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Transoceanic Fishers: Multiple mobilities in and out of the South China Sea

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TransOcean (Transoceanic Fishers: Multiple mobilities in and out of the South China Sea)

Reporting period: 2021-03-01 to 2022-08-31

In recent years, China’s and Vietnam’s militarized and subsidized fishing fleets have begun to shift their radical marine harvesting techniques, and accompanying trade, from the South China Sea to Africa and Oce-ania. Scholarly analysis has largely assumed that fishers are instruments of their states’ geopolitical agendas, responding to regulations and incentives. This both obscures the actual motivations and modalities of fishers’ expansion of their fishing grounds and downplays the transoceanic networks connecting different fishers beyond state territories and localized fishing grounds in past and present. Charting this spike in maritime trespass, TransOcean will analyze and theorize how individuals and groups of fishers move in and out of legal and illegal, state and non-state categories of fisher, poacher, trader and smuggler, and how the emergent mobilities of Asian fishers interact and collide with those of Pacific and African fishers.
Deploying the innovative concept of relational and shifting multiple mobilities and employing thalasso-graphic analysis, TransOcean develops a novel theoretical and methodological framework of fishers as mo-bile maritime actors who exploit their multiple occupations, incomes and networks to pursue transoceanic expansion. TransOcean studies, for the first time, diverse groups of interconnected fishers outside of territo-rially bounded fisheries and area studies, by analyzing mobilities beyond sea-borne migration or diasporic settlement. Though multi-scalar and globally oriented TransOcean remains firmly rooted in fine-grained ethnography, with a focus on Vietnamese and Chinese and African and Pacific fishers in specific on-shore nodal points, connected by the growing Sino-Vietnamese demand for illicit seafood. Thus, TransOcean breaks new methodological and theoretical ground for tackling intractable marine problems of significant scientific and policy value.

TransOcean addresses two questions in particular:
1. How do Chinese and Vietnamese fishers expand their harvesting and trading practices from the South China Sea to other oceans, moving in and out of legal/illegal, licit/illicit, and state/non-state modalities in different temporal and geographical scales?
2. How do these Chinese and Vietnamese transoceanic mobilities interact with those of Oceanian and African fishers and with what effects?

TransOcean has the following objectives:
1. To develop an ethnographically-based, theoretical analysis of the modalities of transoceanic expansion from the SCS outward and their connections with the local mobilities of fishers in Oceania and Africa.
2. To develop a theoretical framework based on the multiple mobilities of fishers as actors in processes of transoceanic expansion.
3. To elaborate a thalassographic—i.e. historical and vernacular sea-related geography—methodology for researching fishers’ marine and maritime practices in transoceanic spaces.
4. To advance a transoceanic knowledge base of and approach to intractable marine problems that will be of strong interest to practitioners and policy makers within the EU Integrated Marine Policy and beyond.
By privileging the expansions outward from the SCS to other Oceans and by singling out more than one group for analysis, TransOcean breaks new empirical, theoretical and methodological ground. It offers an approach to fishers that is multi-scalar and transoceanic, while remaining firmly rooted in fine-grained ethnographic research.
1. 2021 1-month field research in Suva, Fiji
2. 2020 (February-April), ‘TransOcean’ 3-month field and archive research, Australian Fisheries Management Authorities, Australia, (field research has been interrupted in mid-March by Covid 19), data on apprehension of illegal Vietnamese fishers in the Australian exclusive economic zone.
3. Electronic archive/documentary research on illegal Vietnamese fishers in Australia in progress
4. 2019 (November), ‘TransOcean’, 1-month field research, Hainan, China, data on subsidized fisheries
5. Collaborations, visiting fellowships and dissemination:
a) (February-April 2020) Sydney University. Invitation for Visiting Academic Programme, School of Languages and Cultures from Prof. Adrian Vickers, Australia.
b) (November 2019), Center for Global Asia, New York University Shanghai, invitation from Prof. Tansen Sen, China.
c) 2019 Policy Briefing framework for the European External Action Service (EEAS) Southern Asia diplomats in Brussels ‘Exploitative expansion of Vietnamese fisheries as an answer to the South China Sea conflict and the market,’ December 11, Brussels, Belgium.
Webseminars, conferences, debates, participation:
2020 Silk Road@UNSW Seminar Series, organized by School of Humanities and Languages, New South Wales University, Sydney, Australia. Webminar ‘Transoceanic fishers: Multiple mobilities in and out of the South China Sea’, July 1.
2020 Crimes and order at sea. An Ideaslab. Blue Lab organized by Christian Burger and Timothy Edmunds, the University of Copenhagen. Presentation: Transoceanic Fishers. Webminar, 28 May,

2020 China and the Maritime Silk Road: Shipwrecks, ports, and products, 21-23 August , Asian Civilization Museum, Singapore.

Publications and outputs:
2021 Edyta Roszko 'Navigating Seas, Markets and Sovereignties: Fishers and Occupational Slippage in the South China Sea' Anthropological Quarterly 94 (4), 639-668. doi:10.1353/anq.2021.0046.
2021 Edyta Roszko 'Maritime Anthropology'. In The SAGE Handbook of Cultural Anthropology, edited by Lene Pedersen and Lisa Cliggett, 279-315. Los Angeles, London and New Delhi: SAGE.
2020 Edyta Roszko 'Fishers, Monks and Cadres: Navigating State, Religion and the South China Sea in Central Vietnam', University of Hawai'i Press, p. 288.
2020 Edyta Roszko ‘Enclosing Blue Commons, Generating Blue Growth? Comment on Fiona McCormack’s “Precarity, Indigeneity and the Market in Māori fisheries”’ Public Anthropologist, vol. 2, no.1.
2020 Edyta Roszko 'Nhân học trền biẻn [Maritime Anthropology. In Nhân học ngành khoa học về con người [Anthropology: The Science of Human Beings], edited by Nguyen Van Suu. Nhà Xuất bản ̣Đại Học Quốc Gia Hà Nội [Vietnam National University Press], p. 220-239.
The TransOcean project’s 1st period has been dedicated to ethnographic and documentary data collection which has already yielded a range of results. One journal article has been published, another is under review and 1 monograph is forthcoming in 2020. Recently, TranOcean received the invitation from WWF-US to contribute a Policy Brief on the South China Sea fisheries to Targeting Natural Resources Corruption (TNRC). The 1st draft of Policy Brief is currently under review. The kickoff-workshop with recruited postdoctoral researchers and the Advisory Board Members is planned for May 2021. The TransOcean has additionally attracted a seed funding from CMI-UiB collaboration fund extending the TransOcean research line by looking at ‘blue commons’, including high-seas, seabeds, coasts, fishing grounds, marine life and underwater cultural heritage. The planned workshop in August 2021 and edited volume will provide a strong basis for an engaged anthropology, thereby bringing attention to global challenges and potential solutions and strategically contributing to oceanic social sciences and ocean literacy.