ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Coral Woman

The Story of Uma Mani’s Ecofeminist Zeal

Priya Thuvassery’s documentary Coral Woman situates the exhaustion of corals at the intersection of environmental humanities and postcolonial studies.

Admired by most people for their beauty, corals—a marine species of colourful hermaphrodite invertebrates—are important protectors of our ecosystem. Regarded as the rainforest of the sea, corals fortify the soil of the coastal region and help to preserve biodiversity by providing shelter to several species. Human activities causing global warming and pollution of the oceans are a threat to them. Priya Thuvassery’s Coral Woman (2019) is a documentary film presenting the impact of human activities on the coral reefs in the Gulf of Mannar located at the southern tip of Tamil Nadu. Coral mining, a major anthropogenic threat to the corals, has led to the destruction of 60% of the corals in the Gulf of Mannar. Corals are mined for jewellery trade, decoration of aquariums, collection of limestone, and building construction materials as a substitute for brick. The film tells us that the presence of corals in the ruins of colonial buildings bears evidence to the exploitation of this natural resource for centuries. Though the Indian government banned coral mining in 2005, draining of sewage water and industrial waste into the sea, global warming, and pollution have adversely affected the corals and the entire ecosystem of the seashore towns in this region. Coral Woman depicts these perilous effects on two towns in particular—Thoothukudi, a flourishing industrial hub, and Rameswaram, a site of pilgrimage.

The purpose of looking back at Coral Woman four years after its release is to draw the readers’ attention to the anthropogenic effects on the coral reefs in India, which till date have received little attention in environmental humanities and have found scanty mention in cultural texts. This neglect is an instance of “postcolonial blindness,” an axiom inspired by Dipesh Chakrabarty’s coinage “environmentally blind”—a phrase he used to discuss the absence of environmental issues in postcolonial scholarship in the 1980s and the 1990s.

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Updated On : 24th Aug, 2023
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