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Title: 'Custom and fishing' : cultural meanings and social relations of Pacific fishing, Republic of Palau, Micronesia
Author: Ota, Yoshitaka
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis is based on data collected during field research conducted in the Republic of Palau, western Micronesia, between March 2000 and July 2001. It is an ethnography of the Palauan people's interaction with the sea through fishing as well as that of their customary activities. The study considers cultural meanings observed in their fishing practices and its relation to the post-colonial Pacific sociality construed within the practice and discourse of 'custom', including the gift exchange and ritual gatherings. A unique aspect of contemporary Palauan fishing is that, although no longer their main source of subsistence, people continue to proclaim fishing's 'cultural' significance in mamtaining 'custom'. Taking this claim into consideration, the study examines closely fishermen' engagement with the marine environment as both an esoteric knowledge and a physical endeavour, in order to show how fishermen' individual experiences reproduce fishing's value as a traditional practice despite the modernisation of its techniques and equipment. Then it investigates fishermen' uses of fish as gifts and as food served at ritual gatherings in order to show how fishing practices and fish distribution present the 'unstructured structure' of custom. Overall, the thesis argues that the moral of fishing, concerning either ecological or social factors of the practice, is embodied through their practice of those customary activities, and so is the moral of their 'custom'. I conclude with a suggestion that both custom and fishing are reproduced with their social and cultural significance in contemporary Palau because together they present the reality of their moral and value of maintaining their kin- based sociality and create a meeting point between their nature and the culture.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available