Environment, labour and capitalism at sea

'Working the ground' in Scotland

By Penny McCall Howard

Environment, labour and capitalism at sea


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9414-3
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £75.00
  • Published Date: March 2017
  • BIC Category: Sociology & anthropology, Sociology, Oceans & seas, Human geography, Anthropology, NATURE / Ecosystems & Habitats / Oceans & Seas, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General, Oceans & Seas, Human Geography, Society & social sciences / Sociology & anthropology
  • Series: New Ethnographies


This book explores how fishers make the sea productive through their labour, using technologies ranging from wooden boats to digital GPS plotters to create familiar places in a seemingly hostile environment. It shows how their lives are affected by capitalist forces in the markets they sell to, forces that shape even the relations between fishers on the same boat. Fishers frequently have to make impossible choices between safe seamanship and staying afloat economically, and the book describes the human impact of the high rate of deaths in the fishing industry.

The book makes a unique contribution to understanding human-environment relations, examining the places fishers create and name at sea, as well as technologies and navigation practices. It combines phenomenology and political economy to offer new approaches for analyses of human-environment relations and technologies. It contributes to the social studies of fisheries through an analysis of how deeply fishing practices and social relations are shaped by political economy. It will be read in universities by social scientists and anthropologists and also by those with an interest in maritime Scotland.


Penny McCall Howard is National Research Officer for the Maritime Union of Australia


Part I: A metabolism of labour and environment
1. 'Working the ground'
2. From Wullie's Peak to the Burma: naming places at sea
Part II: Techniques and technologies
3. Techniques to extend the body and its senses
4. From 'where am I?' to 'where is that?' Rethinking navigation
Part III: Capitalism and class
5. 'You just can't get a price': the difference political economy makes
6. Capitalism, subjectivity and violence in ecological systems
Conclusion: labour, class and anthropology

Sign up to our newsletter
and receive 10% off all future book orders