change. Two predominant themes emerge from the broad comparison undertaken in the paper. The first is the study of how fishing communities differ from agrarian communities on the major axes of caste, class, gender, moral economy, ritual, and belief. The second overarching theme is the analysis of the process of transformation that occurs within artisanal fishing communities as they encounter larger national! global capitalist economies. These studies grapple with the Marxian tradition of anthropology in trying to analyse this change. However, another common thread that runs through these works is a critique of the validity of unidirectional change in a classic Marxist mode. Instead, ethnographies of fishing communities in South Asia analyse the complexity of transformation and challenge the notion of complete polarisation between artisanal and modern fishermen. Source: CHANGING COURSES: A Comparative Analysis of Ethnographies of Maritime Communities in South Asia