Fish and Ships: Exploring Seascapes and Engagements in Seafood Politics; a AAA 2013 panel!

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Organizers: Shingo Hamada (Indiana University) and Lillian Brown (Indiana University)

This session explores the interplay of humans and the sea through seafood production, circulation, and consumption. Anthropologists have studied economic systems since the birth of the discipline, and introductory courses in anthropology usually cover hunting and gathering, pastoralism, and horticulture. However in anthropology, fishing does not receive as much attention as other economic activities. Despite the emergence and development of interdisciplinary food studies, most programs focus mainly on agricultural systems, with fisheries and aquaculture an afterthought. In discussing the omnivore’s dilemma, we know what herbivore and carnivore mean and critically discuss their relations to the environment, but piscivory falls into the space between them.

Fish swim cross physical, political, and ontological boundaries, and seafood leads us to fruitful discussions of anthropological theories and methodologies to capture fish, ships, and dishes. Concerns about genetically modified frankenfish and the accumulation of contaminating substances such as mercury in fish makes seafood “simultaneously healthful and hazardous” (Mansfield 2012). Seafood challenges modernist dualist ontology and leads us to reconsider the work of purification that constructs countless dichotomies which fail to incorporate the complexities that anthropologists study. These include healthy food and junk food; organic and industrial; food production and consumption, to name a few. In the meantime, the specialized skills of the maritime anthropologist, such as diving skills, immunity to seasickness, and dealing with cultural norms that limit anthropologists’ access to boats and other work places, require us to explore interdisciplinary exchanges and research projects.

Does the fact that human beings are terrestrial animals spatially limit social scientific and humanistic inquiries of seafood and seascapes? This session addresses seafood as an underrepresented field in anthropology. We solicit papers that present case studies from any geographic region discussing, but not limited to; the social construction of oceans, risks, and hazards; technologies and techniques around seafood procurement and preparation or preservation; the socio-cultural, and gastronomic importance of seafood; sustainable seafood production and consumption; seafood and disaster; and, seafood safety and security in neoliberal regimes. How do government policies both create and manipulate the dangers of the sea? What are the methodological challenges in the anthropology of seafood? How do the difficulties in access to the field in seascapes influence the way we engage the interconnectivity among seafood production, distribution, consumption and waste?  What particular domains and to which fields can anthropological studies of seafood contribute? At the end of the session the presenters, discussant, and audiences will discuss how anthropologists can best engage with seafood politics, from sustainable fisheries to food choice and consumption.

If interested, please send Shingo Hamada (hamadas@indiana.edu) and Lillian Brown (lillbrow@indiana.edu) an abstract and your contact information by March 8. We are looking to submit a session proposal by the March 15 deadline.

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Filed under AAA 2013 Chicago, anthropology, Call for Papers, CFP, fish, food policy

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