Accepted paper:

A woman on a boat: apprenticeship, gender and corporealities on a Sicilian fishing vessel


Brigida Marovelli (Trinity College Dublin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims to explore the ethnographic experience on a fishing boat as an anthropologist and as a woman.

Paper long abstract:

During my doctoral research, I spent part of my fieldwork on a fishing boat in Catania's gulf, Sicily. My contribution is mainly based on my interactions with the boat's crew, while fishing anchovies and sardines. I aim to explore two aspects of my experience on the boat: how people acquire competence and knowledge; and how gender plays a role in researching marine environments. The first part of the paper is dedicated to the bodily experience on the boat and on how the senses are involved in the apprenticeship, which every member of the crew needs to undertake to become competent in this context and to move appropriately in the challenging space of the boat. I analyse the way I learnt to be on the boat without interfering with the fishermen's activities first, and taking part to the fishing then. Through my relationship with the fishermen, I then observe how my presence on the boat as woman was perceived and what kind of discussions it originated. The gendered dimension of this environment allowed to explore the relationship to space, in particularly to the seascape. Fishermen of this crew made a distinction between the safe domestic sea of the gulf and the high waters, wild and dangerous. The same differentiation was extended to women: some were domesticated (wives staying at home); others were wilder and uncontrollable (normally lovers and female anthropologists too). Powerful men were needed in order to tame the sea as much as to tame women.

panel P23
Humanity at sea: hybridity and seafaring