Identity, sociality and mobility: understanding internal fisher migration along India’s east coast

Nitya Rao, J. D. Sophia

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Fisher movement in the pursuit of fish is a well-established truism. In this paper, we explore the motivations and mechanisms deployed for internal migration within the fishing sector in coastal Tamil Nadu, rather than only on the seas, as a strategy for both economic and social mobility. Marine fisheries in India is a caste-based occupation, with its own social and political hierarchy, responsible for the governance and management of common resources. For those belonging to the subordinate fishing castes, excluded from decision-making processes, migration is an important strategy for gaining economic resources, social power and recognition as skilled and successful marine fishermen. Using qualitative research methods, the paper explores the migration of fishermen from Rajakuppam, a small fishing village in Cuddalore district, belonging to such a subordinate fishing caste, to Kasimedu, in the capital city of Chennai, the largest fishing harbour in the state of Tamil Nadu. We find that family and its social organization, in particular kinship and marriage ties, brokered by senior women, are significant factors in facilitating successful migration. Recognizing women’s contributions to the sector, both direct and through their social reproductive and networking activities, invisible in both the larger maritime literature and production-centric fisheries’ policy-making, is crucial for achieving wellbeing and sustainability outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number42
JournalMaritime Studies (MAST)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2023


  • Fisher mobility
  • Internal migration
  • Kinship relations
  • Tamil Nadu

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