The practice of everyday oystering: aquaculture as resistance

Authors: , ,


As members of complex social-ecological systems (SES),fishermen navigate and respond to system changes to maintain their livelihoods. These changes often involve dynamic power relationships. In Maryland (United States), commercial fishermen or watermen demonstrate a history of responding to SES changes, including power relationships in which they often feel restricted. We describe how watermen have historically employed tactics, as conceived by de Certeau (1984), to resist and succeed within a constraining system. We considerinvolvement in oyster aquaculture as a recent tactic, and compare data from interviews with watermen and non-watermen involved in aquaculture to understand power relationships and adaptations within this SES. Interviews suggest that, while both watermen and non-watermen aquaculturists perceive similar power relations within the system, only watermen begin work in oyster aquaculture as a tactic in response to these relations (P<0.001). Results illustrate diverse perceptions of power as well as ongoing changes within the SES. More broadly, we introduce the idea of SES adaptations as tactics of resistance and emphasize the need for a more integrative understanding of SES and power.

Keywords: Aquaculture, fisheries, power

How to Cite: Michaelis, A. K. , Webster, D. & Shaffer, L. (2021) “The practice of everyday oystering: aquaculture as resistance”, Journal of Political Ecology. 28(1). doi: