Issue 9 Food for Thought:
Food, Embodiment, and Knowledge

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Note From The Editors

The paradox of studying food is that scholars necessarily rely on the very instruments of discourse that reify a hierarchy of the senses designed to render food unworthy of serious thought: Images and texts appeal to the “higher” sense of sight; they “figure the material as intellectual, imaginative, symbolic, aesthetic,” Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson claims (2004, 17). Reason cannot be found in the “lower” senses while eating reminds us too much of our body’s needs. But Krishnendu Ray reminds us that “much of the sociology of the body continues to be devoted to theoretical argumentation focussed on gender, sexuality, and disease, belying the sense that all social action {…} is always embodied” (2016, 26).

Read more in the Note From the Editors

Today’s Special

Coconut image



The discovery process for this huge Indian deposit was accidentally initiated in the year 1908 when Herr Schomberg, a German chemist identified the presence of monazite in the sand remnants of contaminants of coir imported from Kerala.

Encouraged by the great demand in those days for thorium oxide in gas mantle, Schomberg established the first plant at Manavalakurichi (MK) in 1910 for separation of monazite and later another plant at Chavara. Subsequent to the arrest of Schomberg on charges of being a German spy during the first world war, both his plants at Manavalakurichi and Chavara were closed down. The London Cosmopolitan Mineral Company established in the year 1914 in London took over these plants and continued operations. In 1920, Hopkins and Williams (H&W), yet another London based English Company started operation at Manavalakurichi and Chavara.

The first export of ilmenite from Chavara took place in the year 1922 and the Indian ilmenite maintained a virtual monopoly in the world market as basic raw material for titania pigment (white) till 1940 when four plants belonging to Travancore Minerals Ltd. (TMC), Hopkins & William Travancore Ltd. (H&W) and Fx Pereira & Sons (FXP) together exported as high as three hundred thousand tons of ilmenite from Chavara. From a position of such a virtual monopoly in 1940, the demand of Chavara ilmenite however, dwindled in subsequent two decades due to variety of reasons like demand for better quality, labour unrest, difficulty in shipping, etc. Meanwhile the unbridled export of monazite continued till 1947 when the Govt. of India realised the strategic importance of the mineral and placed an embargo on its export. Around this time, to be precise on August 18, 1950, Indian Rare Earths Ltd. (IREL) was incorporated as a private limited Company under the Indian Companies Act, 1913, jointly owned by the Government of India and the then Government of Travancore-Cochin.

The immediate objective of the new company was to setup a chemical plant for processing of monazite for the recovery of thorium and uranium values in the form of concentrate and separate all the rare earths as mixed Rare Earths (RE) chloride. Accordingly in 1952, IREL setup a Rare Earth Plant at Alwaye, Cochin with an initial capacity of processing 1500 tpa of monazite based on the technology provided by the Societe des Products Chemiques des Terres Rares (now Rhodia Inc). The Company was also entrusted with the responsibility for setting up a Thorium Plant at Trombay to convert a part of the thorium concentrate to pure thorium nitrate for its application in the area of gas mantle making. From 1955 to 1998, IREL operated this plant on behalf of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and supplied thorium nitrate to gas mantle industries and nuclear grade thorium oxide for research and development work related to utilization of thorium in the Indian nuclear energy programme. Only recently the plant has been closed as it has outlived its life.

Mining of heavy minerals will affect the coir and coir products depended population of the area. One of the major agricultural products of the area is coconut that grows widely along these coasts. Apart from selling coconuts as an edible good, people are involved in manufacturing coir from the husk of the coconuts. Coir and coir products are exported in a large scale and its local use is also considerable.

Modern societies have begun to understand the importance of coir as an incomparable eco-friendly substance. Many of the fishing dependant households consider coir and coir products manufacturing as an additional source of income. Coir extraction process from the husk is complicated and requires brackish water to treat and soften it. The physico-chemical condition of the water is crucial for this process, as its variation might affect the quality of the coir strands. Once mined, the backwaters of the area will get more exposed to the sea, thereby changing the physicochemical parameters of the water.

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