«Tim Martindale Thesis submitted to the Department of Anthropology of Goldsmiths, University of London, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, ...»
In the first ‘community’ was the ‘last great fishing town’ and fishing families threatened by a punitive regulatory regime; but it was also the ‘community’ of ‘conspirators’. In the second, ‘community’ was the celebration and sharing of knowledge, skills and memory that a boat reconstruction facilitated as well as the images of past community that it brought into view; and it was the notion of a community perceived as undermined by lack of transparency and equity in harbour management and ownership. These examples not only highlight that ‘community’ is an ideological, relative notion but also that in practice it can act against positive change and be a conservatory force. In Chapter Four I suggest that one of the factors perpetuating economic concentration and inequality at Newlyn was not so much the complete loss of the share system in distribution of profits but its continuation within a company fishing context – which served to mask relations of exploitation under a egalitarian ethos (cf. Howard 2012b who treats this issue more extensively). In such contexts change stimulated by diversity can be a good thing (Back 2009). Similarly Sen’s writings on development (e.g. 1999) and debates around ‘resilience’ and ‘wellbeing’ (cf.
I now move on to outline some issues around notions of class, industry and heritage which bring up some broader issues relating to the study of social change and rural lives.
Class, industry and heritage
Heritage studies that take a critical approach to the subject often highlight a theme of conflict which reflects the social anxieties and inequalities that underlie and surround the production of heritage in the contemporary era. These often imply an opposition between production and consumption, work and leisure, real (and living) authentic practice and simulated (and dead) inauthentic history (see Table 1).
Tensions between heritage and industry do not only represent a conflict between producers and consumers (such as tourists) however. This is because heritage can incorporate forms of production as well as consumption and because heritage is produced for a variety of audiences and purposes other than tourism. In Cornwall I found the production of fishing heritage to be a diverse activity incorporating a wide diversity of activities, individuals and associations: including boat-builders, artists, fishermen, fishermen-artists, historians of various creeds, archivists and other museum staff and people researching their own family history (see Diagram 1).
Diagram 1: Fishing heritage practice and fishing industry as interconnected spheres of activity, linked also with institutions.
Table 2: Common associations of industry and heritage seen as a dichotomy
The other often neglected aspect of heritage studies is the relationship between notions of ‘cultural’ and ‘natural’ heritage. The discourse of sustainability involves the notion of environmental conservation for future generations and there is frequently an implicit overlap, in consumer and environmental politics, between the conservation of the environment and the maintenance of ‘traditional’/ ‘indigenous’/‘local’ livelihood practices. Furthermore in marine science there is a growing effort to build data about past environments to use as baselines for the recovery of marine ecosystems. This brings into view a third dimension to the relationship between heritage and industry: environmental policy, scientific knowledge and practice and ecological ideas. It also raises the point that heritage is not only about romance and/or nostalgia but also involves attempts to reconstruct pasts for pragmatic present or future-orientated purposes.
My use of the term ‘industry’ is best explained by a definition given by Mauss as ‘…an ensemble of techniques that combine towards the satisfaction of a need... or more precisely towards the satisfaction of consumption’ (Mauss and Schlanger 2006) More specifically, Starkey, Reid, and Ashcroft (2000) provide a useful summary of
what industry constitutes in terms of fisheries:
…Fisheries generally comprise three elements, production, distribution and consumption. Fish production entails the preparation and assembly of equipment, vessels, labour, bait and preservatives, transport to and from the fishing grounds, and the catching operation itself. This ‘fishing effort’ is essentially a facet of the maritime economy. While it draws upon the services of shipbuilders, port operators, victuallers, insurers, brokers and other maritime suppliers, it also involves the acquisition of seafaring skills. Once the catch is secured and landed it is transformed into a marketable commodity by the various components of the fish trade. This is a relatively swift operation if the fish is to be sold fresh. If curing is required, the catch might be subject to pickling, salting, drying, smoking, freezing or other preserving processes, before being packed and dispatched by road, rail, or sea carriers to inland or overseas markets. Then, from the warehouses of wholesalers, the baskets of hawkers, the stalls of fish markets, or the deep fryers of the fish and chip shop, the fish becomes an item of consumption. A protein-rich source of nourishment, it has long since adorned the tables of the wealthy filled the bellies of the poor, added variety to the dietary regimes of the health conscious, and fed the animals and soil of the improving farmer (2000: 7).
Fisheries heritage as a practice is fundamentally related to fisheries industry (in this broad sense) but is also distinct. In most definitions of heritage the term is confusingly conflated with ‘culture’, especially since in recent times notions of ‘intangible’ or ‘non-material’ heritage have become more common-place in official and policy-led definitions, alongside the previous emphasis on the historic (built) environment (Jokilehto 2005). I think it is important to retain a distinction between the terms ‘heritage’ and ‘culture’ for two reasons. Firstly, heritage is not simply cultural artefacts, ideas, languages, or practices, but rather implies a selective and explicit attention to particular manifestations of culture that are deemed worthy, or in need, of preservation and maintenance. Heritage is associated with tradition because it is conventionally concerned with what is transmitted (or inherited) from one generation to another. This leads me to the second reason I argue for keeping the terms distinct: the notion of culture as limited to that which is passed down or transmitted from one generation to another as an inherited cultural substance or essence has been subjected to critical scrutiny by contemporary anthropologists.
Ingold for example (2000) has elaborated a view of culture that is not distinct from nature, nor the biological organism, where learning occurs through a process of active engagement within environments that may include inter-generational contexts.
However although heritage is concerned with articulating a view of what is traditional, this does not mean it is necessarily conservative (either in the sense that it need be against innovation or change, or in the sense that it need be elitist), as heritage critics such as Hewison (1987) have argued. Heritage derives from processes of social change, especially declining and/or shifting patterns of labour and livelihood and the accompanying movements of people and social encounters through which different places and classes interact. An integral argument of this thesis is that heritage is not only a preoccupation of middle and upper classes, but derives also from the experience of working classes in interaction with other classes within ongoing processes of social transformation. Rather than seeing heritage as merely a thing, entity or essence then, I follow (Harvey 2001) in taking a relational view on heritage as ‘a process, or a verb, related to human action and agency, and an
instrument of cultural power… a contemporary product shaped from history’ (2001:
The field of maritime heritage studies is a growing one. Day and Lunn (2003) review of some of the issues it presents such as the role of maritime heritage as a vehicle for nationalistic and nostalgic narratives about British maritime power.
However they also highlight that the concept of maritime heritage is shifting and diversifying as the range of local and informal heritage initiatives are growing, from small industrial museums involving the participation of former workers to the reconstruction and sailing of traditional boats. It is a focus on local and noninstitutional forms and meanings of heritage that I develop in this thesis. Nadel-Klein (2003) produced an extensive study of fisheries heritage in Britain and I build on her insights that heritage is part of how regional identities are constructed in a way that is shaped by, but also adopted as a response to, a capitalist political economy that produces the marginalization of rural economies and places. Laviolette makes a similar argument for the significance of practices of Cornish maritime art (2006).
Like Laviolette my attention is also directed towards the significance of craft, making, learning and participating in producing and engaging with maritime material culture, rather than only treating heritage as forms of representation or folk narrative as it emerges in Nadel-Klein’s account. However in Laviolette and Nadel-Klein’s accounts heritage comes across as something divorced from contemporary industry and economies – an afterlife or ‘second life’ as Laviolette puts it, and this sense of separation is an issue this thesis particularly examines and ultimately challenges.
Thus another important line of argument involves unpacking and contesting conventional ideas of industry and heritage as being radically separate, with the first associated with pure or mindless labour and utilitarian economic relationships and the latter with material or symbolic representations of (past) tradition, divorced from (present-day) work or labour. Of course the idea that production is both a material and ideological or symbolic process is a fundamental tenet of Marxist approaches to the study of labour. I see industry and heritage as two poles of experience. All production and work is inherently social and symbolic, but it is particularly at the points where the representation of industry and livelihoods is generated by encounters between different kinds of social groups, especially at, or following, moments of acute social transformation that this experience tends to be articulated as ‘tradition’ and more specifically ‘heritage’.
As Ennew points out in her monograph on the fishing, crofting and textile economies of The Western Isles (Ennew 1980), a tradition/modernity dichotomy is the classic theme in the genre of European ethnographic monographs. The anthropology and sociology of rural Britain has predominantly been preoccupied with the study of community (although more recently this has shifted to a focus on the politics of place). This partly reflects a previous concern in anthropology to extend its focus on what it conceived of as ‘exotic’ small-scale societies and cultures to what it assumed were comparable units of study closer to ‘home’ (Nadel-Klein 2003). The problem however had earlier roots than this. Wolf critiqued the foundational premises which guided the social sciences (heavily influenced by Durkheim) towards the study of social relations seen as separate and autonomous from political economy. Social scientists, he believed, have been preoccupied with the dissolution of social order: ‘Sociology stemmed from an attempt to counteract social disorder by creating a theory of social order, by locating order and disorder in the quality and quantity of social relations’ (1982: 11). He recognized an important
implication of this being:
...It issues a polarity between two types of society, one in which social order is maximized because social relations are densely knit and suffused with value consensus and another in which social disorder predominates because social relations are atomized and deranged by dissensus over values (ibid).
‘Social process’ therefore becomes the change from one society to another.
Nineteenth century social scientists such as Tonnies, Maine and Durkheim, influenced by forms of social change they witnessed around them as a consequence of industrialization and capitalism, elaborated social theory that was largely concerned with the loss of community. The sociology of Max Weber consolidated the developing view in the twentieth century that utilitarian and technical relations were replacing sacred and moral ties.
In European rural studies of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, change often was accounted for as deriving from the imposition of exterior forces (industrial/urban wage-labour, markets and capital) on a family peasant structure assumed to be static and constituted by homogenous pre-industrial face-to-face relations (as encapsulated by Redfield’s influential folk-urban continuum). However since, and even during this same period, social historians, anthropologists and sociologists have also questioned the utility of an uncritical concept of community. E.P. Thompson (1963) and his former student John Rule (2006) explored how social conflict e.g. between craftsmen, miners, peasants and merchants, landowners and factory owners shaped ideas about class consciousness and ideas of tradition and moral economy. Raymond Williams (1975) examined recurring notions of the rural idyll, and argued that in rural Britain community institutions in many cases arose as a consequence of the
adversity and conflict arising from industrialization:
In many villages, community only became a reality when economic and political rights were fought for and partially gained, in the recognition of unions, in the extension of the franchise, and in the possibility of entry into new representative and democratic institutions. In many thousands of cases, there is more community in the modern village, as a result of the process of new legal and democratic rights, than at any point in the recorded or imagined past (p.104).