The South China Sea (SCS) is a hotly contested area, subject to claims for sovereignty and marine enclosures by China, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian states and involving global powers (US, India). Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in China and Vietnam, archival research and cartographic analysis, the proposed project shifts the gaze from the geopolitical conflict between the major states concerned to its effects on fisheries in the context of maritime enclosures. While its first objective is to explore how state governments seize upon the exclusive notion of sovereignty and adopt new technologies to demarcate national borders at sea, the second objective charts how local coastal communities stake their claims to contested fishing territories—historically considered as common property—and how they deal with environmental damage of marine areas—an additional factor in the loss of access to their livelihood basis. The third objective is to trace the flow of marine goods and identify main actors, sites and patterns involved in the cross-border trade against the backdrop of the simultaneous liberalization of trade and the enforcement of sea borders between China and Vietnam. At the intersection between anthropology, history, political science, geography and marine ecology, this project offers an innovative, multidisciplinary perspective on the problem of marine enclosures, state territoriality and ‘territoriality from below’. By producing high-quality output and using Durham University’s international networks, this fellowship will play a vital role in diversifying and consolidating the Fellow’s new research line on the politically sensitive region of the SCS, thereby leading her to an independent career. She would be exceptionally well prepared to develop her own research programme in legal and political anthropology and undertake international competitive research on Asia within the European Research Area that would integrate anthropology with other disciplines.
Fields of science
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