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Decolonizing or closing maritime frontiers: A follow on


Estienne Rodary

Session presentation

Over the last decades, the Pacific Ocean has been the locus of an unequaled rush for resources and territories, involving external powers, intertwined public and corporate interests, and the Pacific Island states. This rush is made of three movements aiming to: (1) exploit marine resources; (2) protect marine biodiversity and adapt to climate change; (3) control marine spaces. In this context, the fluidity of saltwater environments gives rise to specific issues of control and enforcement. As a continuation of sessions held at the ESfO 2017 and ASAO 2018 conferences, this panel will examine these reconfigurations of/in the Pacific Ocean, stressing potentially conflicting frontier processes. Frontiers are here conceived as moving and porous lines and as complex historical processes of externally-induced social change, capitalist expansion, and transformation of nature into resources. This panel will examine whether frontier dynamics are coming to an end in the Pacific Ocean, while giving voice to “the other side of the frontier” (Reynolds). It will welcome papers focusing on Pacific nations’ resistance and reappropriation in the face of past and present frontier dynamics.

Paper submissions are closed

Accepted papers

Fluctuating frontier(s) ? Socio-political dynamics in a shifting oceanic Region

Marlène Dégremont (IRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement)

Since the last decade, the Pacific Region has been experiencing profound transformations regarding its maritime spaces. The definition of vast areas dedicated to natural resources management shapes new forms of territories stemming from specific practices and representations of the Ocean, both considered as a shared and a common area. Whereas the Pacific Islands Regional Policy (PIROP) leads to the Pacific Oceanscape framework in 2009, the Pacific Island Forum Leaders are now endorsing the “Blue Pacific” concept that assumes a common “ocean identity”, “ocean geography” and “ocean resources”. Besides, the Pacific countries are committed to stabilize their maritime limits while fisheries and marine conservation issues accelerate the oceanic frontier processes.
The large-scale marine protected areas currently implemented in the French territories mirror the multi-scale and multi-purpose appropriations that occur in the Pacific Region.
From an anthropological research work led in New Caledonia and French Polynesia, this paper will examine how the fluidity of the ocean contributes to blurring frontier lines, the way in which oceanic territorialities are fluctuating and intertwining, and finally how the fast-changing contexts and issues are enhancing these phenomena.

The political life of tuna in the Pacific: speaking for multispecies sovereignty in a time of oceanic rush

Estienne Rodary (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement)

The recent rush for oceanic resources tends to increase the tension between different forms of marine governance. New dynamics of territorialization spread over older modes of reticular governance of marine resources. Recent investments for seabed mineral resources, the extension of EEZs on continental shelves and the upsurge in very large marine protected areas, in which dynamics of territorialization tend to outdo reticular governance that historically organized access to fish resources. At the same time, such reticular governance conflates with other invigorating network changes such as the revival of customary networks (Bonnemaison 1986; Hau‘ofa 1998) and the “liquid modernity” (Bauman, 2000).
Conveying the political life of tuna in the Pacific, and the competing options developed by fisheries and conservationists to govern those species, the communication will explore the tensions between reticular and territorial governances. It will show that far from being a mere option between exploitation and conservation, tuna politics brings about sovereign choices in which spatial forms plays a crucial role in making live or letting die tuna. Getting back to the seminal work of Hannah Arendt (1979) the communication will also suggest that reticular and territorial governances of marine seas span over species and intersect with contemporary issues of citizenship and refugees.