Territorialising the Sea – Københavns Universitet

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Against the backdrop of the liberalization of cross-border trade between China and Vietnam along with the simultaneous enforcement of material borders on the sea, my current research explores how the global conflict over marine and submarine resources affects the livelihoods of people dependent on fishing.

About the project

The project “Territorialising the Sea” is an anthropological study focusing on fishermen’s livelihoods and the dramatic impact of the South China Sea (SCS) conflict on local ecologies. The project applies a political ecology approach that does not see local ecology as a predetermined construct but rather as shaped by complex relations between people and their environment and external forces—social, economic and political as pioneered by Nancy Lee Peluso, Susan Paulson, Lisa Gezon, James. B. Greenberg, Anna Tsing and Michael Watts. From the existing plurality of positions, perceptions and interests in relation to marine resources and spaces that exist between different groups of actors within society, this project explores local projections of territoriality in this SCS environment. Taking an ethnographic perspective I pose the research question how various actors in coastal communities frame and enact their legal claims to fishing ground and marine commodities that are caught and traded on the sea-even at times of territorial dispute. Thus, the main aim of the project is to explore fishermen’s perceptions and actions in relation to territory, in connection with their “mental maps” and build a more informed approach to territoriality and local communities attempt to protect their environmental foundation of their livelihoods.

The project is funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research.