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Accepted Paper:

Lucky Fishers, Destined Futures: Contingency and Ordinary Ethics in the Global Supply Chain of Brown Shrimp  
Femke Vulto (University of Oxford)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper addresses how ‘responsibility’ and ‘accountability’ are enacted in the supply chain of brown shrimp. 'Luck’, ‘destiny’ and ‘risk’ inform actors' understanding of agency and responsibility in distinctive ways. This paper attends to how such notions produce particular forms of ethical life.

Paper Abstract:

Within the global supply chain of brown shrimp, social and ecological crises converge. Based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the Netherlands and Morocco, where brown shrimp are fished and peeled respectively, this paper argues that notions of ‘luck’, ‘destiny’, and ‘risk’ are key for understanding how actors within this supply chain conceive of ethical ‘responsibility’ and ‘accountability’. Whereas Dutch fishers mobilize luck to account for uncertainties in everyday life, Moroccan shrimp peelers evoke destiny to construct a narrative about their precarious livelihoods. Corporate managers, in contrast, draw on the concept of risk to capture the unpredictability of the future. These concepts entail distinct understandings of the future and actors’ agency in shaping it; by extension, they involve implicit understandings of responsibility and accountability. The ways in which actors constitute their relation to the future through notions of luck, destiny and risk infuse their everyday actions with a certain ethical sensibility. Importantly, these notions reflect the distributed nature of agency and therefore do not rely on an idea of the autonomous subject. Thus, whilst notions of liberal agency have often been identified as the root of socio-ecological harm within projects of ‘modernity’, such ideas were notably absent in the ‘modernist’ supply chain of brown shrimp. Therefore, this paper argues that more ethnographic attention is needed to understand how cosmological concepts such as ‘luck’, ‘destiny’, and ‘risk’ inform the ways in which ethical life is materially enacted in the ‘modern’ world.

Panel OP190
Enabling just ecological transitions: mobilising sacred knowledges and cosmologies to address polycrisis
  Session 2 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -