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Thursday, June 27 • 15:00 - 16:30
On ideals: towards circumspect and contingent knowledge in maritime worlds

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Chaired by: Sridhar, A. & Siriwardane-de Zoysa, R.

On ideals: towards circumspect and contingent knowledge in maritime worlds
Aarthi Sridhar & Rapti Siriwardane-de Zoysa

The problem of excess and the unwanted is central to natural resource politics and its governance. ‘Overfishing’, ‘invasive species’, ‘unregulated’ extraction of oils and minerals from the ocean floor, all assume that (some) humans are doing something in excess of an ideal state, a balance - a universal human preoccupation according to philosopher and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips[1]. Undergirding individual and societal desire to understand spatial-temporal ideas around balance and excess, are discourses on ethical practices of fishing, ‘good science’ and desirable relations with nature. But, how do we come to appreciate what might be ‘excessive’ (and unsolicited) in maritime practices, or conversely, how can we reflexively re-center attention to a different set of ‘facts’ and fact generating processes? To extend the question, how may we arrive at integrative and plural ways of understanding processes of norming (and normalization), particularly with regard to epistemes seen to be ‘correct’– from ‘right’ sets of practices relating to resource extraction, to desired forms of sociality and conviviality that crosscut epistemological maritime traditions? Moreover, how far do social practices and contexts seen to be embedded in the terrestrial translate into coastal and marine realms (and vice versa), in ways that preempt similarity and difference?
In doing so, we draw inspiration from the reflexive turn witnessed across multiple disciplines within the social sciences and the environmental humanities. Within the marine sciences, scientists are also turning a critical lens on their own historical legacies, norms and values, reminiscent of Mertonian notions of science’s self-corrective communal nature, albeit with much controversy and disagreement. This panel attempts to bring a microcosm of scholarship marked by reflexivity, criticality and self-examination from multiple epistemological traditions. We offer ourselves a chance to see how the maritime present (and future) might be articulated and imagined with more circumspect and contingent knowledge claims.


Fish are not mammals: the failure of transposing our terrestrial insight to the marine environment
Jeppe Kolding & Paul van Zwieten

This paper will focus on how our understanding – and therefore management interventions – of the aquatic ecosystems are (mis)informed by our terrestrial experiences, and why these fail when they are transferred into an ecosystem with completely different, structure, rules and processes. For example, fish are feeding like lions (carnivores), but breeding like plants (millions of offspring), and such creatures are unknown in our terrestrial world, which has formed our perception of Nature. Our management interventions and fisheries regulations are therefore based on wrong assumptions extrapolated from the terrestrial environment. This is causing deep structural impact on the marine ecosystems, and is having evolutionary consequences on the exploited fish stocks.


Ideals and practice in statistical data collection for stock assessment in India: Where’s the catch?
Aarthi Sridhar

The set of scientific practices and concepts known as ‘stock assessment’, the pumping heart of the discipline of fisheries science is undertaken as institutionalized state science across developed and developing nations, temperate and tropical. Drawing from a science studies influenced history of fisheries science in India, this paper traces how marine fish stock assessment practices were institutionalised in the country and how despite claims to objectivity and universality, in practice it is subjective, local, contingent and political. The paper trace the precarious nature of statistical data collection, and how meaning, especially in relation to expertise, standards and moral character is generated around practices of stock assessment by epistemic communities (scientific and technical) within a fisheries science organisation in India. The paper attempts to understand the relation between the social life of stock assessment practices, perceptions of good science and resistances to paradigm shifts.


'Islands of Invasion': Non-native and Nuisance Species, and the Making of Charismatic Ecosystems in the Dutch Antilles
Rapti Siriwardane-Zoysa

The paper traces narratives of arrival and circulation featuring the first globally invasive seagrass Halophila stipulacea across the eastern Caribbean Sea. Diversely framed through its potentialities of being seen as a ‘positive’ invasive, the presentation critically reflects on how diverse forms of knowledge and knowledge hierarchies inherent within colonial traditions of natural history, local fishing practices, conservation and fisheries ecology, together with neoliberal sensibilities on tourism and real estate development have rendered great ambivalence to its arrival and management. Drawing on the island of Bonaire - a Dutch Overseas Territory - the paper revisits timeworn ecological and lay concepts such as ‘native’, ‘nuisance’ and ‘exotic’ species, in illustrating how the unfamiliar and the unsolicited is reconfigured often in conflicting ways, particularly in the light of varying ideals around utopic and dystopic land/seascapes. Drawing inspiration from multispecies ethnography and island studies, the paper offers a conceptual typology for the study of ‘non-charismatic’ species (such as a non-native seagrass), which in turn aims at redressing an understudied aspect in the scholarship of more-than-human geographies and biosocial relations.


On ‘Epistemic (In-)equalities’ and the Marine Sciences 
Anna-Katharina Hornidge, Stefan Partelow & Kerstin Knopf

The past years have witnessed an immense increase in policy-level interest in the ocean as climate regulator, biodiversity hub and resource provider. The United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda, and especially Goal 14 ‘Life below Water’ celebrated at the UN Ocean Conference in New York in 2017 just act as one example amongst many underlining this discovery of the ocean by policy- makers and civil society groups. Facilitated by this invigorated public interest in the ocean, the marine sciences, as sector infrastructurally equipped and mandated for mapping and analysing the ocean, for knowing its ecosystems and resources, thus increasingly find themselves in the role of knowledge brokers and translators between the ocean, as last (epistemic or resource) frontier, and society. At the same time little scholarly work exists on the unique characteristics, internal logics, negotiation dynamics, and peculiarities of marine and coastal resource related scientific knowledge systems. If, in Francis Bacon’s words knowledge indeed is power, being a knowledge holder comes with substantial responsibilities regarding access and benefit sharing.
This paper reflects on the role of marine sciences in ‘knowing the ocean’ by exploring the defining logics of differentiation within and between marine and coastal knowledge systems. It draws on two sets of empirical data: (a) qualitative ethnographic field research on the social organisation of international and interdisciplinary research teams on a German research vessel before the coasts of Mauretania and Senegal, as well as (b) a social network analysis of authorship collaborations in 753 peer-reviewed publications in the field of tropical marine sciences. Based on the dialogical analysis of these, and further inspired by conceptual discussions on epistemic justice/epistemic oppression, the authors propose the concept of ‘epistem


Thursday June 27, 2019 15:00 - 16:30
REC A1.04 Roeters Eiland Complex, University of Amsterdam