Wright, Guy David (1983) Swiling : an ethnographic portrait of the Newfoundland seal hunt. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
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This thesis describes the social and cultural meaning the Newfoundland large vessel seal hunt has for the men who participate in it. Large vessels have been taking harp and hood seals off northern Newfoundland since 1793. Although technologies and economic emphases have changed over the years, the actual work of killing, skinning and harvesting the pelts and meat of seals on the ice remains little changed in nearly two centuries. The extremely harsh conditions and inherent dangers have made the seal hunt an important rite of passage and renewal for men who are able to participate. Several major disasters associated with sealing have amplified cultural attachments to the seal hunt within Newfoundland. -- The seal hunt has become a major issue in a dialogue between those who regard it as cruel and ecologically dangerous, economically unimportant and culturally indefensible; and those who feel it is a humane, economically important and legitimate industry. The hunt has come under a barrage of criticism from environmental preservationist groups in the past two decades and it appears these lobbyists may be successful in stopping or severely restricting the annual hunt. Sealing is important to the men for cultural, social and ultimately, personal reasons which are extra to the more concrete economic importance it holds for them. -- Following the Introduction and a brief history of sealing in Newfoundland, the body of the thesis presents the ethnographic detail of a voyage to the hunt, using participant observer techniques. This description gives close detail of the sealers’ interactions with each other and relates, largely through dialogue, the feeling the sealers have for and about the hunt. The final chapter deals with the sealers' motivations for persuing the hunt. An epilogue suggests some possible implications should the hunt be ended. -- No major study of modern sealing has been undertaken by an ethnographer who has participated in the hunt. Recent events are seriously threatening sealing in Newfoundland; this thesis may be viewed as salvage ethnography. It is an empirically oriented work which aims to show how an economic activity may be embued with cultural meaning.
|Item Type:||Thesis (Masters)|
|Additional Information:||Bibliography: leaves 233-239.|
|Department(s):||Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Anthropology|
|Geographic Location:||Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador|
|Library of Congress Subject Heading:||Sealing--Social aspects--Newfoundland and Labrador|
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