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The South Indian state of Kerala has been called a model of development. Despite a low per-capita income, its child mortality, literacy and general life expectancy resemble those of far richer regions. Yet, already marginalized at the edge of an agrarian society, Kerala's fisher folk are faced with a severe environmental problem: overfishing. Due to fishing by trawlers and industrial fishing ships, the resources of their traditional work are dwindling rapidly.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a fishing village, Conversations on the Beach explores the local environmental knowledge of the fisher folk and its role in helping them to adapt to rapidly changing conditions. Particular emphasis is put on conversation as a cultural process, the use of memory, metaphors and figurative speech. Conversations on the Beach provides a reflection on the methodology of fieldwork and contributes to the study of a region, which may turn out to be paradigmatic for other areas of the developing world.
Götz Hoeppe is an editor of the magazine Sterne und Weltraum and a part-time lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Heidelberg. He studied anthropology, physics and astronomy in Gottingen, Albuquerque and Berlin and has done fieldwork in Papua New Guinea and South India.