South Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Technology and its Discontents: Interrogating Technology in environmental Movements

Friday, July 6
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Jacaranda II, First Floor

Despite calls for nuance in our understanding of ecological movements, there has been a tendency to view recent environmental movements –especially those in the Global South - as exhibiting ‘critical localism’ in its rejection of global capitalism. This paper will explore the question of technology and its treatment within the ecological movement waged by fishers in India to argue that the question of technology demands a more nuanced response than has otherwise been conceded: as opposed to rejecting technology, fishers demand ownership of the technology introduced by capitalism.


Movements by traditional fishing communities such as the Kolis in Mumbai refashioned itself in 1989 as an ecological movement rooted in environmental sustainability and skepticism regarding technology. This move has glossed over contesting positions around technology within communities itself.  It neglects the demands of Kolis who view technology as beneficial in breaking the sex-based division of work in fishing; the migrant who can enter fishing through deskilling facilitated by technology; and Koli women who demand that the state enable technological access for them.

Notions of the ‘community’ and moral economy have increasingly defined the movement, accompanied by an inattention to how diverse workers have been affected by the incursions of capitalism.  Based on fieldwork conducted in Mumbai, this paper argues that there is a need to interrogate mainstream environmental discourses for their complicity in reproducing reductive narratives around technology, particularly for movements that are being waged in the Global South.

Gayatri Nair

Tata Institute of Social Sciences Hyderabad, India

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