Event — Indian Ocean Lecture Series

Gulf Migration, Informal Market and Violence in a Contested Shoreline: Muslim Experience of Marginality in South Kerala, South India

As the Academic Year begins, so does our new Indian Ocean Lecture Series.

Our first speaker of his year will be Dr Salah Punathil (University of Hyderabad). He is an anthropologist working on the communal clashes among Muslim-Christian fishing communities in coastal south India and currently a visiting fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany. 

This paper is about the experience of violence and marginality of a Muslim community called Marakkayars living in the coastal localities of South Kerala, South India. The paper first set the historical background of the one-century-old history of Marakkayar’s conflicts and violence with Mukkuvar Christians in the coastal belts and their decline as a traditional fishing community. The paper narrates how the structural inequalities, political ecology and the modernization of fishing systematically impoverished the Muslim fishers over past few decades and how this transition has been featuring with perpetual conflicts and violence with Mukkuvar Christians in the coastal belts. The paper then shift its focus to one coastal site called Beemapalli where Marakkayars ventured into an informal market after the Gulf migration in 1990’s, which transformed their socio-economic life. By embarking on the insights from judicial discourse and ethnography of a specific event of spectacle state violence in Beemapalli in the year of 2009, the paper further shows how the violence and the contesting discourse divulged after the violence is entangled with this transition of Beemapalli as an informal market after the Gulf migration. The judicial discourse that justifies the police violence in Beemapalli and the counter narratives from the locality unravels the history of confrontations between the state and the Marakkayar Muslims. The paper demonstrates how the relationship between the state agencies and marginalized Marakkayars is pervaded with varied forms of violence: legitimate and illegitimate, physical and symbolic, spectacle and everyday in a complex way.

Dr. Salah Punathil is a faculty (Sociology) at the Centre for Regional Studies, University of Hyderabad and a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Gottingen, Germany. His research interest includes Ethnic Conflicts and Violence, Borderlands and Migration, and Muslims in South Asia. His PhD dissertation was on violence among religious minorities in the Kerala state of South India. His current research involves migration, violence and citizenship question in the Assam state of North East India. Salah Punathil is a recipient of M.N Srinivas Award for Young Indian Sociologist in the year of 2015 for his research article on Mappila Muslims of Kerala, published in the journal of South Asia Research. His book titled ‘Interrogating Communalism: Violence, Citizenship and Minorities in South India’ by Routledge Press is coming out at the end of this year. 

15:00 - 15:45 Lecture
15:45 - 16:15 Q & A
16:15 - 17:15 Drinks

The Leiden Indian Ocean Lectures series is organised by Leiden University, KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies and the International Institute for Asian Studies (Leiden).

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