Fishing as a cultural system

Zulaika, Joseba (1977) Fishing as a cultural system. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (15MB)


The ethnography for this thesis was carried out among Spanish deep-sea trawlermen fishing in the Northwest Atlantic ("Terranova"). After an introductory chapter, in which the spatial and social structures on board are outlined, as well as the juridical status and the specific technical performance of a Pareja ("Pair" of cod-trawlers dragging conjointly), the main body of the thesis aims to examine the features that culturally define the occupation of fishing. Emphasis is given to the proposition that fishermen create their own cultural context in response to their ecological and institutional experience. -- Although economic motivations are the raison d'etre of the "Terranova" fishing, the relations that the seamen evolve from within the marine environment, and the translation of the economic motivations to the levels of cognition and emotion, are direct subjects of this cultural analysis. The unpredictable fishing fluctuations are mentally organized around the key concept of luck, that becomes the condition of possibility for economic and emotional gratification. The conceptual order emerging from the indeterminacy of luck is systematically described. The view is taken that power on board participates in the system of signification involving luck. -- Likewise, the organization of social reality on board in the forms of time schedules, working conditions, safety guarantees, and so on, can only be understood in the light of a peculiar sense of order that the arbitrary causation of luck originates. -- Fishermen's emotional life is structured on the triangle represented by ship, foreign port, and home. The projective nature of ~he relations with family is stressed, in contrast with the severe limits of the actual family relations on shore. The foreign port offers the opportunity for a sexual double standard, which is revealing of the nature of the institutional life on board. The peculiar ethos of "being a fisherman" is described in the context of the relations developed from the ecological and cultural reality. -- Finally, the seamen's saying that "Terranova is a very round wheel" is intended as a metaphor, its signifying unity bringing together the environmental, social, cognitive, and emotional relations of fishing, as well as serving to recall the recent Canadian declaration of the 200-mile limit that implies for the near future a sudden end to all Spanish fishing in Terranova.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 10045
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 216-218.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Anthropology
Date: 1977
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Fishers--Social conditions; Fishers--Spain; Fishers--Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics