Focusing on the menhaden fishermen of the southern coastal regions, The Fish Factory is an engaging and insightful exploration of what work means to different social groups employed within the same industry.
Since the nineteenth century, the menhaden industry in the South has been traditionally split between black crews and white captains. Using life histories, historical research, and anthropological fieldwork in Reedville, Virginia, and Beaufort, North Carolina, Barbara Garrity-Blake examines the relationship between these two groups and how the members of each have defined themselves in terms of their work. The author finds that for the captains and other white officers of the menhaden vessels—men “born and bred” for a life on the water—work is a key source of identity. Black crewmen, however, have insisted on a separation between work and self; they view their work primarily as a means of support rather than an end in itself.
In probing the implications of this contrast, Garrity-Blake describes captain/crew relations within both an occupational context and the context of race relations in the South. She shows how those at the bottom of the shipboard hierarchy have exercised a measure of influence in a relationship at once asymmetrical and mutually dependent. She also explores how each group has reacted to the advent of technology in their industry and, most recently, to the challenges posed by those proclaiming a conservationist ethic.
Over the centuries, processing and distribution of products from land and sea has stimulated the growth of a global economy. In the broad sweep of world history, it may be hard to imagine a place for the meager little herring baitfish. Yet, as Brian Payne adeptly recounts, the baitfish trade was hotly contested in the Anglo-American world throughout the nineteenth century. Politicians called for wars, navies were dispatched with guns at the ready, vessels were seized at sea, and violence erupted at sea.
Yet, the battle over baitfish was not simply a diplomatic or political affair. Fishermen from hundreds of villages along the coastline of Atlantic Canada and New England played essential roles in the construction of legal authority that granted or denied access to these profitable bait fisheries.
Fishing a Borderless Sea illustrates how everyday laborers created a complex system of environmental stewardship that enabled them to control the local resources while also allowing them access into the larger global economy.
Since the Viking ascendancy in the Middle Ages, the Atlantic has shaped the lives of people who depend upon it for survival. And just as surely, people have shaped the Atlantic. In his innovative account of this interdependency, W. Jeffrey Bolster, a historian and professional seafarer, takes us through a millennium-long environmental history of our impact on one of the largest ecosystems in the world.
While overfishing is often thought of as a contemporary problem, Bolster reveals that humans were transforming the sea long before factory trawlers turned fishing from a handliner's art into an industrial enterprise. The western Atlantic's legendary fishing banks, stretching from Cape Cod to Newfoundland, have attracted fishermen for more than five hundred years. Bolster follows the effects of this siren's song from its medieval European origins to the advent of industrialized fishing in American waters at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Blending marine biology, ecological insight, and a remarkable cast of characters, from notable explorers to scientists to an army of unknown fishermen, Bolster tells a story that is both ecological and human: the prelude to an environmental disaster. Over generations, harvesters created a quiet catastrophe as the sea could no longer renew itself. Bolster writes in the hope that the intimate relationship humans have long had with the ocean, and the species that live within it, can be restored for future generations.
In the 1800s, when California was captivated by gold fever, a small group of Chinese immigrants recognized the fortune to be made from the untapped resources along the state’s coast, particularly from harvesting the black abalone of southern and Baja California. These immigrants, with skills from humble beginnings in a traditional Chinese fishing province, founded California’s commercial abalone industry, and led its growth and expansion for several decades. By the turn of the twentieth century, however, their successful livelihood was stolen from them through targeted legislation of the U.S. and California governments.
Today, the physical evidence of historical Chinese abalone fishing on the mainland has been erased by development. On California’s Channel Islands, however, remnants of temporary abalone collecting and processing camps lie scattered along the coastlines. These sites hold a treasure trove of information, stories, lifeways, and history. Braje has excavated many of these sites and uses them to explore the history of Chinese abalone fishing, presenting a microcosm of the broader history of Chinese immigrants in America—their struggles, their successes, the institutionalized racism they faced, and the unique ways in which they helped to shape the identity of the United States.
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