ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Visibilizing gendered intimacies, performing dissent: Women of Koodankulam battle (in)visible radioactive risks


HURIA SONALI - Friedrich-Alexander-Universität (FAU) Erlangen-Nürnberg, Chair of Science, Technology and Gender Studies, Erlangen, Germany


03 – Changing Forms of Gendered Participation in Politico-ideological Movements in South Asia: Histories, Networks, (In)Visibilities


 Koodankulam in south India has witnessed among the earliest, largely women-led movements against nuclear energy.The intimacies of shared community spaces, conventionally sites of communal child rearing, traditional livelihood practices of drying fish/making beedis & other collective chores, transformed into sites of intense protests when their communities were threatened by the imposition of a nuclear plant. In the absence of any formal organizational structure, these informal networks of intimacy launched an unprecedented civil disobedience against the Indian State. The intense protests by the women in the face of brutal state repression were remarkable in their performativity–the use of their bodies as the medium for articulating dissent, were so dramatic in their expression that the images went viral globally.And yet, when it came to engaging in dialogue with state-appointed nuclear technocrats, the women receded into the background, invisibilizing their bodies and thrusting their menfolk into the role of ‘negotiators’. This paper will explore the fascinating stories implicated in this recent episode within India’s nuclear historiography to understand how Koodankulam’s women who stand on the exteriority of narratives of progress and even mainstream feminist agendas, articulated dissent against invisible radioactive dangers while negotiating their agencies within their communities & in the pitched battles against a repressive masculine state besotted with the nuclear dream.