The Pearls and Pearl Divers of Ceylon

Tamara Fernando:  Seeing Like the Sea: A Multispecies History of the Ceylon Pearl Fishery 1800–1925″*  Past & Present, Volume 254, Issue 1, February 2022, Pages 127–60, …………………………………………….

ABSTRACT of the Article: The pearl fishery of Ceylon was a lucrative source of pearls as well as a theatre of colonial power. But instead of narrating a story of abstracted governmentality, this paper dives below the waves, braiding Tamil poetry with scientific material relating to the oyster and state sources concerning fishery administration. Taken together, these unearth a multi-species history of the human relationship to the seas. In the same way that pearl divers’ labour was a mode of knowing nature, so too, natural processes and marine creatures shaped, in turn, the economic, social and cultural worlds at the fishery. This nacreous, layered approach combines natural history, maritime labour and historical ecology to explore the fragile and interlocking balance below the waves which extended beyond humans to the molluscs, sharks, boring sponges and parasitic tapeworms of the Gulf of Mannar. The archive around the pearl fishery advances the animal and ecological histories of the Indian Ocean and also points towards ways of suturing the gulf between Indian and Sri Lankan scholarship.

All the photographs are embellishments  presented by Thuppahi to add ‘flavour’ to the researches of Tamara Fernando — pictures found via a cursory trip into the web.


Filed under British colonialism, commoditification, economic processes, governance, heritage, historical interpretation, Indian traditions, island economy, landscape wondrous, life stories, marine life, population, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, trauma, travelogue, unusual people, working class conditions, world events & processes

2 responses to “The Pearls and Pearl Divers of Ceylon

  1. Chandra Maliyadde

    Interesting and exploratory

  2. This blog is really helpful to us. Thanks for the good information.

Leave a Reply