Giraldo Herrera, Cesar ORCID: (2022) Gutting fishy empathies off the Shetland Islands, Scotland. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 28 (4). pp. 1137-1158. DOI

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This article builds upon Amerindian epistemologies and develops a perspectival ethnography of industrial Northwestern European skilled modes of engaging with wild fish. It explores Amerindian perspectivism as an ethnographic methodology grounded on animic premises: subject or object status are relative and relational, experience is intersubjective; the body is permeable, and its perspectives can be exchanged through tools and mimetic processes. Thus subjectivity is collectively constituted and the fundamental means of knowing, leading to the acknowledgement of subjectivity in others. Documenting a perspectival exchange guided by Shetland fishers trawling for monkfish, the article focuses on some possible dynamics and affective affordances involved in gutting processes. Gutting is physically and emotionally taxing labour that involves brief but intimate encounters with responsive beings that may offer effective resistance, affecting fishers or damaging their own value as catch. It entails the possibility of developing an intimate knowledge of fish anatomy, ecology, and behaviour, as well as potentially awareness of fish suffering and fishiness, an empathic quality. The research reveals how Shetland fishers maintain animic modes of learning and being in their understandings of the body and fish. The ethnography presents first-hand insights into ‘relations of trust’, which, although widely reported, continue to be dismissed as implausible. These relations and their dynamics are further attested through Shetlands háfwords and other language practices that establish synecdochical relations between fishers and fish, restricting violence and making it endurable. These insights problematize violence, illustrating the social skills of fishing and the political dynamics of predation, suggesting paths towards addressing cruelty.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA5
Research affiliation: Social Sciences > Development and Knowledge Sociology
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.:
ISSN: 1359-0987
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2022 08:34
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 11:01

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