By Elspeth Probyn

ISBN-10: 0822362139

ISBN-13: 9780822362135

In Eating the Ocean Elspeth Probyn investigates the profound significance of the sea and the way forward for fish and human entanglement. On her ethnographic trip round the world's oceans and fisheries, she unearths that the sea is being simplified in a foodstuff politics that's overwhelmingly land established and preoccupied with buzzwords like "local" and "sustainable." constructing a conceptual tack that mixes serious research and embodied ethnography, she dives into the profitable and endangered bluefin tuna marketplace, the gendered politics of "sustainability," the ghoulish company of manufacturing fish meal and fish oil for animals and people, and the lengthy historical past of encounters among people and oysters. Seeing the sea because the website of the entanglement of a number of species—which are all implicated within the interactions of expertise, tradition, politics, and the market—enables us to consider how one can enhance a reflexive ethics of style and position dependent within the attention that we can't break out the foodstuff politics of the human-fish relationship. 

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Food politics, for instance, has been overwhelmingly focused on terrestrial animal protein. Is this simply because it’s easier to care about a cow than a lobster? Classic animal rights texts such as Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation hesitated about where to draw the line. In the 1990 edition, Singer recounts, “With creatures like oysters, doubts about a capacity for pain are considerable; and in the first edition of this book I suggested that somewhere between shrimp and an oyster seems as good a place to draw the line as any” (174).

Philip Steinberg’s historical geography of the ocean gives depth to our current understandings of marine space. He takes inspiration from the thoughts of Strabo, the Greek geographer. Writing some two thousand years ago, Strabo saw in the ocean a space of comingling with human beings: “We are in a certain sense amphibious, not exclusively connected with the land but with the sea as well” (Steinberg 1999b, 368). Steinberg focuses on the flows of capital across time and space, and he identifies how the maritime became associated with fixity and with stasis.

To return to my question, how do we embody a care for the sea and its dependents? Some of us humans are seemingly out of our element when it comes to the seas and oceans, although many argue that humans evolved from the sea. But we—the nonseafarers—are by and large lost in the waters of what we call Earth, which is of course three- quarters seawater. Stefan Helmreich’s work is instructive here, arguing as he does that while seawater has long been implicit in cultural theories and in fact underlies many of the now-overused metaphors of globalization (especially “flows”), we need to bring to the surface the materiality of the oceanic.

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Eating the Ocean by Elspeth Probyn


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