The structural and cultural construction of race in the handline fishing industry on South Africa's western Cape coast


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The structural and cultural construction of race in the handline fishing industry on South Africa's western Cape coast
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xi, 297 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Gates, James F., 1971-
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Anthropology thesis, Ph.D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2001.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 279-296).
Statement of Responsibility:
by James F. Gates.
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University of Florida
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oclc - 47260590
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For Heather-I wish she were here to share this with us.


I have many to thank and none to blame but myself for the pages that follow. This

dissertation would not have been possible without the assistance and support of many great

people. First and foremost I am deeply indebted to the fishers in this study for their trust, their

patience and their time. I can only pray that I have done their stories justice. Their indulgence

was rivaled only by their hospitality. Special thanks go to Jonathan and Gerry for their

willingness to tie me into the network of handline ski-boat skippers and the long hours of

incessant questioning they endured. My gratitude also goes out to Andy Johnstone for his depth

and breadth of knowledge and experience among artisanal fishers. I have the historian Dr. Lance

van Sittert, then at the University of Cape Town, to thank for inspiration early in my fieldwork. I

also have Dr. Marc Griffiths and the researchers at Marine and Coastal Management to thank for

supporting data and their unique perspective on the fishing industry as a whole. Special thanks to

Dr. John Sharp, then chair of anthropology at the University of Stellenbosch, for providing

support and an exciting academic community.

I owe the greatest debt for any success I may have in the writing of this dissertation to

Michelle, my wife. I am humbled by her love, support and careful attention to detail. Editor,

lover and friend, she cleared my often fuzzy thoughts, created space in our life for me to write

and put bread on the table for most of my graduate career. I could not have done this without my

parents, Chuck and Judy Gates; they have been waiting a long time for me to finally get my first

"real" job.

I owe my deepest personal and professional gratitude to my advisor, professor Brian M.

du Toit. He provided an unequalled depth of experience as an anthropologist and, as a South

African, added significant personal knowledge to my subject. He took far more than a

professional interest in my work, nudging carefully when I strayed down fruitless paths and

pushing even harder when needed. Even though he never did let me beat him on the tennis court,

he went far above the call of duty and took a strong personal interest in me and my family. My

heartfelt thanks go out to the other members of my doctoral committee-professors R. Hunt

Davis, Anthony Oliver-Smith and Suzanna Smith-for their patience and wisdom in guiding my

interests and my writing. My gratitude also belongs to professors Christopher McCarty and H.

Russel Bernard without whom much of the network analysis would not have been possible.

Professor Charles R. Gailey at Nazarene Theological Seminary deserves my heartfelt thanks for

getting me interested in anthropology and for his love and support along the way.

I am deeply indebted to the Pew Charitable Trust and the Pew Younger Scholar's

Fellowship committee for their financial and moral support for the research that led to this

dissertation. My gratitude also goes out to the University of Florida's Department of

Anthropology for their support.

Finally, I thank Charisa and Anthony, my children, for their patience with me during my

years of research and writing; I pray that what has been written here will one day help them to

understand their world better and inspire them to make it a better place to live.



A C KN O W LED G M EN TS ............................................ .......................................................... iii

LIST O F TA B LES .............................................................................. ............................. viii

LIST OF FIGURES .. .......................................................................ix

A B STR A C T .................................................................................. ......................................... x


S INTRO DUCTION ...................... .. ................................................................

Reflexive Reflections: A Day in the Life of an Anthropologist .......................................
Sum m ary of C chapters ........................................ ......................................................... 1

2 THEORETICAL EXPLORATIONS ..................................................................... 14

Race and Ethnicity as Tools for Constructing the Other ............................................... 14
Anthropology and the Construction of Race and Ethnicity ...............................14
Competitive Versus Paternalistic Race Relations .............................................22
The Anthropology of Fishing .................................................. ... .......................27
Economic Anthropology and Its Application to Fishing ...................................27
Maritime Anthropology: A Review of Recent Literature .................................33
N otes .................................................................................. .........................................4 0

ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE STUDY OF DIFFERENCE ........................................41

Understanding the Ethnographic "Other" ......................................................................41
A M ethodological Journey .......................................... ......................... ....41
Preparing for the Trip .............................................. ...............................43
Vehicle Inspection ...................................... ... ......................45
Fruitful Paths and Rocky Roads ......................................... ..........................47
Navigating Between Scylla and Charybdis ........................................................53
A Case for Relative Objectivity .....................................................................57
Road Signs ............................................................... ................................60
Steering C lear ........................................ ................ ................................61

Analyzing Race via Social Networks .................... .. ...............................61
Research Statem ent ......................... .. ....... ........................ ....61
Constructing Race and Ethnicity .............................................. ..................63
Interpreting Social Structure ...................................... ................ ...............67
Research Questions and Hypotheses ........................... ..............................70
Inform ant Selection ........................................ ... ..... ....................... ....72
D ata C collection .............................................................. .. ........... ...............75
Name Generators ......................... .. ... ... .........................76
Name Interpreters ...................... ...... .............. ........................78
The Structured Interview ....................... ........................ ....................79
N otes ............................................... ...................................... .... ......................83

COLOURED IDENTITY IN THE NEW SOUTH AFRICA.................................84

Identity in the Context of Oppression ................................... .......................84
Stereotypes .............................................. ............. ....................... .......................86
Race M ixing ........................................................ .......... .................................................88
O origins .................................................. .. ................. .................................................89
Politicization of Identity ............................................................................................. 93
Language, Race and Politics: Afrikaans and the Coloureds of South Africa ...............101
C conclusion ................................................................................. ...............................105
N otes .................................................................................... ..................................10 5

5 RACE, CLASS, GENDER AND SOUTH AFRICAN FISHERS ..................................107

Im age-ining C lass and Race .........................................................................................107
The Cultural Image of the 'Cape Coloured Fisherman' ....................................107
Race, Class and South Africa's Fishing Industry ............................................ 113
Handline Fishermen Construct the "True Fisherman" ......................................117
The Myth of the Colour-Blind Fisher ..............................................................126
Protesting Rights, Constructing Identity: Who is the True Fisher? ...................130
The Construction of Gender in South Africa's Handline Fishing Industry ..................135
Gender Relations in Fishing ............................... .... ..................................135
Gender and the Patterning of Social Networks .............................................. 137
Perceptions of Gender in the Skipper Fraternity ................................... ...139

FOR HANDLINE FISHING............................................................ ......................146

A Snapshot of South Africa's Fishing Industry ..................... ......................146
Introduction ............................................. ................................................. 146
Prior to 1652 ..................................... ... ............... ............................... 152
D utch Settlem ent ................................... ....... .. ........................ ....154
British Colonization ..................................... ...............................154
The Early Decades of the Twentieth Century ....................................... ....167
Post World War II and the Beginnings of the Apartheid Era ..........................170
Recent Developments in the Management of South African Fisheries .............180
A Historiographical Footnote .......................... ......................................183
N o te s ............................................................... ....................................................... 18 5


ON SOUTH AFRICA'S WESTERN CAPE COAST............................. ............ 186

Introduction ............................................ ...... ...............................................186
Race, Class and the Handline Fishermen ................................ ..... ....................... .... 188
Personal Histories ............................... .... ....... .....................188
W ork H stories .................................................................................................. 192
A D ispersed Sense of Place .......................................................................................... 197
The Mobility of the Roaming Handline Ski-Boat Fishermen .........................197
Rural vs. Suburban Fishers .............................................................................199
M embers of the Inform al Economy ....................... ............................................ .... 202
The Technology of Handline Fishing ......................... ............ .................203
T he R source ........................................................ .. ........................... 211
The Informal Marketplace ................................... ..............................214
C rew ........................................................ .................................................. 2 16
W eekenders ............................................ ............................................... 216
Langaaners ............................................. ............ .. .........................218
Managing the Linefishers ...................... ... .. .........................221
Fishing Association ................................... ..... ........................224
N otes ........................................ ...................................... ..................................2 32


Introduction ............................. ........................ ..................................................233
G lobal N network Representation ............................................ ............................. .... 237
Introduction ................................................ .... ............................. 237
Global Network Properties ................................. ........................239
C liques .................................................. ... .....................................24 1
Network Centrality ........................ ..........................244
Race and the Structure of Ego Networks .............................. ..........................247

9 C O N C LU SIO N ................................................................................. ........................253

Broader Streams of Influence ...........................................................253
Implications for Marine and Coastal Management ...................................................256

G L O S SA R Y .................. ..........................................................................................................263

APPENDIX A INTERVIEW SCHEDULE FOR SKIPPERS ........................................... 265

APPENDIX B NAME TABLE ................................... ...... ......................275


APPENDIX D INFORMED CONSENT................................................277

APPENDIX E MARINE LIFE MENTIONED IN THIS STUDY...................................... 278

R EFER EN C ES C IT E D ........................................................................... ..............................279

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................... ..........................................296


Table page
1. Population Group by Province (Percentages)............................... ............. ................. 100
2. Percentage of South African National Languages Spoken by Province........................ 102
3. Skippers and their Alters: Percentage of Alters by Gender........................................... 138
4. Skippers and their Alters: Percentage of Kin Relations by Gender............................... 138
5. Nominal Commercial Catches (Tons Nominal Mass) by Fishery and Species ..............148
6. Nominal Commercial Catches (Rounded Mass) and Wholesale Values.......................149
7. South Africa's Imports and Exports of Fish in 1998.................................... .......150
8. Quota Distribution in Some Key Fisheries in South Africa in 1996.............................186
9. Chi Square Distribution for Previous Jobs by Race................................................. 193
10. Skipper's Race and the Jobs they Held Before Entering the Fishing Industry................ 195
11. Residence of Ski-boat Skippers Interviewed.................................. ............................. 199
12. Classification of Fishing Companies by the South African Government......................203
13. Chi Square of Skipper's Boat Ownership by Race...........................................206
14. Electronic Technology On-Board Commercial Ski-Boats............................................209
15. Sample Matrix Representing Skipper x Skipper Network .............................................238
16. Single-Link Hierarchical Clustering........................ ..... .........................243
17. Skippers with the Highest Degree Centrality ....... ......................................................244
18. Skippers with the Highest Betweenness Centrality...................................... ..........245
19. Skippers Closeness Centrality ..................................................................................246
20. Percentage of Same-Race Ties in Skipper's Social Networks ......................................250
21. Average Closeness of Ties in Skipper's Social Networks ............................................ 251


Figure pag
1. Handline Fisherman Pulling Snoek into the Ski-Boat...................... .....................38
2. Handline Fisher Bringing a Snoek into the Boat.............................. .......................67
3. Population Group by Province (M illions).................................................... ............... 100
4. A Somerset W est Fisherman .................................................. .. ............. ..........108
5. Handline Ski-Boat Crew on their Way to the Fishing Grounds....................................119
6. Protesters March on Parliament for Local Fishers' Rights......................................131
7. A Diverse Crowd Marches in Solidarity with Local Fishers......................................... 133
8. The Southern African Snoek Thyrsites atun .................. ............... ......................... 155
9. The Snoek Seller .......................................................................... .......................156
10. Fishing Vessels in Operation in the Cape between 1880 and 1990............................... 159
11. Gantries for the Fishers of Kalk Bay, 1905....................................................................165
12 P urse Sein ing ................................. ............................................ ....................... 17 1
13. The Traditional "Chakkie" Used for Handline Fishing..............................................177
14. Education Levels by Population Group (Percentage)................................................ 188
15. Towns of Residence for Skippers in the Handline Ski-Boat Fraternity........................198
16. Fishing Vessels Operating in the Western Cape ....................... ........................204
17. A Fisherman's Hand, Protected by a "Vingerlappie," Casting a "Lood"......................210
18. Primary Habitat for Snoek Thyrsites atun.............................. ........................212
19. Historical Landings ofLinefish Species............................ ......................213
20. Hawkers Bidding on Snoek at Hout Bay................................ .......................219
21. Commercial Handline Ski-Boat Fishers Returning from a Day at Sea.........................235
22. Sociogram for Sample Skipper x Skipper Network.......................................................238
23. Multi-Dimensional Scaling Scatterplot of Proximity of Skippers in Network................239
24. A G raph and Its C liques ................................................................ ......................241

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



James F. Gates

May 2001

Chair: Professor Brian M. du Toit
Major Department: Anthropology

The primary aim of this dissertation is to describe how race relations are socially

constructed and historically situated through an analysis of the relationships between coloured

and white fishers in South Africa's handline fishing industry. In-depth interviews with 102

handline ski-boat skippers on the Western Cape coast serve as the core data for this analysis. My

primary aim was achieved by interpreting the images skippers use to describe themselves and

others, and analyzing of the skippers' perceived social networks. This dissertation moves beyond

common political and macro-economic analyses of race relations to in-depth exploration of the

ways individuals structure social relations by race in a historically specific context. I show how

fishing is embedded in a host of social and informal economic relations. Socioeconomic relations

off the boat directly impact social relations on the boat.

"Race" and "ethnicity" are historically specific and socially constructed categories of

group differentiation. "Race" and "ethnicity" are compared as analytical tools in the

methodological tool chest of social analysts. Specific attention is paid to the role that

anthropology played and continues to play in the use of these concepts as analytical

categories. I argue that in the South African context, both past and present, race remains the most

potent construct of social categorization. Specifically, I sketch the history of the ideology and

politics involved in the development of "coloured" as an identifiable group in South Africa.

Descriptions of the structural development of this category are balanced by the role of human

agency. I review the historical roots of those categorized as coloured, the common stereotypes

associated with being coloured, the challenging issue of race mixing, the role that intra-racial

politics played and the role that language played in the debate over coloured identity.

Anthropology as a discipline is in danger of being rent in two by the tensions between

those who practice it as a scientific enterprise designed to explain human variation and those who

practice it as an experience designed to be shared and interpreted. I explore the possibility of a

via media between the extremes of positivist nomothetic theorizing and the interpretive solipsism

of postmodern deconstruction. The verbal images and metaphors skippers use to describe

themselves and others reveal deeply rooted racial stereotypes and prejudices. An analysis of

these skippers' perceived social networks reveals to what extent these racial stereotypes and

prejudices structure perceived interaction.


Reflexive Reflections: A Day in the Life of an Anthropologist

Two-thirty in the morning and I was wide-awake, sitting in my bakkie, waiting for the

men to arrive. It wasn't supposed to be that cold in late January, but I didn't even notice it, much.

I felt conspicuous walking into the little petrol station convenience store dressed like I was. I

looked like the stereotypical "skollie." But who was going to care at that time of the morning? I

remember wondering if the shop attendant and the security guard were suspicious of why I was

there, since they kept looking in my direction while they continued their conversation. I was

dressed in a pair of dirty tekkies, some old sweatpants, two shirts and a warm jersey. They told

me to wear layers. I thought the wool knit cap I borrowed from my neighbor was probably a little

much, but I wanted to at least look the part. I later learned just how much 1 would need that cap.

I looked over at the white gumboots that were two sizes too big for me and hoped that I wouldn't

be too clumsy in them. The oilskins I borrowed from the same neighbor who lent me the wool

cap were a little snug, but they would have to do. I checked the LCD clock on my dashboard as it

slowly changed shape, letting me know that only one more minute had inched by. It was very

difficult getting up at a time when I normally had not yet gone to bed, but it was time to begin the

most important phase of what I had been preparing for the previous three years, maybe the

previous eight. I had it all planned out, written out, hypothesized, theorized and historicized. I

had attended lectures, helped to organize conferences, presented papers, passed my exams,

begged for funding, defended my ideas and made the long trip to get over there. I spent the

previous couple of months in the libraries, interviewing government officials and academicians,

driving to communities separated by more than 400 km at the extremes, spreading my name

around to those who needed to know, driving around with people I knew could introduce me to

the right people, making the contacts necessary to get the information I needed. But somehow, as

I sat in my bakkie with the engine running, trying not to become impatient, I felt totally

unprepared for what I was about to face.

Jonathan told me to meet him sometime around 2:15-2:30 AM at the Engine Garage on

the northern edge of the city. He knew that it would be another hour and a half or so to drive the

80 km up the West Coast road to get to Yzerfontein, and he wanted to be one of the first ones in

the queue. He said that Charles and Mailie would be riding up with him from the southern

suburbs, but that Balie, Talliep and Albert would be finding their own way to the Garage. He

wasn't sure if Albert was coming. Albert had only been with him for two weeks, and he

mentioned that he didn't know if he was reliable or not. I had wondered the day before why they

wouldn't just all ride up there together. I didn't know at the time that the crew lived spread out

across so many different parts of the city. Jonathan told me the day before that Albert had to

make it there all the way from Khayelitsha, known as the poorest black suburb in Cape Town. He

thought we might have to wait on him. As it turned out, Albert stayed overnight with a friend

much closer, in Jo Slovo Park. Although I didn't recognize him until Jonathan later introduced

us, Albert was the first to arrive. Charles, or "Boertjie," as they called him, lived down south of

the City in Muizenberg, a mostly white, middle-class suburb of Cape Town. He rode up with

Jonathan and Mailie because he lived close to both of them, and they had arranged to meet down

there ahead of time. Balie and Talliep arrived together; they both made their way up from a large,

sprawling complex of historically coloured suburbs usually lumped together and identified as

Mitchell's Plain.

It was 3 in the morning and still no white bakkie pulling a six-meter ski-boat behind it. I

had my cell phone on me, and I knew that Jonathan would be carrying his, as most handline ski-

boat skippers did. But I didn't want to call just in case I had gotten the time wrong. After all, we

had just spoken the night before. But when 3:30 AM rolled around, my impatience outgrew my

sense of tact. I called Jonathan only to find out that some of the guys, he wouldn't say who, had

overslept and that he was on his way. If he wanted to go to sea for the day with a full crew, more

often than not he had to rouse them.

Jonathan was the skipper. He was the only one among the group that really spoke

English at home and with any regularity. Balie, Talliep and Mailie all spoke a variant of

Afrikaans that they referred to as "Kaapse Afrikaans." Albert spoke more Afrikaans than

English, but neither were one of the three other languages he spoke at home. The rudimentary

Zulu I had learned as a kid didn't get me very far, and Albert and I spent the rest of the time

speaking in a language that was native to neither of us. I had spent the previous couple of months

brushing up on the Afrikaans I had learned while living for most of the 1980s in what was

formerly known as the Transvaal. I learned quickly that I spoke what the fishermen termed

"suiwer" Afrikaans; they could tell I had learned my Afrikaans in the heart of white, conservative

Afrikaans country. No one really minded explaining the colloquialisms that this Yankee didn't

understand; after all, most were amazed that someone from the United States could speak

Afrikaans at all, let alone with a "boere" accent. They knew that I was the student there to learn

from them.

The diversity of Jonathan's crew and the cordial relations between them made me want to

believe what I was being told about race relations time and again by skippers in the handline

industry. They insisted that there is not, nor has there ever been, any racism at sea. Coloured and

white skippers alike would argue that the sea was the great equalizer, that the environment and

the hard worked leveled the playing field and created a meritocracy like none experienced

elsewhere in South Africa. "A fisherman is a fisherman," they repeated as if recited when they

earned their skipper's ticket. But this was my first day to go to sea, and I wasn't quite ready to

wrap up my conclusions from what I had heard thus far.

Four o'clock rolled around and everyone had finally arrived. I learned on the ride up the

West Coast road that it wasn't unusual to schedule a meeting time with the expectation that no

one would really be there until at least forty-five minutes later than scheduled. Fortunately this

time, at least, I wasn't on my way to somebody's house for dinner, somebody who expected the

same courteous "tardiness." I think my impatience was far more a sign of my excitement than my

commitment to punctuality. After all, I was about to go on my first trip out on the ocean to

interact with the very people I wanted to get to know over the coming months. I had finally

identified a group of fishers that I wanted to interview for my research, and I was on my way to

sea with one of them. I was nervous about the uncertainty of it all. I was nervous about how well

I would be accepted. I was nervous about how well I would be able to communicate. I was

nervous about asking the right questions, about making a good impression, about not sounding as

ignorant as I felt. So I decided to be honest with them about my ignorance. After all, they were

now my teachers.

We closed the canopy window as four of us crammed into the back of the bakkie with

seven pairs of boots, oilskins, lunch bags and fishing tackle baskets. I learned a lot more about

the men I was about to fish with on the way to Yzerfontein than I did the rest of the day. I had

planned to talk to the guys as much as I could throughout the day. 1 used the time we had on the

ride up to the harbor to share who I was, what I was doing and to get to know some background

information about each of them. Little did I know that I would not have much of an opportunity

to talk to any of them in any more detail the rest of the day. Much of our personal conversations

ceased once we reached the queue of boats at the harbor.

When we arrived at the harbor, I was disoriented. 1 had never been there in the dark, and

there were so many boats and people around that I didn't recognize it. I was initially

overwhelmed by the chaos. It was five-thirty in the morning, and it looked like we were at an

open-air bazaar. My first instinct was to marvel at how representative the racial demographics of

the crowd at the harbor were compared to the country as a whole. I learned later that the power

relations as they relate to race were also representative of the country as a whole, but the country

of not so long ago.

I was unaware of it at the time, but there was an important reason I was left alone as soon

as we arrived at the harbor. Each of the six crewmembers quietly got themselves dressed in

clothes very similar to the ones I had borrowed from my neighbor. As soon as they were done

getting their raingear on, they dispersed. I didn't see most of them again until we were all getting

on the boat when it was our turn to launch from the slipway. I saw Jonathan talking to some of

the other skippers but did not realize the importance of those conversations at the time. He called

me over and introduced me to some of the other skippers. Come to find out, these were some of

the skippers that Jonathan trusted the most and who trusted Jonathan the most. They were

sharing information about where they had found fish the day before and what direction they were

planning to head for the day. In the last couple of years the skippers had begun to rely on cell

phones to make these connections, but this morning Jonathan was using the oldest medium

available for this type of communication, a face-to-face conversation. The skippers were able to

share exactly where they had found fish the day before; even if they weren't well familiar with

the waters around Dassen Island, most of the commercial skippers had invested in a global

positioning system (GPS) in the past five years.

The thick fog that had slowed our traveling speed up the West Coast road hung on the

water until well after 11 o'clock in the morning. Those boats that had not invested in a GPS had

to follow someone who had. Jonathan told me there were plenty of skippers who routinely relied

on other boats to show them where the fish were biting. The better skippers called them

"holhangers" (lit. those that hang on my ass). If you were dependent on someone else to find

your fish, you weren't a very good skipper. I was told that the skippers who regularly worked on

the water had strategies for throwing the "holhangers" off their trail. Some would call out

coordinates or location on the public Very High Frequency radio (VHF) and then contact their

closer colleagues over the cell phone. Some of the skippers admitted to installing scramblers and

decoders on their VHF radio prior to the introduction of the cell phones. Catching shoaling fish

on the open ocean was a competitive environment, and the right information from the right person

gave the skipper the competitive edge.

On the ride out to sea from the slipway I quickly found out why that wool cap was so

important and why I was told to bring the extra clothing. The wind on the open sea cut through

every piece of clothing I was wearing. I wasn't told this, but I think there was another important

reason for the layers of clothing. The ride to and from the island was so rough, so bumpy that any

extra padding was more than welcome. As we bounced our way out to the island I gripped onto

the wood edging that lined the different "laaitjies" in the boat. Each commercial handline boat

was partitioned into cubicles, two for each man who fished on the boat. One of the laaitjies was

for standing in, the other for loading fish. It was important that each man have his own laaitjie so

as to keep track of each man's catch for the day. As they were all paid on the share system, i.e.,

for 50% of what they caught for the day, each crewmember wanted to make sure the skipper

could verify his particular totals.

The division of labor on the boat started even before we left the Engine Garage back in

Cape Town. Jonathan and Boertjie fueled the bakkies and the boat and planned their strategy for

the day while the others loaded the bait and the gear onto the boat. This was the first time I was

acutely aware of race relations on the boat. I was to find out later that Albert was one of the

exceptions among handline crew. Very few of the crew were identified as black. Most were

identified as either white or coloured. I wondered why the only white guy on the boat seemed to

be the skipper's right hand man. I was later to find out that it is quite odd for any white fishermen

to crew for a coloured skipper, particularly a coloured skipper that owned his own boat. Boertjie

was Jonathan's right-hand man and had been fishing with him for almost two years. He was

twenty-five years-old at the time, had a high school diploma and recently got out of the Navy.

Boertjie said he was fishing because he couldn't find work, an ironic statement given his sheer

physical output at the time. He claimed that he couldn't find a "real job" because he was now

disadvantaged by affirmative action in the new South Africa. Earlier one of the coloured

crewmembers from another boat jokingly jabbed at his white colleagues: "Ja, nou'sjulle die

kaffers, en ons die baase" ("Yeah, now you're the Kaffirs, and we're the bosses").

I was constantly aware of my own race and my status as a foreigner and wondered how

that would impact how people acted around me or responded to me. 1 found out later that I had

been very fortunate to be introduced to the network of skippers by Jonathan. Jonathan turned out

to be my closest and most reliable contact in the network. Jonathan was one of the most well-

respected and well-known skippers in the fraternity. He was well connected because he was

connected to a number of key persons from each of the main regional subgroups in the network.

Jonathan learned early on that I was very interested in asking tough questions about race and its

impact on the fishing industry. The fact that Jonathan trusted me meant that 1 had access to his

trusted network. Since he was well connected between both coloured and white skippers, he was

able to introduce me to subgroups that would otherwise have been difficult to contact.

The fact that I am white most likely influenced the kind and degree of responses I

received from each of the skippers I interviewed. More than a few times the racialized language

of the white skippers was so matter-of-fact that it was as if they assumed I understood the way it

worked, as if I should understand, as if it was common sense. I'm not sure if the white skippers

would have been so unguarded in their racialized language had I not been white and had I not

spoken Afrikaans in such a "suiwer" way. I noticed a similar assumption of familiarity when any

of the skippers, white or coloured, spoke of the women in their lives. Because I am a man, it was

assumed that I understood. Often when I asked them to explain what they meant or how things

work, a certain level of impatience was not uncommon. A number of times I was sharply

reminded of my race when a coloured skipper would politely pause for a caveat apology after

talking about "those whites."

When we finally laid anchor after what seemed like an eternity of pounding on the hull of

the boat, 1 had no idea we were only three soccer fields away from Dassen Island. The fog still

masked the area we were fishing. As we laid anchor the men baited their hooks quickly with the

sardines from the boxes they opened. Jonathan brought some of the "good stuff' along, the pike,

but they wouldn't use it unless the fish weren't biting well. Each of the guys took out the spool

with the thickness of gut that they felt would be most appropriate for how the fish were biting that

day. Before preparing their lines, each fisher put neoprene tubes, called finger "lappies," over

their fingers for protection against cuts from the lines. They each threaded hooks for bait onto

two lines, and what they called a "lood" or a stainless steel spinner on a third line. For the rest of

the day's fishing each man would tend three lines, baiting and throwing them back as fast as they

reeled them in. Jonathan let them know, from the information on his electronic fish-finder,

approximately how deep the fish were swimming and each man measured out his own estimation

of the fathom depth. Each fisher guesstimatedd" a fathom as the length of his own wingspan.

Everyone was quiet on the boat as we were heading out to sea. The noise from the twin

85 h.p. Yamaha outboard motors and the crashing hull made conversation impossible. Of course,

feeling the need to hold on for dear life did little to encourage intimate sharing. In fact, the

conversation on the boat for the rest of the day shifted away from the personal type of

conversation I was able to have on the ride to the harbor. The atmosphere on the boat shifted into

a high energy, jovial gear. Balie, the crew who stood closest to me once we started fishing, began

singing a risqu6 song about a woman he longed to be with. Much of the language on the boat was

what the skippers would later describe as "inappropriate for female company." Many of them

called it "vissermanstaal" (lit. fisherman's language) or simply "vloektaal" (lit. profane

language). It was understood that men could talk like that when they were on the water, since

rarely did anyone see a woman out on the sea. The language was particularly aggressive when

any boat passed within a few boat-lengths of another. Crews took offense when another skipper

"charged down" on their fish.

On the way out Jonathan had me stand with him by the console. When we anchored he

had me stand in the foremost laaitjie that he said no one else was using. Come to find out I had

taken the potential place of another crewmember for the day. Had 1 not come along for the day,

Jonathan would have picked up an extra crew from the many that were waiting for a "site" on the

harbor. At Yzerfontein, in contrast to the slipway at the Cape Town powerboat club, there tended

to be a surplus of"paloepas" available for skippers who needed crew. A guy was a "paloepa"

when he was seeking a site. A crew that bounced around too often from boat to boat received a

bad reputation as a guy with "rubber boots" and would reportedly be less likely to get a site in the

long run.

By taking one crew member's spot on the boat I not only took away the income for one

of the potential crew on the harbor but I reduced Jonathan's profits in the loss of the absent

crew's share. Between the constant activity on the boat, the lack of privacy in the context of a

boat full of listeners, the economic cost of an extra, non-fishing body, it turned out that the boat

was not the most appropriate place for doing interviews with each of the skippers. After about an

hour of taking notes and attempting conversation I decided to try handlining for snoek. I was

given a couple of"vingerlappies" and warned against the razor-sharp teeth for which the snoek

are famous. Balie, my teacher, would not let me take the first ten snoek off the hook for fear that

I would get all cut up. They could tell by my hands that I was not a fisher-that and the fact that

I probably left more behind in the water than I took out of it, both in terms of bait and the food

that I tried to eat all morning.

1 was told you can tell when you are in an area of high snoek concentration when you're

being bothered by the seals. The fishermen were constantly cussing at the seals on that day. We

remained anchored the whole morning, a decision that turned out to be the right one for that day.

By the time we headed back to the harbor we had over 400 snoek on the boat. I had caught 15.

The four main schools of snoek that swam under our boat caused a frenzy of activity. Lines got

tangled, tempers flared, but never were the hooks out of the water for more than a few seconds.

We could see other boats drifting in and out of our range of vision through the fog; they were also

catching. It was when the fog lifted sometime soon after 11 AM that I realized just how close we

were to the island and how many ski-boats were out chasing a living. We were some 300-400

yards away from the island, and it seemed like you could walk from one boat to the next to reach

the shore. I checked the slipway records later on and found out that there were 84 boats that

launched from Yzerfontein's single slipway that day. Yzerfontein's record for a single day

during the 1999-2000 season was 143 combined recreational and commercial ski-boats.

The ride back to the harbor was smoother than the ride out. We were loaded down with a

ton offish and were plowing our way back to the slipway. We passed a group of penguins, a pair

of dolphins and a whale in the distance on our trip back. I was too tired at the time to get excited.

Little did I know, but we had a full two hours of work ahead of us.

As Boertjie pulled the boat out of the water, Jonathan polled those on the docks for the

going price down at the fish market. By knowing the going price he could make sure he was not

underbid. At Yzerfontein the private powerboat club grounds are used for selling the fish and

cleaning the boats. Informal hawkers and fish shop owners come from as far as the southernmost

suburbs of Cape Town, tipped off by some of the skippers that there has been a good catch of

snoek for the day. Fish are sold to the highest bidder willing to take the entire load for that day.

Jonathan did the bidding; sometimes the skipper designates one of the crew for that task. Once

the fish are sold and offloaded, the crew cleans the boat and the equipment while the skipper

finalizes the transaction. We weren't finished cleaning the boat until close to 3 PM.

I arrived home more exhausted than I think I had ever been. I was impressed that these

guys would travel all that distance, return home, just to do the same thing the next morning. The

fish were biting, and they knew they had to take advantage. There were plenty of times when the

fish weren't biting, and they would have to make do. The work was physically demanding. The

hours were long and often monotonous. I was determined to explore the relationships that kept

these guys going. More than ever I wanted to understand how relationships in the handline

fishing industry were structured and constructed. I wanted to understand why race seemed to be

so central to the social networks of these roaming handline ski-boat skippers.

Summary of Chapters

Following the Introduction, Chapter 2 outlines the theoretical and disciplinary context for

the analysis that follows. "Race" and "ethnicity" are defined as historically specific and socially

constructed categories of group differentiation. "Race" and "ethnicity" are compared as

analytical tools in the methodological tool chest of social analysts. Specific attention is paid to

the role that anthropology as a developing discipline played in the use of these concepts as

analytical categories. As an example of the power that these categories have to influence society,

I proceed with a discussion of the difference between Competitive and Paternalistic Race

Relations. Chapter 2 continues by placing this study in the context of economic anthropology. I

particularly focus on the role that anthropology has played in the understanding of economic

activity as embedded in social context. The chapter ends with a review of the recent literature on

social relations in maritime communities.

Chapter 3 discusses the methodological concerns at the heart of this dissertation,

beginning with a discussion of the historical development of methodology in anthropology. This

chapter explores the possibility of a via media between the extremes of positivist nomothetic

theorizing and the interpretive solipsism of postmodern deconstruction. I analyze the strengths

and weaknesses inherent in various approaches and make a case for selective use of methods

from various camps. The chapter continues by outlining the major research questions to be

explored and hypotheses to be tested. Specific detail is given on social network analysis and its

use in understanding the construction of race among commercial handline fishers in South Africa.

Informant selection, data collection and the structured interview used are discussed in detail.

Chapter 4 is an historical analysis of the ideology and politics involved in the

development of coloured as an identifiable group in South Africa. Descriptions of the structural

development of this category are balanced by the role of human agency. I specifically focus on

the development of racial identity in the context of political oppression. I review the historical

roots of those categorized as coloured, the common stereotypes associated with being coloured,

the challenging issue of race mixing, and the role that internal politics played in the construction

of modern coloured identity. The chapter concludes with a look at Afrikaans as a central part of

the debate over coloured identity.

Chapter 5 builds on the foundational assumption that race, class and gender are socially

constructed categories that influence thought and behavior in historically and culturally specific

ways. This chapter explores how the issues of race, class and gender merge in the construction of

the "Cape Coloured fisherman." The influence of race and class in South Africa's fishing

industry provides the socioeconomic and political context for this construction. An analysis of

how handline fishermen construct the "true fisherman" and the "myth of the colour-blind fisher"

show how race, class and gender are woven into the fabric of human experience. An

ethnographic description of a fishers' protest march on parliament provides a transition to the

important discussion of the construction of gender in South Africa's handline fishing industry. A

general discussion on gender relations in fishing precedes an analysis of gender in the patterning

of the social networks and perceptions of skippers on the handline ski-boats.

Chapter 6 provides the historical and socio-economic context for handline fishing. After

a brief introduction to the modem South African fishing industry, I trace a selected history of

events important to understanding the modern handline industry. This historical sketch begins

with what is known of fishing in South Africa prior to 1652, proceeds through its lack of

development during Dutch settlement, the easing of restrictions on fishing with British

colonization and the birth of the modern industrial fisheries in the early decades of the twentieth

century. The sketch continues with post-World War II developments and the beginnings of the

apartheid era as they marked the significant beginnings of the ski-boat industry. An analysis of

recent developments in the management of South African fisheries provides the political context

in which handline fishers operate. The chapter ends with a discussion of the limitations of the

historical sources available for the handline fishing industry.

Chapter 7 is an ethnographic description of the roaming commercial handline ski-boat

fishers on South Africa's Western Cape coast. Following a brief introduction, an analysis of their

personal histories provides a sense of who these skippers are and what brought them to the

handline industry. The mobility of the roaming handline ski-boat fishermen is discussed with a

focus on how this mobility influences the skipper's sense of place. The second half of the chapter

deals with handline fishing as embedded in informal economic relations. Variations in the

technology of handline fishing and the fish sought after are described in socioeconomic context.

The chapter continues with an analysis of the important socioeconomic relations off the boat that

directly affect social relations on the boat. The chapter concludes with a description of the

influence that government fisheries management has on the linefishers.

Chapter 8 deals with the impact of race on the social networks of handline fishing

skippers. The theory behind social network analysis as structural analysis is applied to the case of

the roaming handline ski-boat skippers. Both global and ego-network representations are

explored. Specific attention is given to the cliques that emerged and reasons for the centrality of

particular individuals in the group. The chapter concludes with an analysis of race and the

structure of ego networks. Chapter 9 consists of concluding remarks that point to the future

potential of this research.


Race and Ethnicity as Tools for Constructing the Other

Anthropology and the Construction of Race and Ethnicity

Prior to the twentieth century many terms for the categorical variation among humans

were conflated. Race, ethnic group, nation, culture and people were commonly used

interchangeably as meta-categorical labels on human difference. Even though the term ethnic has

been traced at least back to Victorian England, the term ethnicity did not make it into English

dictionaries until the 1950s (Hutchinson and Smith 1996). Well into the twenty-first century, race

and ethnicity have often been used as synonymous labels to distinguish between the broadest

possible categories of human variation. A historical glimpse of how race and ethnicity came to

label these categories provides the broadest base possible from which to understand race and

ethnicity as tools in the construction of reality. Understanding the historical variations in the use

of the concept helps to understand the many permutations of the concept read in contemporary

literature. As Karl Mannheim said (1936), all ideas have an address. Knowing the address of

concepts as broad and diversely used as "race" and "ethnicity" helps provide a roadmap for their

future use.

While ancient conceptions of human difference were not labeled "race" or "ethnicity,"

the sense of kinship, group solidarity and common culture that these terms refer to is older than

the written record. Historians place the development of ethnicity in the context of urbanization,

nomadic conquest and enslavement, long-distance trade, endemic disease and the need to

replenish urban labor forces. Long distance trade, for example, led to permanent communities of

aliens in major urban centers. "These trade and skill diasporas, like ancient slavery, attained legal

definition from very early times, as the rights of merchants prescribed by the laws of Hammurabi

show" (McNeill 1996:107).

The rise of universal religions also played a homogenizing role in macro-group


Beginning about 500 B.C., the rise of portable and universal religions-i.e., Buddhism,
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam together with some less successful faiths like
Manicheanism-provided an effective cultural carapace for trade diasporas, insulating
them from their surroundings in matters of faith and family as never before. Portable and
universal faiths, in fact, permitted followers of a religion that differed from that
prevailing in the environing society to maintain a corporate identity indefinitely,
generation after generation. (McNeill 1996:107-108)

Territory, religion and language heavily influenced group identity further away from the

Middle Eastern center of Western civilization. In the far east, for example, the development of

relatively homogeneous people groups varied. While the relative homogeneity of Japanese ethnic

identity tended to be established from the beginning of the written record, China did not exhibit a

similar isolation. Except for the ancient gulf between the Ainu and other residents of the Islands

of the Rising Sun, "whatever ethnic diversity initially existed among those ancestors disappeared

before the historic records begin" (McNeill 1996:108). While there was a sense in which Chinese

civilization maintained a greater cohesion than was true of European, western Asian and Indian

civilizations, the imperial aspiration of the Han dynasty, for example, ensured contact with groups

that are familiar to Westerners as Turks, Tibetans, Mongols, Manchus and Koreans.

Modern notions of ethnicity have their most immediate roots in the rise of the nation

state. John Armstrong emphasized the essential distinction between sharp identities maintained

for centuries and those that have developed as a result of the more recent diffusion of nationalist

ideology (Armstrong 1996). He highlighted the development of ethnic diasporas. Jews and

Armenians are particularly well-known examples of relatively homogenous communities who

have settled in trading enclaves after being forced to leave their homelands for economic or

political reasons. Decentralized religious organizations, sacral language, myths, texts and

liturgies played an important part in socialization for these groups. "The intensity of identity

produced by older sacral myths-based on but not always coextensive with distinctive

religions-has never been exceeded by modem secular myths" (Armstrong 1996:121).

The term "ethnos" comes from the ancient Greek term for distinguishing separate people

groups, particularly those who were not Hellenic. At the time Herodotus was writing, while the

Greek peninsula and the islands surrounding it were solidly Greek in identity, there were small

communities tied deeply to that identity scattered throughout Asia minor, Sicily and the alien

worlds of geographically proximate foreign powers. Except when forced to do otherwise by

foreign powers, each of these scattered communities had their own government, coinage, calendar

and laws, and its own temples and cult, most often tied to the traditions of the Hellenic state.

Greeks living in the heartland or in the periphery had a common label for all other peoples:

barbaroi. Calling other groups barbarians "was a clear signal of the qualitative differentiation,

commonly but not always with a pejorative implication" (Finley 1996:112). Ethnos was a term

used to distinguish between the various politically organized barbaroi.

Through the Middle Ages right down to the late eighteenth century, educated Europeans

accepted without question that the universe was organized as a Great Chain of Being. This meant

that everything in the universe, including people groups, was organized into an immense number

of hierarchical links, beginning with the most insignificant and rising to divine perfection itself.

The notion of the Great Chain of Being shines through in Dante's Divine Comedy as a general

moral hierarchy and was applied to all aspects of life, including the classification of nations.

Belief in the Great Chain of Being lead in part to the hierarchical and paternalistic world of the

Elizabethan England as revealed in Shakespeare's MacBeth. It was only the power of the

scientific revolution in the methodology and discoveries of Bacon, Galileo and Newton and the

dualistic and/or materialistic philosophies of Descartes, Locke and Hobbes that brought about the

eventual collapse of this hierarchical metaphysical outlook.

Corrosion in the concept of the Great Chain of Being did not necessarily lead to the

evaporation of hierarchical thinking. New ways to conceptualize difference were developed in

modernity that looked strangely like the old, except this time it was the canons of science rather

than the canons of the church that dictated reality. With the new scientific paradigm,'

conceptions of human difference in language and customs were tied to the idea of human

progress. People groups would still be ranked with European cultures as the ideal.

With the rise of the social sciences and other sub-categories of the academy in the

nineteenth century, classification systems and nomenclature became more specific, more precise.

But the early ancestors of anthropology themselves did not make a careful distinction between

race and ethnicity when describing general categories of human variation. We see, for example,

in L. H. Morgan's Ancient Society (1871) a ranking of human cultures (with his own at the top,

of course) but no explicit discussion of the relationship between race and ethnicity. Herbert

Spencer's social evolutionary approach in the late nineteenth century conflated biological and

cultural variation, applying Darwin's models of biological selection to cultural variation. Early

physical anthropologists like Hrdlicke promoted the classification and ranking of people groups

based on phenotypic differences. At the beginning of the twentieth century, social

anthropologists studying South Africa were categorizing and ranking groups based on physical

types. The San, for example, were ranked low on the evolutionary scale because of their

"pedomorphic" facial features and protruding "steatopygia" (see Saul Dubow's Illicit Union:

Scientific Racism in South Africa (1995)).

The earliest discussions about the relationship between race and ethnicity centered

around the relationship between the cultural and the biological aspects of human variation. In the

early part of the twentieth century, Boas challenged the association between biology and culture,

pointing to the need to understand individual cultures in their respective historical contexts. One

of Boas' main concerns was to address the overt racism inherent in much of the social analysis of

his contemporaries. Although he was largely successful in pulling the anthropological

community in his direction, he, too, did not carefully distinguish between ethnicity and race as

analytical categories. This is particularly surprising as one of his contemporaries, whom he heard

lecture and whose writing can be seen reflected in Boas' own, was perhaps the most explicit

about race as the central marker of difference. In 1903 W.E.B. Du Bois prophetically claimed

that the color line would be the problem of the twentieth century. A phrase like "color line"

clearly expresses an understanding that phenotype is somehow involved as the major marker of

difference, but it does not tell us how nor to what extent.

At the end of the second World War the analysis of race had escalated as a politically

charged issue. The horrors resulting from the racial categorization of the Nazi eugenicists

convinced social scientists to shy away from racial theorization. In 1941 a prominent Harvard

anthropologist, Ashley Montagu, published a work that later typified anthropological dogma for

more than halfa century. In Race: Man's Most Dangerous Myth (1974) Montagu successfully

argues against the necessary link between the biological and the cultural, with specific critique

directed against biological determinism. It was his leadership that led to a post-war UNESCO

statement arguing for the use of "ethnic group" as a concept more heuristic for analysis than race.

For the researchers of the time, ethnic group carried less historical baggage and could be used to

discuss cultural variation without specific reference to phenotype.

For political conservatives, as Manning Marable has pointed out in his discussions of

affirmative action, a shift toward the language of ethnicity and, consequently, the removal of the

language of race as a key component in understanding social inequity allowed for the

conversation to shift away from the historical connection between race and oppression (1996).

He believes that this shift was in part responsible for the current attack on race-based affirmative

action in the US because of how it shifted the focus from compensation for historical wrongs to

an emphasis on diversity for diversity's sake. Many more groups could now be the beneficiaries

of a set of programs originally intended to primarily benefit racially oppressed groups. William

Darity's work clearly shows that, even with the affirmative action programs of the last thirty

years in the US, African-Americans in general have still not been given a level playing field.

South Africans have only just begun to struggle with the need to address reparations and the

appropriate mechanisms to carry out such justice.

Anthropologists who did not want to see discussions of biological variation pushed to the

margins of anthropological discourse began using the fluid concepts of genetic variation,

preferring to speak of dines and probability estimates rather than static categories. They were

beginning to build on work done by the human biologists that confirmed that there was more

variation within than between generally defined "racial" groups.

In her Annual Review of Anthropology article on the status of race as a category of

analysis in anthropology, Faye Harrison (1995) argues that most anthropologists from the mid-

twentieth century on moved to a "no-race" policy. This was effectively, a "no discussion of race"

policy. What was helpful in this period was the growth of the sophistication of research on the

social construction of human categories of variation under the auspices of "ethnic studies." What

was not helpful, as confirmed by Mukhopadhyay and Moses (1997) and the authors in the

February 1999 issue of the American Anthropologist, is that the singular focus on ethnicity-based

principles of classification and organization could not adequately explain the persistent power of

racism and its impact on those affected by it. Their work gives evidence of the dangerous decline

in the usage of race as a valuable concept in anthropological textbooks and other works. To

ignore race as an important marker of social difference is to deny the experience of those most

oppressed by it.

Many current works have moved beyond the identification of race with biological or

phenotypic types to a social-constructionist perspective. Gregory and Sanjek's (1994) work

explores race as a socially constructed and contested domain. Gert Oostindie and colleagues built

on Harry Hoetink's concept of racial distance in describing racial and ethnic relations in the

Caribbean, describing a continuum of racial experiences (Oostindie and Hoetink 1996). Kevin

Yelvington (1993; 1998) shows the complex relationship between race, class and gender,

particularly for working women in Trinidad. Edmund Gordon (1998) shows how confusing the

analytical differences between race and ethnicity can become, using the Creoles of Nicaragua as

examples. The evidence from each of these works shows that to ignore race, to ignore blackness,

for example, or even shades of blackness, is to ignore the core identity for the groups studied. To

ignore race is to ignore the historical experiences of those most affected by race as an organizing


As David Roediger (1991), Noel Ignatiev (1995), Karen Brodkin (1998) and Ruth

Frankenberg (1993) have shown us recently, it is just as important to historicize the construction

of what it means to be white. If George Fredrickson (1981, 1995) is correct, and I think he is,

South Africa's current racial categories must be understood in the politicized light of the struggle

between white supremacy and black liberation. In discussing coloured identity in South Africa it

is then that much more important to understand the categories against which colouredness is

being contrasted.

In describing the racial and ethnic relations in Colombia, Peter Wade tells us of the

pressure for blanquemiento (whitening) in a culture that promotes itself as a country of mestizos

(mixed race) (1995). Wade's work also shows the danger of excluding race in our understanding

of social difference. In this case the dominant acceptance of mixed race as the ideal has

marginalized those stereotyped as the bottom of the scale, i.e., black Colombians. He shows that,

while there is variation in the experiences of black Columbians of different classes, the ladder of

social mobility is more difficult to climb because of their race.

In her study of Cape Verdean immigrants to the US, Marilyn Halter shows just how

complex the relationship between race and ethnicity can get. She chooses the term racial-ethnic

group to describe a people who do not fit neatly into the prevailing definitions. In Between Race

and Ethnicity (1993) she shows how difficult it has been for some Cape Verdean immigrants to

be incorporated into the dichotomous black-white category of US racial thinking. Unfortunately,

her new term leaves us with no less opaque a concept for analytical purposes.

In exploring systems and structures of social inequality in South Africa, the dominant

contemporary tendency is to substitute the language of ethnicity for any discussion of race.

Racial rhetoric is so politically sensitive in South Africa that most have simply avoided its use. In

a recent study done on the identity of those historically called Coloured, Brigit Pickel (1997)2

avoided any discussion whatsoever of race in either her historical or theoretical analysis.

However, she implicitly incorporates apartheid racial (not ethnic) categories in her questionnaires

and analysis. While the language of ethnicity may be more politically acceptable, it is less than

historically accurate. The dominant categories of human variation in South Africa remain

predominantly racially constructed.

Currently, there is much debate over the use of the term coloured as a designation for any

particular group of people in South Africa (Adhikari 1994, Pickel 1997, Morris 1992, James and

Caliguire 1996, Du Pre 1994). The well-known anthropologist Micheal Whisson (1971) was

arguing in the early 1970s that coloureds do not even constitute a group but a residual category of

persons whose sole common feature is negatively defined. Despite the analytical and political

problems with this category, its common use in government statistics, the press, television, radio

and private conversations reveals its persistence as a marker of difference. With this in mind, I

have chosen to retained the term "coloured" as a referent to a heterogeneous and ill-defined group

of South Africans whose experiences differ significantly from other South Africans. Even though

there may be more intra-category than inter-category variation, to say that all citizens should

simply be called South Africans is to deny the historically peculiar situations people of various

sub-groups have experienced and continue to experience. Particularly in the rural fishing

communities of the Western Cape coast, the ascription of coloured identity, both by self and

other, is common. Not only is it common, but for many it is assumed to be natural. I use

coloured here with a lower case "c" to distance myself from the politically ascriptive use of

"Coloured" under apartheid3. I retain the South African spelling to distinguish between this

group in South Africa and a large body of literature on the "people of color" in the US and other

parts of the world. In short, I see coloured as primarily a racial referent with ethnic subdivisions.

Broad categories of human variation, like race, ethnicity, class and gender function best

when understood as historically conditioned, culturally contextualized categories. As descriptive

categories they are always open to change, dependent on the historical variation of the groups

under discussion. For those who want to use these categories for describing the causes of present

or past behavior or as prescriptive tools for predicting future behavior, they must consider the

variations in all of the dimensions that these broad categories encompass. Given that diversity

exists and that named groups exist, the focus should shift beyond a debate over the labeling of

such difference to exploring the content of such difference. To such an end, any useful definition

of race as a marker of social difference should be broken down into at least the following

dimensions: 1) what is the historical depth under consideration, 2) what is the spatial scope of the

distinctions, 3) how discrete need the variables be before we can consider one group different

from another, 4) for how long does a group have to exist before it can legitimately be called a

racial, 5) how much movement is there of people between the categories, 6) is it possible to avoid

evaluating one group as superior or inferior if such a classification is made, 7) what are the

relations of power implied by the distinctions being made and 8) is there more variation between

or within the defined categories?

Competitive Versus Paternalistic Race Relations

"Race" has always been used as a characteristic in the competition between "us" and

"them." Although Du Bois is correct in prophetically stating in 1903 that the color line is the

problem of the twentieth century, the color line has divided societies since the beginning of

recorded history. St. Claire Drake's work has shown how race has been an organizing principle

for societies throughout history, from the Babylonian, Syrian, Persian and Egyptian empires,

through the Greek and Roman empires into the middle ages and beyond (1987). A keen example

of how race was used to justify oppression in the Middle Ages is found with the Christian

Crusades at the turn of the first millennium. Although popularly justified as acts of religious

conversion, the history records have shown that political and economic dominance was at the

core of what motivated the crusades (Latourette 1975). Racial ideology was an integral part of

the crusader's rallying cry: "Death to the Moors," a common battle cry. The conception of

difference was specifically associated with phenotypic distinctions.

Pierre van den Berghe (1978) has spoken of a transition between what he calls

paternalistic systems of race relations to competitive systems of race relations. A system of

paternalistic race relations exists when one socially defined racial group positions themselves as

somehow superior to other socially defined racial groups. The group that perceives themselves as

superior uses race as a primary characteristic to define who the "other" group is. Attitudes do not

become a system until they have been fleshed out in ideological and material constructs in

defense of prevailing racial attitudes. While race was an integral part of the way people

constructed the world prior to the middle ages, the best example we have where race relations

were paternalistically systematized is the advent of European colonialism.

The transition van den Berghe refers to between paternalistic and competitive systems is

a relatively recent transition. It is not until the twentieth century that race relations have been, in

the majority of cases, anything but paternalistic. Paternalism, the way van den Berghe and other

contemporary writers use the term, intensifies and is systematized in context of European

modernization and expansionist rhetoric. A paternalistic system of race relations grew out of the

combination of Western confidence in the idea of progress and the imperial (colonial) expansion

into new worlds. If Cartesian doubt can be credited with starting the era of modern scientific

thought, then Newtonian physics must be credited with providing the impetus for an ideology of

progress that is still with us. The Enlightenment brought with it a confidence in human evolution,

both personal and social. With the industrial revolution, confidence ran high that Western

civilization was more advanced than other societies have ever been. Technological sophistication

took on a universalizing evaluative quality. People groups were classified and ranked according

to European notions of the ideal.

Some of the earliest modern social analysis shows how race was swept along the growing

stream of modernization theories. in the eighteenth century the social theorist Jean-Jacques

Rousseau argued for a ranking of the races and, while implicitly assuming his culture to be the

ideal, made a case for the admirability of other cultures, the "noble savage." The evidence for the

paternalistic categorization of the races was perhaps nowhere better on display than at the 1893

World Fair, that international celebration of Western civilization and technology. Here the

"savages" were put on display with the same glamour as the latest technology.

It was not until well into the nineteenth century that writers were starting to distinguish

between race and culture or ethnic group or nation or people group in general. The paternalism of

Western nations is evident from much of the literature on nineteenth and twentieth century

Colonialism. Crawford Young (1994) and Mahmood Mamdani (1996) show the surviving effects

of European colonialism on modem Africa. Africans were not effective in throwing off the

shackles of paternalistic colonial systems until well into the twentieth century.

To state the obvious, competitive race relations can only exist when there is the

possibility for competition. One group cannot so dominate the other that there is no room for

competition. When one group retains material and ideological hegemony over another (see

Godelier 1986), there is little possibility for competitive race relations. Competition is squelched

by the same state apparatus that supports the inequitable distribution of resources.

In From Savage to Negro (1998) Lee D. Baker echoes the transition to which van den

Berghe refers. Here the author traces the role Anthropology played through the 1950s in the

construction of Western conceptions of the "other" or, more specifically, those of African

ancestry. Part of what allows for competitive relations to emerge is the valuation of the life and

experiences of those defined as "other," where the other is no longer outside the dominant

conversation of what is to be valued. Conversation here refers to more than ideological or verbal

communication. Making the "other" part of the conversation also means that institutions are put

in place (or removed) in order to effectively ensure the possibility for competition. In the case of

European colonialism in Africa, the adoption of independent African governments was the first

major political step in creating the context for competitive relations to exist.

It is much easier to provide examples of paternalistic race relations than competitive race

relations. However, a few examples of relatively competitive race relations can be raised.

Consider, for example, the way in which racial categories have been institutionalized in the

census categories of countries like the United States, Brazil and South Africa. As Anthony Marx

shows (1998), these three countries have relatively recently provided the institutional

infrastructure that makes race-based competition for resources possible. Robert Price (1997)

argues that South Africa has virtually guaranteed a continued focus on the racial categories of the

past by instituting redistribution programs that are intended to compensate via the same hardened

categories. Increased competition is guaranteed by the hardening of these categories. Kevin

Yelvington (1995) gives a good example of how the competitive nature of race relations in

Trinidad is further complicated by variations in class and gender among those defined in each

racial category.

If we follow Timothy Keegan's work on the effect of colonial expansion on South

Africa's racial paradigms, van den Berghe's schema fits. Keegan (1996) shows how the racial

paradigm developed over the course of Dutch and British (and later Afrikaner) colonial

expansion. He argues that some of the harsher racial categorization and paternalistic systems of

racial relations came from the British, not the Boers. The prevailing thought of mid-twentieth

century historians of South Africa was that the Cape Liberal tradition provided room for

competitive race relations to develop. Since the Cape Liberal tradition espoused equal rights for

all true citizens, it was theoretically possible for any person in the Cape to gain access to political

power. After all, the constitution of 1853 did not exclude de jure non-whites from voting.

However, there were property requirements attached to the franchise, requirements that made it

extremely unlikely that too many Khoi, San, Xhosa or any other non-white could participate. By

the 1870s the property requirements were strengthened and by the 1890s race became an

exclusionary qualification. Wilmot James and Mary Simmons (1991) also outline how race

became paternalistically institutionalized during the history of the western Cape.

But there is little doubt that, when the National Party came to power in 1948 and the

whole apartheid edifice was erected, any possibility for competitive race relations was virtually

wiped out. An entire political and economic infrastructure ensured that the transition to

competitive race relations would not happen. The most restrictive of these actions had to have

been the series of Acts that were passed around 1950 that formed the foundation for the apartheid

system: the Population Registration Act, the Group Areas Act, the Immorality and Indecency

clause and later, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act.

It was not until the late 1980s that the true possibility for competitive race relations in

South Africa became a reality. This is not to say that many or even most South Africans did not

carve competitive space for themselves in an extremely restrictive environment, but the

infrastructure for true mass competition was not there. In the late 1980s the structures of

apartheid were collapsing, the unions that fought so hard in the previous decades had made

significant strides and the educational institutions were opening their doors to begin making true

competition possible.

It is difficult to make a judgement regarding the applicability of van den Berghe's

analysis to South Africa's history outside of the context of European expansion. If we consider

some of the new work being done on the Zulu expansion (Gump 1994), it is difficult to argue for

its applicability, although for different reasons. Senzagakona certainly developed hegemony over

a vast area of South Africa via his impi army, but I am not sure we can describe the rhetoric that

must have been used as racial, if our category by definition includes a phenotypic dimension.

An interesting example of how restricted the competitive nature of race relations could be

for at least one black South African sharecropper throughout the first eight decades of this

century is found in Charles van Onselen's work (1996). Van Onselen shows how Kas Maine

negotiates a space for himself and his family in the midst of a century of changing race relations.

He never fully surrendered his right to compete with the white farmers. This was expressed in the

central metaphor of the book: The plow may be his, the oxen and the shares may be his, and the

seed may be his, but the land is not.

There is no doubt that South Africa is now transitioning to a more competitive system of

race relations. A major part of making this transition a reality will be the attention given to the

redistribution of resources though programs like the Reconstruction and Development

Programme and other affirmative action initiatives. While the ties that bind its citizens to the

paternalistic system of race relations are far from severed, it is slowly but surely being

transformed. What remains to be seen, however, is if the news ways of constructing social

relations in South Africa will continue to rely on old systems of classification. To date, these old

systems of classification remain socially, economically and politically significant.

The Anthropology of Fishing

Economic Anthropology and Its Application to Fishing

According to Stuart Plattner, economic anthropology is the study of economic institutions

and behavior done in anthropological places in an ethnographic style (1989:1). "Anthropological

places" is a concept increasingly difficult to define. Historically, anthropology has left the study

of technologically advanced state societies to their sister sociologists. A discipline born the child

of imperialism and colonial expansion, anthropology's great quest has been to understand how

lifestyles of the remotest "other" relate to what is more commonly known and done in our own

society. Ultimately, the anthropologist is interested in comparing the range of human experience

over the course of human history, making anthropology perhaps the most ambitious discipline.

What makes anthropology specifically ethnographic is the focus on research methods (like

participant observation and in-depth personal interviews) that target individual levels of thought

and experience, while at the same time attempting to connect these thoughts and experiences to

the broadest possible categories of human experience.

Anthropology was once in the salvage business, attempting to save primitive societies

before they were destroyed by the advancing waves of modem, Western thought and technology.

"The ethnographer arrives on the scene of a world on the wane and salvages it in texts before it is

lost to modernization" (Marcus 1994:45). Consider the primary subject matter of economic

anthropology: Hunters and Gatherers, Horticulturalists, Trade and Markets in Precapitalist States,

Peasants, non-Western Markets and Marketplaces, the Impact of Industrial Agriculture, the

Informal Economy, Women and economic institutions, to name the more prominent themes. But

the salvage business was in a sense a step away from the paternalism of the anthropologist as

culture broker, interpreting the world of the primitive, the conquered, to the outside world.

Anthropologists were once relatively unconcerned with the impact of history and macro-

social forces on their subjects. Ethnographies often were written in the "ethnographic present,"

assuming that societies were static, integrated, self-sustaining systems. An attempt was made to

describe "primitive" or "peasant" cultures, before Western contact changed them, as timeless

cultural constructs untouched, pristine and isolated. "Anthropologists could believe in the static

'ethnographic present' only when we were unaware of the extent to which local cultures are

products of world history" (Kottak and Colson 1994:398).

We were once interested in native rationality, in describing the seeming bizarre "other" as

sensible and intelligent once the local context is understood. Assuming the psychic unity of

humankind, we debated whether the categories of economics as understood in the West could be

applied as pan-human categories. "Formalists" analyzed choice as the product of rational

decisions in the context of limited means. "The crux of the [formalist] approach is the

assumption that individuals in every culture exercise rational choice in a means-ends, constraints,

and opportunities framework" (Plattner 1989:13). The formalists, lead by Raymond Firth (1970)

saw all relationships as exchange relationships, as utilities to be maximized.

The "substantivists," lead by Karl Polanyi (1957) and George Dalton (1961), argued that

non-western societies were qualitatively unique and that the application of Western meta-theories

to these societies unjustly distorted their reality. Substantivists saw the use of the classical

economic paradigm as ethnocentric; such theorizing was either wrong or too simplistic and

irrelevant. They argued that scarcity is not a necessary condition of human society but a

historically derived condition. Scarcity of options grows out of the scarcity of wealth, which is a

direct result of the extractive penetration of Western capitalism. The rational choice paradigm

cannot be universalized because the differences between cultures are too great. With no labor

market and no money, reciprocity and redistribution were considered analytical tools far more

important than market exchange. Instead of focusing on monetary value, anthropologists focused

on the value of production for use rather than production for exchange. Substantivists argued that

"interest," "capital," and "credit" are inappropriate categories for describing band and tribal


Evidence that this debate was never resolved lies in the fact that both of these strains of

thought survive in anthropology today. Critique of nomothetic theorizing lies at the heart of a

good deal of current feminist, Marxist and postmodern anthropology, while stalwarts of cultural

materialism and sociobiology continue the search for appropriate macro-theories. Rational-

choice theorists in anthropology, however, continue to be committed to the neo-classical model of

economics as derived from Smith (1905) and Keynes (1936). Rational choice theorists focus on

prescriptive theories specifying how people should act if they want to make efficient economic

decisions. The fundamental assumption here is that people know what they want and should

maximize their energy to get it (Schneider 1974). People are assumed to be calculating beings

who understand their own values and act with forethought. People are also assumed to have the

necessary knowledge concerning costs, income and yield with respect to their options. It is also

assumed that people have the ability to calculate the maximal choice. So, rational-choice

theorists will speak of opportunity costs or the loss of alternatives due to choices we make. Or

they will refer to diminishing marginal value, where the quantity of input eventually outweighs

quantity of output. Employer-employee relationships are described in purely economic terms.

With confidence in free market capitalism, it is assumed that self-interest will eventually make

the world a better place for all (Friedman 1953).

A strong reaction to the confidence in theories of Western capitalism came from those

committed to the historical materialism of Marx. Anthropologists who borrow from Marx focus

on how history and ideology operate to determine the distribution of wealth and power in a

society. The central focus is on the control over the means of production and the various

stakeholders that are affected by this control. Anthropologists influenced by Marx analyze class

conflict and face head on the contradiction between the ideal that all should be equal and the

reality that society is stratified. Following the work of Maurice Godelier (1986), an important

trend has been the analysis ideology that upholds special interests while appearing to benefit

general concerns. The focus on hegemony shifted the focus in anthropology to issues of politics,

power, hierarchy and inequity.

Godelier's notion of hegemony has allowed social relations to become the center of

economic analysis but not without its critics. Immanuel Wallerstein (1974; 1979) criticized

Godelier and the Marxists for their lack of grounding in history. He argues that individual

economies and cultures are not disconnected from others and that, in many cases, there are direct

and dependent relationships directly responsible for the welfare (or its opposite) of the other. Eric

Wolf showed that power relationships have a face, that specific historically significant people and

institutions are responsible for the underdevelopment of many other parts of the world (1982).

With its focus on the micro and the local, anthropology was spiraling into the self-referential

chaos of historical particularism. For those who were caught in this trap, Wolf and Wallerstein

helped raise the scope of the anthropological lens to view the global interconnectedness of culture

and economics.

Nowhere is the importance of this global perspective in anthropology more obvious than

in the study of fishing communities. And nowhere is anthropology's role in interdisciplinary

conversations more clear. The anthropological analysis of fishers and their communities

embodies the tensions in the history of economic anthropology itself. The smallest of the

traditional fishing communities are by trade dependent on a globally significant resource. Fishing

is often romanticized as a primitive, local trade, yet even the most remote fishing communities

are bound to the consequences of global fishing efforts. Fishing is often atomized as work, and

the embeddedness of this work in the host culture is often ignored.

Anthropologists have become central participants in discussions about how to manage

public natural resources. Researchers committed to understanding the connection between

ecology and culture have developed an interdisciplinary field around the issues involved in the

local and global control over natural resources. James Acheson (1981, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1994),

Eleanor Ostrom (1990) and Bonnie McCay (1987) have lead the way in focusing anthropology's

lens on an issue that forces us to be dependent on multiple disciplines with strands of evidence.

The central theoretical issue in what has come to be known as Common Property Resource

Management stems from Garret Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" argument (1968). The

argument stems in part from the Malthusian assertion that unconstrained freedom to produce

children will result in a population disaster for the world. Hardin used the parable of a pasture

held in common property by a community of herders to show that coercion is necessary to

prevent the destruction of the resource. He tried to show that the need for each person to

maximize the personal gain necessarily leads to the destruction of the common grazing area.

Hardin argued that coercion can be mutually agreed upon but need not be just. Arguing that

injustice is preferable to total ruin, Hardin advocated the use of draconian state intervention into

local affairs.

The Tragedy of the Commons theory assumes that the users of common property

resources are individualistic profit maximizers driven by economic goals to overexploit the

resources on which their livelihood depends, despite the best interests of the society as a whole

(McCay and Acheson 1987). It assumes that the users of these resources have the technical

capacity to exceed the biological maximum renewal rate of the resource. It also assumes that

those using common property resources and the local communities they live in cannot or will not

erect effective institutions to protect the resources they live on. Naming it the Free-rider problem,

theorists challenged the presumption that people would act for the collective if it was known that

such action could bring collective benefit (Olson 1965). Finally, theorists committed to the

Tragedy of the Commons model deduced that the exploitation of collectively owned resources

can be halted only by instituting private property or by the government taking action. Private

property was thought to result in a more efficient use and conservation of resources and greater

increases in wealth than do less exclusive forms of property (Ostrom 1990).

Economic anthropologists have important challenges to make to the assumptions of the

Tragedy of the Commons model. Ostrom argues that what makes these models so powerful is

that they fit many situations around the world. What makes them dangerous is when they are

used as proscriptives, where the huge assumptions are taken on faith as being fixed (Ostrom

1990). Anthropologists have shown that there are institutions that effectively limit exploitation.

Assets are rarely open-access (Berkes 1985). Communally owned property (as opposed to open-

access property) is not automatically subject to overexploitation. This is common in many parts

of Africa where grazing lands are owned by the community, clan or tribe. In many fishing

communities, ownership rights are established formally or informally over "fishing space." The

case of the lobster fishers of Maine has proven how communally "owned" property resulted in

less exploitation and greater economic benefit for those involved; access is far more controlled in

perimeter-defended fishing areas than in nucleated fishing areas (Acheson 1988). Durrenberger

and Palsson's study of Icelandic fishers (1985) show how state and local level resource

management can operate together effectively. The Tragedy of the Commons focuses too narrowly

on property rights. Problems associated with open-access property rights are more closely related

to political economy (issues of population growth, industrialization and the expansion of the

capitalist system and markets). As is the case in South Africa, poverty, underdevelopment and

overpopulation push conservation priorities way down the list on the national agenda.

Maritime Anthropology: A Review of Recent Literature
In the past twenty-five years there have been three pivotal publications that deserve

attention for any student of contemporary maritime anthropology. The first is M. Estellie Smith's

edited volume: Those Who Live from the Sea (1977). Published in the late 1970s her work

included a summary of key debates in the study of fishing communities from an anthropological

perspective. The articles focused on themes such as the organization of life around occupation,

the political economy of small commercial fishing communities, technological change and its

impact on local fishers and the relationship between captain and crew in the context of changing

fisheries and markets.

A second work of pivotal importance is Antonius Robben's Sons of the Sea Goddess

(1986). This work is particularly important because it is one of the first works to clearly

articulate the embedded nature of fishing. While Robben clearly focuses on the business of

fishing in small communities in Brazil, he is more concerned with the social relations involved in

the communities that fish. He shows the interdependence between producers and consumers,

between various stakeholders in the industry and between the fishers and their families.

The third publication of pivotal importance in the history of maritime anthropology is the

journal titled Maritime Anthropology. This journal was published out of the Netherlands and was

discontinued in the early 1990s. It helped to draw together works from diverse perspectives that

were each concerned with fishers, families of fishers and fishing communities. This journal was

in part responsible for promoting a field some called Maritime Anthropology. It provided a good

overview of the debates that dominated the literature in the seventies and eighties. Included

among these debates were the analysis of captain-crew relations, debates over the validity of the

"Tragedy of the Commons" model for commercial fishing, the impact of social change on

commercial fishers and the lessons to be learned about commercial fishers from archeological


More recent works that have become pivotal to our understanding about the organization

of commercial fishing communities and/or have pointed in new directions include works by

Matthiessen (1988), Acheson (1988), Acheson and McCay (1989), Eleanor Ostrom (1990) and

Garrity-Blake (1994). Matthiessen (1988) showed implicitly how power relations are structured

between men in the fishing industry. Although for the most part uncritical in his construction of

gender, Matthiessen highlights the fishing industry as work that deeply resonates with traditional

male roles and aspirations. He is particularly clear about how much male fishers value their

independence and freedom. James Acheson (1988) has shown us how local fishers take control

over the management of their territory and fishing rights. He tells us of a "limited entry" system

developed by local lobstermen to limit competition, protecting the resource and their own

livelihoods. Their limited entry system was reinforced by locally constituted "gangs" and backed

up by threat of violence for violators.

Even more recently Barbara Garrity-Blake's analysis of the North Carolina/Virginia

menhaden industry broadens the scope of analysis (1994). She focused her analytical lens on

historical changes in the industry and the impact of these changes on social conditions. With a

study spanning a hundred years she provided the depth of insight lacking from many earlier

works. Her work also added a new twist in that it focused on the construction of race and the

power relations associated with race. She showed how changing race relations were and were not

reflected in the captain-crew relations in the industry.

Two final pivotal works to be mentioned are Acheson and McCay's edited volume The

Question of the Commons (1989) and Eleanor Ostrom's Managing the Commons (1990). While

both focus on theoretical issues beyond fishing, both are directly focused on the central debates

that have dominated the maritime anthropology literature in the last two and a half decades. Both

discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to what has come to be known as

Common Property Resource Management (CPR). The central concern of CPR is the ecological

health of a region that contains a resource available to anyone. CPR researchers have examined

fisheries, forests, grazing lands, water and air under their microscopes.

Much of the maritime anthropology literature has focused on fishing as a lifestyle,

something more than a job. No work represents this theme better than Antonius Robben's

(1984). His work shows the embeddedness of economic relations. Others have focused on the

culture of fishing in their search for recording the history and emphasizing the heritage of the

commercial fishing lifestyle (Ram 1991, Turner 1991, Smith 1993, Johnson 1995). As an

example, the story of Cortez, a central Florida fishing community, is told by Ben Green (1985).

Another central issue the maritime literature has recently explored is the "skipper effect."

Those interested in the skipper effect devise ways of testing whether the knowledge and skills of

the captain have a significant impact on their success as often defined by the size and frequency

of their catch, independent of other variables such as technology, weather, fishing region, etc.

Durrenberger has worked on this problem and, as with most of the literature so far on this topic,

has concluded that the answer to this problem lies in future research (1993).

Garrity-Blake's work (1994) provides a good example of an anthropological study that

includes an analysis of how technological change affects social relations in the industry. She

shows how the electric spool adopted after World War II not only increased production but

decreased the size of crew needed and the skill needed of those who were hired. This had a

particularly harsh impact on the African-Americans working in the industry. Work yet to be done

in the menhaden industry includes an analysis of the impact of spotter planes on the industry.

Anyone familiar with commercial fishing industries knows that it is an extremely

dangerous occupation. Popular literature and film has recently reminded us of the immediate

dangers of an unpredictable ocean (Junger 1997; this book was also made into a motion picture).

Some social scientists have used this context to gain understanding in how humans approach and

cope with risk. Pollnac and Poggie's work (1995, 1998) on the Icelandic fisheries measures what

people are willing to do, how much risk they are willing to take and how high the benefits have to

be for the different levels of risk. An interesting observation in their findings is that the benefits

from fishing for which people are willing to risk heavy stakes are not necessarily material. They

include personal motivations like a sense of worth or purpose.

Some of the most recent work has focused on the gendered division of labor in the fishing

industry. Works like Matthiessen's ( lu u would lead us to believe that the fishing industry is

dominated by men. Thompson (1985), Nadel-Klein and Davis (1988), Smith and Jepson (1993)

and Smith, Jepson and Lee (1993) have shown us the complex division of labor common in

commercial fishing families. They have shown that for women there is, in part, a complex blend

of traditional gender roles (e.g. mother, teacher, nurturer, housekeeper) and non-traditional roles

(marketing, sales, breadwinner, head-of-household, business manager). Further work needs to be

done in this area to see how and why these roles vary, how they vary with different types of

fisheries and how changes in the fisheries are reflected in changing gender roles in the home. But

it is also important to study how each gender constructs expectations for the other.

Gaps in the knowledge base of maritime anthropology include the following issues:

* What are the boundaries of a fishing community?
Can this be determined by economic or industrial relations alone?
-Can community be better defined by a less-geographically centered analysis?
What is the connection between the fishers and the local community?
How do fishers construct their own sense of community?
* How do race and ethnicity play a role in structuring relations among commercial fishers?
What impact do race relations play in structuring the networks of commercial fishers?
How do the small entrepreneurial businesses reflect the racial stereotyping and biases of
the society in general and what effect does this have on access to the industry?
How is race/ethnicity used as a tool in the competition over fishing rights?
* What role does the construction of gender play in organizing social relations in the industry?
How and why do men construct fishing as a particularly male form of work?
What do gender relations in the fishing industry tell us about the classical distinction
between the formal and informal economy?

One of my objectives is to address the latter two of these gaps in the maritime anthropology


Very few anthropological or sociological studies have been done on the fishing

communities in South Africa, and even fewer on the activity of fishing itself. Most studies in the

1990s developed out of the need to understand the redistribution of fisheries resources in light of

the changing political landscape. The most notable study was De Wet Schutte's (1993) study of

thirteen fishing communities on the Western Cape coast. Schutte was commissioned by the

Department of Environmental Affairs, the Welfare Department and the African National

Congress to collect baseline data with an eye towards improving pending community

development projects. One of his most interesting findings was the diversity of the fishing

communities on the Western Cape coast. He challenges the notion of "the West Coast fishing

community," preferring instead to speak of "those in the fishing industry on the West Coast" or

"those fishers who live in coastal communities" (1993:107). He found that the homogenized

image of fishing communities did not accurately reflect the stark differences he found between

different communities; each had a unique identity and unique day-to-day problems.

Another significant finding in Schutte's work relates to race relations in the coastal

communities. He found that the further the communities along the coast were from Cape Town,

the worse the relationship between local white and coloured residents. When making

recommendations for the implementation of community development programs he recommended

that the local political dynamics in each community be taken into account, including the racial

dynamics as they differ from community to community.

In the last few years there have been some promising developments in research on fishers

and their communities. Two notable master's theses, Isaacs (1998) and Lindsay (1999) analyzed

how local fishers perceived and responded to their social, political and natural environment.

Lindsay's qualitative study investigated and described the perceptions of the fishery resource held

by commercial and recreational fishers in the town of Struisbaai. Though her research employed

a range of methods, including informant interviewing, participant observation, and the use of

secondary data, her findings were based primarily on a series of in-depth interviews with

individual fishers in Struisbaai. Her paper described the ways in which commercial and

recreational fishers in Struisbaai "perceive, conceptualize, and ultimately use the fishery

resource" and explores "the fishers' perceptions of the resource as they are informed by

Apartheid's psychological and social legacies" (1999:i).

4 ,,

Fgure I HjndJl, n FI i, rn ,i n Pulbnh Sn-.rekl nic. ihr Ski-Boat
source: Stibbe and Moss (1998)

Moeniba Isaacs' master's project (1998) took on the form of a report to the University of

the Western Cape's School of Government. She highlighted the conflicts facing the fishing

industry in South Africa exemplified in the fishing communities of Ocean View, Hout Bay and

Kalk Bay. In analyzing the various stakeholders such as the government, the fishing industry,

organized interests (unions) and the unorganized interests (local communities), her research

stressed the conflicts of maintaining stability versus redistribution (how to achieve

empowerment), empowering fisher folk (share holding schemes versus local capacity building),

and managing the marine resource (National fisheries management versus local community

management). She specifically referred to theories of co-management and a historical overview

of the fishing industry in South Africa that sketched the background to the processes leading to

the White Paper up to the passing of the Marine Fisheries Bill (later to become the Marine Living

Resource Act).

Aside from the political transformation of the fishing industry, the most publicized

activity in the fishing industry during the late 1990s is the poaching of abalone and rock lobster.

Significant work has been done on studying these activities and the impact of these activities on

local coastal communities (Hauck 1999; Hauck and Hector 2000). Supported by the University

of Cape Town's Institute of Criminology, Hauck and Hector have gone to considerable lengths to

understand how local fishers conceptualize the management of marine species and their

willingness to participate in such management. The strength of their research is in its

ethnographic detail. They move the theoretical discussions of co-management and other fisheries

management paradigms from the classroom to the communities where fishers live.

An important piece of research was funded by the government's Department of Marine

and Coastal Management and involved a survey of subsistence fishers and fisheries all along the

South African coast (Clark 2000). Although lacking in ethnographic detail, the scope of this

project was impressive and provided conceptual tools useful for future research. Subsistence

fishers all along the South African coast were surveyed about their socioeconomic status,

resource harvesting techniques, activities and aspirations. The study was intended to provide

MCM with a baseline to understand subsistence fisheries in order to know how to better

implement subsistence fisheries management plans. A key finding in this research was an


identification of the diversity of activities that can be defined as subsistence fishing. Researchers

involved in this project found that there was too large of a conceptual gap between "subsistence

fisher" and "commercial fisher" and recommended an intermediate category, the small-scale

commercial fisher. It is the fishers in this intermediate category, the small-scale commercial

handline fishers on the roaming ski-boats, who take center stage in the analysis that follows.


' See Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970) for a description of this
transition in history.

2 For a critique of this book, see Gates (1999).

3 Throughout the dissertation I place categorical racial labels in the lower case, except where used
as part of a title. Given my position that these categories are socially constructed and historically
situated, the lower case indicates that these labels are neither proper nouns nor deserving of
codified titular status.


Understanding the Ethnographic "Other"

A Methodological Journey

Despite the ever-shifting boundaries and elusive meanings of"postmodernism," it is

possible to point out some of the more helpful and some of the more dangerous paths down which

influential "postmoderist" thinkers are moving and, more specifically, the value of this

movement for writing ethnography. In its recognition that all representations of the "other" are

inherently political and in its emphasis on the provisional nature of cultural interpretation,

postmodernism leads down a fruitful path. This journey down fruitful paths continues as

postmodernists bring to light, together with feminist influences in anthropology, the need for

reflexivity in writing ethnography. When postmodernists lead us down the road of subjectivist

epistemological obscurity and ill-defined moralism, the road gets all too rocky. In their denial of

relative objectivity as a goal for ethnographic description, postmodernists take us further down

the road to an analytical black hole. Postmodernism also leads down the rocky road of

narcissistic solipsism when the sole purpose, or even the dominant purpose, of the ethnography is

the reflexive examination of the author's own position in the research. By focusing on questions

raised by postmodern anthropologists, it is possible to show that the centripetal forces of

postmoderism and the centrifugal tendencies of the scientific enterprise have the potential for

complementary existence.

The anthropologist steps off the plane into the exotic land of the "other." Social

philosophers and researchers have long been concerned with understanding and communicating

the ideas and behaviors of people groups different (often radically) from their own. The history

of cultural anthropology as an academic discipline is the history of research that helps the "other"

become familiar. But as the world is made smaller through mass communication, rapidly

advancing communication technology and the increasing ease of international transportation, the

"other" is no longer so unfamiliar. The cultural diversity that the anthropologist once had to

bring home in his briefcase is now an integral part of our own neighborhoods. The boundaries

between the "we" that study and the "they" that are being studied are breaking down while, at the

same time, new social categories are being formed. I believe it is with the analytical tools that

cultural anthropology provides that we can best come to understand the dynamics of these

changing social categories.

The typical product of the cultural anthropologist's research takes on the form of an

ethnography. An ethnography is a text in which a portrait, sometimes even a masterpiece, of a

particular group of people is painted. Alongside other functions, writing ethnography (as

dissertation, professional articles or monograph) serves as a form of academic capital, a rite du

passage to the scholarly world of anthropology, an expected entry on the curriculum vitae of the

aspiring tenure track professor. As such, the ethnography becomes an intellectual product on the

publishing assembly line.

Any discussion of methodology (epistemology) cannot be wrested from the academic

context in which anthropologists are trained. Sally Cole notes that she "went about the task of

producing an ethnography that would pass the examining board that would license [her] as a

professional anthropologist" (1992:118). The anthropological dissertation, "typically a

straightforward analytical and descriptive account from fieldwork, is the ethnography that most

anthropologists must write. Since the granting of professional credentials has depended on its

evaluation, it has tended to be a conservative exercise" (Marcus 1986:265).

Taking its cue from contemporary literary theory, cultural anthropologists have had to

reexamine their discipline in light of critiques increasingly being labeled postmodern. But for

one in the process of deciding which methodologies prove to be most useful, questions raised by

postmoderists are cause for examination, not reexamination. To discuss postmodernism is like

taking a journey with no prescribed destination, no directions and a thousand back-seat drivers

(pardon the hyperbole). No one knows quite where it is going, how one will get there or who is

giving directions. The multiplicity of interpretations of postmodernism is evidence that it is a

highly contested theoretical domain. Postmodernism is like an amoeba with flexible boundaries

and often directionless movement. Those who claim to be postmoderists are often willing to

ingest any theoretical or methodological tidbit that may advance their cause. However, despite

the ever-shifting boundaries and elusive meanings of"postmodernism," it is possible to point out

some of the more helpful and some of the more dangerous paths down which influential

"postmodernist" thinkers are moving and, more importantly, the value of this movement for

cultural anthropology.

Preparing for the Trip

As with any other academic discipline, cultural anthropology is involved in the

production of knowledge, and the ethnographic text is our most common academic product.

Anthropologists are in a continuing dialogue over the goals for the ethnographic representation of

culture. Should ethnographic description aim at the interpretation of the individual's symbolic

representations of her world, or should ethnographic description aim at providing valid

generalizations about cultural phenomena? Are these two goals mutually exclusive?

Furthermore, anthropologists are in disagreement over what the relationship should be between

the researcher and the subjects studied. How explicit should the details of this relationship be

made in the ethnography, and to what extent should the ethnography reflect the dialogue between

the anthropologist and his informantss? These are questions of methodology (epistemology),

i.e., questions regarding the assumptions behind the process of writing ethnography, questions

that reveal how we know what we say we know.

Russ Bernard (1994) makes a broad distinction between two epistemologies dominant in

cultural anthropology: interpretivist and positivist. He makes an important distinction between

epistemology (methodology) and methods. "Positivists and interpretivists may disagree on

matters of epistemology," Bernard says, "but when we talk about methods at the level of strategy

and technique, methods belong to all of us" (1994:169). One's methodology consists of the body

of assumptions that informs and directs the methods (strategies and techniques) we use in

research. The primary questions that drive our research both inform and are informed by these

assumptions. Although placing himself firmly within the logical positivist tradition, Bernard

believes that

all anthropologists need a thorough grounding in the various approaches to knowledge
that have characterized our discipline. This means exposure of all students, whatever
their initial predilections, to the philosophical foundations of structuralism, symbolism,
interpretivism, hermeneutics, phenomenology, positivism and empiricism. (1994:174)

Although the dominant debate in the discipline throughout the last three decades of the twentieth

century has been between positivists (e.g. Kuznar 1997) and interpretivists (e.g. Geertz 1973,

1988), the debate has escalated where the battle lines are drawn between those committed to a

scientific, empiricist epistemology and those intent on deconstructing the foundations for the

scientific enterprise itself, i.e., a postmodernist epistemology.

Michael Agar envisions the current debate in anthropology between the postmodernists

and those committed to the scientific, empiricist method as a war in which there is, as with most

wars, more destruction than anything else. In The Professional Stranger he notes that it is "high

time for some peace negotiations" (1996:4), and I would have to agree. My work is not a

comparison and contrast between scientific method and postmodernist critique. This chapter is

not intended to give a full documentation of the scientific epistemology followed by a full

articulation of the postmodernist critique. This sketch is less ambitious. Rather than facilitate the

destructive polarization often reflected in such generalized comparisons, I will aim a more

constructive lens at postmodernism.

Postmoderism includes a set of critical epistemological or methodological tools that

direct the writer (and reader) to challenge established ways of representing, or writing, culture.

More specifically, postmodernism emphasizes the radical heterogeneity of culture and the

"decline of ideological hegemony in politics and social life" (Dickens and Fontana 1994:4).

Regarding cultural anthropology, postmodernism aims its strongest critique at its most popular

contribution to academic inquiry: the ethnography as a re-presentation and interpretation of

culture, or more specifically, the ethnographer as re-presenter and interpreter ofculture. Yet

there are more helpful (fruitful) paths and more dangerous (rocky) roads down which

postmodernism can lead cultural anthropology. For my own research, I will take the more fruitful

paths and steer clear of the rocky roads.

I will discuss these fruitful paths and rocky roads in this essay. In its recognition that all

representations of the "other" are inherently political, postmoderism leads down a fruitful path.

The re-presentations of the ethnographer both contribute to and are affected by relations of

power. The power relations that affect the writing of ethnography occur in the academic world of

the anthropologist, in the socio-political world of those being studied and in the interchange

brought about by the contact of these two worlds. In its emphasis on the contextualized nature of

cultural interpretation, postmodernism leads down another fruitful path. When postmodernism

leads down the road ofsubjectivist epistemological obscurity and ill-defined moralism, it leads

down a dangerous road. The radical subjectivism of the deconstructionist agenda ultimately

denies the potential for comparison among groups; in its attempt to highlight ambiguities,

difference and discontinuity, postmoderism forgets that there are also regularities, patterns and

discernable intracultural continuity.

Vehicle Inspection

As the Ecclesiastical philosophers recognized, there is nothing new under the sun

(Ecclesiastes Chapter 1). This proverb also applies to anthropology as a discipline: "In

anthropology we are continuously slaying paradigms, only to see them return to life, as if

discovered for the first time" (Wolf 1994:220). According to Roy Rappaport:

Two traditions have proceeded in anthropology since its inception. One, objective in its
aspirations and inspired by the biological sciences, seeks explanations and is concerned
to discover causes, or even, in the view of the ambitious, laws. The other, influenced by
philosophy, linguistics, and the humanities, and open to more subjectively derived
knowledge, attempts interpretations and seeks to elucidate meanings. (1984:154)

Citing continental philosophers, social theorists and literary critics such as Paul Ricoeur (1971),

Jacques Derrida (1972, 1978), Michel Foucault (1980a, 1980b), Jean Baudrillard (1981), Jean-

Francois Lyotard (1984), Pierre Bourdieu (1987), and Jurgen Habermas (1987), postmodernists

reflect this second tradition. In postmodernism we hear the strong echoes of Robert Lowie's

famous statement that culture (civilization) is a "thing of shreds and patches" (1920:441).

Subjectivity is prized over objectivity. The particular is given primacy over the general.

Postmodernism "remains more a socio-cultural theory than a set of epistemological and

discursive principles" (Agger 1992:109). The distinctions between post-structuralism and

postmodernism are difficult to determine. "One would have to engage in purposely simplifying

taxonomy of names and their intellectual contributions in order to map the terrain of post-

structural and postmodern cultural studies adequately-and even then the map would blur some

crucial points of difference" (Agger 1992:109). Such a map is beyond the scope of this essay.

However, as Dickens and Fontana highlight, not all who consider themselves postmodemists (i.e.,

critics of modernism) would fully embrace Derrida's style of deconstructionism (Dickens and

Fontana 1994). Yet, in its emphasis on culture and, in fact, all of reality as text, deconstruction is

inseparable from the postmodernist agenda. Deconstruction involves:

the attempt to take apart and expose the underlying meanings, biases and preconceptions
that structure the way a text conceptualizes its relation to what it describes. This requires
that traditional concepts, theory, and understanding surrounding a text be unraveled,
including the assumption that an author's intentions and meanings can be easily
determined. (Denzin 1994:184)

Deconstruction provides the critical tools for postmodernism to challenge representations of the

"other" in ethnographic texts.

Fruitful Paths and Rocky Roads

One helpful path down which postmodernism steers anthropology is the recognition that

all representations of the "other" (as the product of research) are inherently political, which in this

case is defined in the broadest sense as the power to influence decision making. Representations

of culture are inherently political because culture itself is a contested domain. We can no longer

speak of "the Nuer" or "the Andaman Islanders" without acknowledging the intracultural

variation, the diverse and often competing voices each claiming a stake in what it means to be

Nuer or Andaman. Deeply indebted to Foucault's notion that knowledge and power exist in a

dynamic, interactive relationship (1980b), postmodernism recognizes the need to deconstruct

hegemonic representations of culture that operate to effectively oppress certain portions of

society. These power relations are commonly divided along the lines of age, class, gender and

race, among others. The search for statistically significant patterns of thought and behavior (the

core agenda of positivist anthropology) has its limitations in that it focuses on dominant

representations, the most politically influential persons, hegemonic rather than subaltern forces,

the core rather than the periphery. If one is intent on deconstructing and redefining the core-

periphery debate, statistical probabilities can only take you so far. Postmodernism points to the

need to create a space for under-represented voices. And as Agar so insightfully recognizes,

Ethnography is populist to the core, in this sense-skeptical of the distant institutions that
control local people's lives; certain of the fact that the best society is built from the
participation of its members in decisions that affect them; aggravated by injustices
caused by distant institutions that force people to live in worlds not of their own making.

A second fruitful path down which postmoderism has redirected' cultural anthropology

is an emphasis on the provisional nature of cultural interpretation. As all culture is constantly

changing, representations rely on changing contexts. Both the ethnographer and the people who

are studied are influenced by historically (politically, socially, economically) situated

circumstances as, for example, Evans-Pritchard's research for writing The Nuer was influenced

by the support he gained from the Sudanese government, or simply the fact that he was an upper-

class, white male British researcher, or the reality of pending civil war in 1939. Postmodernism

highlights the need to recognize the historical contingency of cultural interpretations.

Postmodernism challenges the "definitiveness" of the ethnographer's representation and

deconstructs the role the ethnographer in "writing culture" (Clifford and Marcus 1986).

In an attempt to practice what they preach, postmodernists promote reflexivity in

ethnographic writing. The ethnographic "other" has been the under-represented voice in the

classical ethnographies (e.g. Radcliffe-Brown's The Andaman Islanders (1922) or Evans-

Pritchard's The Nuer (1940). Sally Cole believes that contemporary ethnography should be a

"collaboration" between her and the groups) with whom she is working. She is an advocate for a

"contemporary ethnography wherein anthropologists self-consciously attempt to acknowledge

their presence and integrate their personal experience or political consciousness in the writing of

ethnography itself' (Cole 1992:115). This acknowledgment and integration is called

"reflexivity." Explicit reflection on the observer-observed relationship is an integral part of a

reflexive ethnography. The anthropologist not only places those studied in their historical

(economic, political and social) context but analyzes their own historical context and how their

position relates to the ones being studied. Reflexive ethnographers often include verbatim

dialogue with particular informants in an attempt to place interpretive power in the hands of the

informants. They are known for their use of the first person narrative in the life histories

(individuals or groups) and for the personal narratives of anthropologists, where the

anthropologist is studied as subject (Crapanzano 1980, Dwyer and Muhammad 1982, Behar

1993, McClaurin 1996).

Reflexivity can be taken to an extreme. Consider the soliloquized comments of Malcolm

Ashmore, a sociologist being reflexive about reflexivity.

In order not to be scientific, one must be outside science; but to study science or anything
else from the outside is to be scientific. Therefore, in order to study science

unscientifically one must abandon objectivity and study it from the inside. But to be
inside science means to be scientific. And therefore... (Ashmore 1989:109)

His point is not to destroy the goal of objectivity in science but to problematize it. He concludes

not that we should throw out objectivity but that "in the study of science (and knowledge

practices generally) the student cannot avoid being inside and outside at the same time"

(Ashmore 1989:109). The danger of hyper-reflexivity is that we will be like the sixth century

monastic Hesychasts, believing that navel-gazing will bring us closer to our goal. Consider one

of the anthropologists representative of the postmodern ethnographers, James Clifford. "The

other for Clifford is the anthropological representation of the other" (Rabinow 1986:242).

Although it is essential to critique the way we represent others in our ethnographies and to

acknowledge our own position in the ethnography, the ethnography is not an autobiography. I

want my ethnography to say something important about someone else.

Another of the dangerous roads to which a postmodern perspective leads anthropology

stems from postmodernism's marriage with Derrida's style of deconstruction. "A deconstructive

cultural studies does not linger very long in the land of nomenclature, taxonomy, glossaries or

conceptual refinements as if these events could somehow take place outside of the con-texts

within which everything is subsumed under the rule of undecidability" (Agger 1992:110).

Derrida built on de Saussure's insight that language consists of a system of relations among

arbitrary signs whose meanings are defined by the differences that set them apart from one

another. Derrida challenged all claims to knowledge that do not recognize the constantly shifting

nature of representations of reality, since representations of reality are all that we can

approximate (Dickens and Fontana 1994:1-24; 183-202).

Ben Agger (1992) explores the contributions of"poststructuralism" (deconstruction) and

"postmodernism" to the emerging tradition of postmodernist cultural studies. A critique of this

deconstruction, or postmoderism in general, is at one level futile given the self-proclaimed

aversion to theoretical constructs and the distrust of authoritative definitions in postmodern

cultural studies. As Agger notes, "Deconstructive cultural studies... is especially capable of

theorizing its shifting, evolving nature, resisting fixed definitions at every turn" (1992:109). Yet,

it is still possible to judge the internal consistency between various claims made by those

promoting postmodern cultural studies. One question that needs to be asked of the postmodern

agenda is this: are the methods of Derrida's deconstruction consistent with the political aims

claimed central to a postmodern cultural interpretation?

In order to construct postmodern cultural studies as something more than deconstruction,

Agger proposes a constructive political aim for postmodernism. Agger hopes to do more than

highlight hidden assumptions and inconsistencies. He wants to shift "the cultural-political

balance of power" (1992:101). The political agenda of Agger's postmodernism is clear: to

destroy the authority of "positivist cultural empiricism" (1992:94) or "mainstream positivist

sociologists of culture" (1992:97). But if Agger's aim is solely destructive, the end result would

be nihilism. Agger attempts to posit a constructive aim for postmodernism, i.e., "restoring the

value of marginalia" and non-hegemonic interpretations of culture. But is deconstruction

consistent with this aim?

Cultural study "intervenes in the cultural field... as a subversion of unchallenged authorial

privilege" (1992:97). But cultural study, as interpreted by Agger, cannot ultimately make use of

deconstruction to meet its political aims. If, by exposing hidden forms of power, the critic is to

provide voice and power for those left out of the "mainstream," they soon become part of the

power center themselves. The center may have shifted, but hegemony itself continues. In

attempting to "restore the value of marginalia" (1992:107), deconstructive cultural criticism

creates a new center. This center may be formed of novel ideas and may empower persons

formerly marginalized, but the marginalized soon become the hegemony. Consider the "gods" of

postmodernism themselves. Although they would certainly deny the status of authority for

themselves, persons like Derrida, Foucault, Bourdeau, De Saussaure and Adorno are consistently

invoked in "postmodern" literature for their critical acumen (dare I say theoretical position?).

Although Agger states that "poststructuralism and postmodernism oppose their

methodologization" (1992:94), he reflects a contradiction inherent to postmodernism when he

states that "Derridian cultural studies.., has devoted much more attention to the development of

critical method than to the building of substantive social and cultural theory that functions

politically" (1992:108). Deconstruction itself is methodological while claiming no methodology.

It is theoretical while claiming an aversion to theory-building. It centers discussion on the

continual process of analysis of text while claiming decentralization as its aim. Deconstruction

leaves a "vacancy of meaning that needs to be filled" (1992:102) but leaves us not only without

the tools to fill the vacancy but ultimately without the possibility of filling the vacancy. In trying

to fill this vacancy with a constructive political aim, if Agger is not open to the criticisms of

Derrida himself, then he contradicts the deconstructive methodology. The alternative is to remain

in a continual process of deconstruction upon deconstruction upon deconstruction. The methods

of Derridia's deconstruction are inconsistent with the political aims claimed central to a

postmodern cultural interpretation.

Derrida's style of deconstruction extrapolates on the reality of historical conditioning,

mentioned above as a fruitful enterprise, to the extreme of epistemological obscurity, a rocky road

too dangerous to travel. Following the logic of deconstruction, since no knowledge or

understanding of the "other" is possible, i.e., only interpretations upon interpretations, the best

that ethnographers can do is to deconstruct the variables that influence (or bias) their own

interpretation of reality and their interpretations of the "other." The tendency of this intense

subjectivity is to degenerate the study of culture to the level of psychoanalysis, negating any real

possibility for comparative research. While deconstructionists like Mark C. Taylor (1984) are

enjoying the infinite wandering of exploring interpretation upon interpretation (a process he calls

trace), the cultural anthropologist needs to move on to explore the differences and similarities

between groups of people. "The new ethnography turns a blind eye courtesy of its own ideology

here, I think. They're so committed to the complexity, ambiguity, subversion and relativity of

any given moment that they lose sight ofpatternized variation that regularly occurs" (Agar


There is another dangerous road down which postmodernism leads the ethnographer. In

their eagerness to emphasize the subjective nature of reality and to describe culture as a contested

domain, postmodernists have lost sight of (and often attacked) objectivity as a goal for research

(Clifford and Marcus 1986). The goal should not be to destroy the desire for validity and

reliability in research (i.e., the two key components of scientific objectivity) but to reexamine

who determines what is valid and reliable and for what purpose. Even those who most fervently

preach the gospel of a positivist commitment to the scientific method do not claim access to

absolute TRUTH but rather emphasize provisional truths. Striving for explanations, or

interpretations, that others can agree upon does not negate the possibility for amplifying the

voices of the marginalized.

Geertz believes that there is no substitute for local knowledge,

But maps and charts may still be useful, and tables, tales, pictures, and descriptions, even
theories, if they attend to the actual, as well. The uses of ethnography are mainly
ancillary, but they are nonetheless real; like the composing of dictionaries or the grinding
of lenses, it is, or would be, an enabling discipline. And what it enables, when it does so,
is a working contact with a variant subjectivity. It places particular we's among
particular they's, and they's among we's; where all, as I have been saying, already are,
however uneasily. (1994:463)

"Objectivity means becoming aware of one's biases, and transcending them, not the lack of any

biases.... Striving for objectivity is important even if perfect objectivity is unobtainable"

(Bernard 1994:172). In taking anthropology down the road of particularist, subjectivist

descriptions, postmodernists may lead down a road they themselves wish to avoid. Ethnography

can be the great enemy of ethnocentrism, "of confining people to cultural planets where the only

ideas they need to conjure with are 'those around here,' not because it assumes people are all

alike, but because it knows how profoundly they are not and how unable yet to disregard one

another" (Geertz 1994:463).

A final rocky road to avoid when exploring the usefulness of postmodernism for cultural

anthropology is its tendency to moralize without articulating clear moral principles.

Postmodemism provides a moral agenda: to alleviate oppression. Yet the objects of oppression

are not clearly identified; who is it that is oppressed and in what ways? As mentioned above, a

strength of the postmodern perspective for cultural anthropology is its recognition of the need to

deconstruct hegemonic representations of culture that operate to effectively oppress certain

portions of society. Race, class and gender are invoked as core variables that contribute to this

oppression (or hegemony). But postmoderism has the dangerous potential of becoming the very

thing it critiques. It has the potential of becoming the arbiter of the hegemonic discourse, rather

than the critic. When creating space for under-represented voices, what prevents the under-

represented voices from becoming the hegemonic voices? Postmodernism provides critical tools

to deconstruct the composition (definition) of power relations but has yet to define guidelines for

reconstructing power relations in a manner that will ultimately result in a more even distribution

of power. Moreover, it is not clear whether equity is even an important goal for postmodernists

to pursue; for some the whole academic enterprise is nothing but an academic interpretive game.

Navigating Between Scylla and Charybdis

The discipline of cultural anthropology is in crisis over how to define its core product, the

ethnography. As an attempt to apply the critiques brought to the writing of ethnography by

postmodernism, consider this comparison of a classic ethnography, E.E. Evans-Pritchard's The

Nuer, with one example of an ethnography influenced by postmodernism: Vincent Crapanzano's

Tuhami. More specifically, attention is given to their differing approaches to the relationship

between the general and the specific, between theory and text, between generalizations and the

phenomena of experience. An argument is made for the necessarily interactive nature between

both the theoretical poles (theory and text) and the relational poles (anthropologist and

informant). This comparison is intended to neither oversimplify nor dichotomize differences

among ethnographic approaches. A comparison and contrast between Evans-Pritchard's The

Nuer (1940) and Crapanzano's Tuhami (1980) will reveal some of the fundamental issues with

which current graduate students intent on ethnographic production must wrestle.

As mentioned above, cultural anthropology is involved in the production of knowledge,

and the ethnographic text is our most common academic product. Anthropologists continue to

dialogue over the goals for writing ethnography. Strong lines of preference are drawn around

whether ethnographic description should aim at the interpretation of the individual's symbolic

representations of her world or if ethnographic analysis should aim at providing valid

generalizations about cultural phenomena. Furthermore, anthropologists are in disagreement over

what the relationship should be between the researcher and the subjects studied. There is

considerable debate over how explicit the details of this relationship should be made in writing

ethnography, and to what extent the ethnography should reflect the dialogue between the

anthropologist and his informantss. A comparison of The Nuer and Tuhami should help

illustrate these particular issues.

Doing his research in the 1930s, Evans-Pritchard was at the cutting edge of British social

anthropology, following in the footsteps of his mentor, A.R. Radcliffe-Brown. Radcliffe-Brown,

and consequently Evans-Pritchard, saw the goal of ethnographic research as the systematic

analysis of the structures of society and how such structures functioned in the context of other

such social structures. Radcliffe-Brown was famous for his analysis of kinship structures and

how such structures could predict behavior. Reacting to what he perceived was an extreme

particularism in the Boasians, Radcliffe-Brown sought comparative sociological laws that could

explain similarities among cultures and account for differences. Evans-Pritchard believed in his

mentor's approach and set out to prove the effectiveness of his theories through extensive field

research. His goals are articulated in the introduction of The Nuer "We first describe the

interrelation of territorial segments within a territorial, or political, system and then the relation of

other social systems to this system" (1940:4). Evans-Pritchard believed that social structures

existed and sought to fill carefully reasoned structural-functional categories with the necessary

ethnographic content, thereby adding validity and reliability to the theory. The goal of The Nuer

was not only to describe "the ways in which a Nilotic people obtain their livelihood, and their

political institutions" (1940:3) but also to provide research that supported a structural-

functionalist theoretical paradigm. He was specifically intent on providing valid generalizations

about cultural structures.

Evans-Pritchard's work was controlled by a deductive analysis of social situations. Intent

on providing an understanding ofNuer culture, the specific was subsumed under the general, the

individual understood only in the context of the group. Rather than describing the experiences of

specific, identified individuals, Evans-Pritchard attempted to explain Nuer culture by defining, for

example, the structure of kinship and providing examples to support the definitions. Although in

the introduction he related some of the struggles he had in finding regular, consistent informants,

Evans-Pritchard masked the voices of his informants in the omniscient ethnographic "we,"

relating information about the Nuer from an authoritative position. In order to obtain the kind of

quality detail that he did, Evans-Pritchard had to have had numerous strong informants. But the

identity of these informants remains beyond confirmation from the text provided.

Writing four decades later than Evans-Pritchard, Crapanzano reflects the influence of

such anthropological icons as Clifford Geertz, Nancy Munn, James Clifford and George Marcus.

Disillusioned with the attempt to fit cultural phenomena into preconceived theoretical constructs

(constructed by academics), Crapanzano's mentors seek to deconstruct the relationship between

anthropologist and informant in an attempt to provide a voice for the subjects of their research.

These theorists are interested in highlighting the active role researchers play in the representation

of the "other." The central goal of Crapanzano's ethnography is to examine the way in which the

researcher and subject interact to produce a "negotiated reality" (1980:x). Taking an explicitly

psychoanalytic approach,23 Crapanzano examines in great detail the way in which Tuhami uses

symbols in his creation of reality.4

The fulcrum of analysis for Crapanzano is the subjective experience of the individual.

He attempts an inductive ethnography, starting from the phenomena of mutual experience

between himself and Tuhami and building generalizations about Tuhami and his cultural context.

In contrast to Evans-Pritchard, where details were provided in support of generalizations,

Crapanzano attempts to show generalizations can be built from a particular life history

(autobiography). He believes that Tuhami's tale "carries implicitly, if not explicitly, the

Moroccan values, interpretational vectors, patterns of association, ontological presuppositions,

spatiotemporal orientations, and etymological horizons that are embedded in his idiom" (1980:7).

At times Crapanzano speaks with informative authority and at times allows the evocative voice of

Tuhami to come through relatively uninterpreted (1980:14, 27-72, 91-130, 155-172).

The Nuer is a classic example (although a bit outdated) of the ethnography that attempts

to make valid generalizations about cultural phenomena. The relationship between the

ethnographer and the "informants" remains implicit. Evans-Pritchard chose to include neither

lengthy quotations from informants nor direct dialogue with them in this ethnography. Tuhami is

an example of an ethnography that is intent on interpreting the life of an individual as symbolic

representations of reality. The relationship between the ethnographer and the individual studied

is explicitly stated throughout the book.5 The former ethnography moves from the general to

understand the specific, from the theory to understanding the data, from generalizations about

livelihood and political institutions to the details of Nuer existence. The latter ethnography

moves from the specific to the general, from one man's life to an understanding of life in

Morocco, eschewing theoretical formulations.

Unfortunately, neither approach is entirely satisfactory. Evans-Pritchard's ability to

present the dominant, patriarchal political and economic systems is admirable. However, his lack

of attention to intra-cultural variation and to the representation of minority voices must be

criticized, albeit as much a product of his generation of anthropology as a weakness in his

method. In this work I get an understanding of how resources were controlled at the macro level

yet remain unconvinced that the structures presented represent the majority of"the Nuer." Little

attention is given to the structural roles for women or for those without access to political and

economic resources. Evans-Pritchard falls into the trap of forcing the round pegs of Nuer

experience into the square holes of structural analysis. And what I learn about the ethnographer

from this work, I learn from reading between the lines (or the very short introduction). This

approach can be improved upon by increased attention to under-represented forces and by making

more explicit the relationship between the ethnographer and the ones being studied.

Tuhami: Portrait of a Moroccan is just that: an interpretation of one Moroccan's unique

existence. One strength of this book is its ability to represent the multiple levels of reality from

which Tuhami makes sense of his life in Morocco. From this I learn a little about a man named

Tuhami and a little about an anthropologist named Crapanzano. The reflexivity of this work

stands as not one of many agendas but perhaps the central agenda. I learn very little about

Morocco or Moroccan culture and quite a lot about Crapanzano, the anthropologist. Cultural

interpretation is reduced to the most subjective form of psychological inquiry: psychoanalysis.

What generalizations are made are not done so by providing evidence but by reference to the

conversation between the ethnographer and the individual. Other than such references, the reader

must rely on the generalizations and interpretation given by Crapanzano himself. Crapanzano's

attempt to place the ethnographic authority back in the hands of the "other" has collapsed in on


A Case for Relative Objectivity

Objectivity, reliability and validity are laudable goals for the social researcher to target,

even if they are ultimately unattainable. Kirk and Miller (1986) believe that systematic

quantitative and qualitative social research can provide analytical tools that, while they are not to

be taken as absolute criteria, are tools that get at greater approximations of truth in research. This

provisional truth is ideally the kind of knowledge that is open to public scrutiny, testability and

falsifiability. Objectivity "refers to taking an intellectual risk-the risk of being demonstrably

wrong" (Kirk and Miller 1986:10). But if someone wants to prove the researcher wrong, he

would have to do so on the terms as defined by the community of scholars. If validity and

reliability are not absolute, someone must be responsible for defining the acceptable levels. If the

community of scholars is responsible for setting the standards that data must meet, then the

authority of valid and reliable (i.e., objective) research findings rests in the hands of the

community of scholars, not simply some abstract methodology we call science.

One of the things that makes cultural anthropologists different from tourists is the attempt

to collect information about people systematically. The social researcher wants to do more than

observe and enjoy, although both observation and enjoyment are hopefully a part of the research

process. Cultural anthropologists record their observations, interpret their observations in light of

others who also study issues similar to those they have studied (i.e., a community of scholars) and

attempt to communicate their findings in a language best understood by this community of

scholars. Irrespective of other forms in which anthropologists want to communicate their

findings (e.g. as reports to development agencies, political petitions for local community activists,

screen plays, historical archival records, etc.), academic anthropologists need to communicate

their findings in a form conducive to academic inquiry. This means in part that researchers need

to agree on a common language. Researchers need a common language that contrasts data and

noise, what is important and what is not important.

Kirk and Miller (1986) argue that the search for objective data is an essential component

of a common research language for social scientists. By "objectivity" they do not mean some

pure form of knowledge or absolute truth; they prefer to leave the search for this type of

knowledge to philosophers and theologians. Objectivity is based on the assumption that there is a

world out there that can be empirically known. But knowledge of this empirical world is always

provisional, based on theoretical assumptions that the anthropologist must be able to articulate.

"'Truth' (or what provisionally passes for truth at a particular time) is thus bounded both by the

tolerance of empirical reality and by the consensus of the scholarly community" (Kirk and Miller

1986:12). This truth is always provisional because it must remain testable and falsifiable by those

interested in studying the same issues.

The search for historically conditioned "objective" data necessarily involves the

realization of as much validity and reliability as possible. "Reliability is the degree to which the

finding is independent of accidental circumstances of the research, and validity is the degree to

which the finding is interpreted in a correct way" (Kirk and Miller 1986:20). But to define what

is truly "independent of accidental circumstances" and to determine when a finding is interpreted

in a "correct" way remain open to debate. Alternative views are tested against the standards set

by the intellectual community over time. Acknowledging the influence of a scholarly tradition

allows for alternative views to challenge historically specific arguments in the contexts they were

argued. As others join this community, they have the opportunity to change and reshape the

definitions that form the foundation for quality research.

In the study of culture there should be a dialogical relationship between the general and

the specific, between our understanding of the individual and the groups) to which that

individual belongs, between text and theory. Crapanzano joins the Boasians in his attempt to

allow the historical particularity of Tuhami's experience to speak for itself, but one cannot

understand individual experience void of historical and structural context. Interpretations of an

individual's symbolic representations of the world must be placed in their social, political and

economic context (con-text: literally that which goes "with the text"). This context necessarily

involves a level of abstraction, a generalization from the individual to the social. The two are not

mutually exclusive.

Furthermore, the relationship between the researcher and the subjects studied should be

made explicit in the ethnography. It is important to know whose perspective of culture is re-

presented in the ethnography and, if generalizations are made, on whose authority generalizations

are made. While the relationship between the ethnographer and the informants should be made

explicit, this relationship need not overwhelm the study. The reflexivity of the researcher can be

taken to an extreme where all one sees is a portrait of the author and not the ones studied.

Like Odysseus on his perilous journey, the anthropologist must avoid the Scylla of

sacrificing text to theory and the Charybdis of sacrificing theory to text. If the theoretical

construct of the ethnographer does not take into account the complexity and dynamic nature of

intracultural variation, the ethnography may be destroyed by the rocks of ethnographic validity.

If all the ethnographer can offer is the uniqueness of individual experience, the ethnography will

be sucked down by the whirlpool of nihilistic subjectivity.

Road Signs

Where postmoderism is helpful to cultural anthropology is first in its recognition that

culture is a contested domain in both its construction and representation. Amplifying voices from

the margins is important, if not central, to the writing of ethnography. Postmodernism is also

helpful in emphasizing the historical contingency of ethnographic representations. Both the

ethnographer and the people being studied are conditioned by historical (social, political and

economic) motivations. Furthermore, as postmodernism encourages constructive reflection on

the process of writing ethnography and on the relationship between the ethnographer and those

studied, it takes us down another fruitful path.

If anthropologists are intent on answering comparative questions, they cannot buy

wholesale into Derrida's style of deconstruction. On the one hand, deconstruction is a helpful

methodological tool for analyzing the process of writing ethnography, for analyzing power

relations between anthropologists and their "others" and for recognizing the contested nature of

cultural interpretations. On the other hand, to follow all the way down the deconstructive road is

to buy into a subjectivism that destroys any real chance of understanding anything other than the

internal conversation with oneself, a solipsism dangerous to one's sanity. Postmodernism should

aim its critical faculties at the construction of objectivity, at whom it is that defines the

"objective" perspective and for what purpose. The goal of objectivity itself does not have to be

destroyed in the process. Furthermore, anthropologists are not precluded from taking a moral

stance (see Schepper-Hughes 1987, 1995), but writers must carefully articulate by what moral

principles the ethnographer should operate.

Steering Clear

One way to picture the debate between postmodernists and those committed to the

scientific exploration of the social world is by means of a metaphor from modern physics.6

Postmoderism acts as a centrifugal force on anthropology, compelling us to take seriously the

particular parts of our world in all their uniqueness and ambiguity. The scientific approach acts

as a centripetal force, forcing us to take seriously the structures and patterns of culture that tie the

world together. If either the centrifugal tendencies of postmoderism or the centripetal forces of

science claim exclusive right to the driver's seat in cultural anthropology, it will destroy the

dynamic character of anthropology itself.

By maintaining a dialogue between these opposing forces, checks and balances are

provided that keep the discipline from either collapsing in on itself or exploding into chaos. If the

anthropologist can only talk to and about herself, her solipsistic wanderings will be of no use to

anyone else. If the anthropologist has no tools with which to organize the chaos, no one will


Analyzing Race via Social Networks

Research Statement

Research over the past thirty years has shown that social networks are of crucial

importance in understanding the procurement and retention of employment (Granovetter 1973,

1974, 1982; Lin and Dumin 1986; Zimmer and Aldrich 1987). A strong interest has also grown

in the roles that race and ethnicity play in constructing and maintaining social networks,

particularly as each relates to employment (Cobas et al. 1993, Cobas and DeOllos 1989, Light

and Bonacich 1988, Du Toit 1998, Ooka and Wellman 1999). The role of inter- and intra-racial

social networks has been shown to be particularly central in the procurement and retention of

resources for entrepreneurs (Sanders and Nee 1996). While some have shown the importance of

intra-racial ties for success in entrepreneurial development, little work has been done to study the

importance of inter-racial ties on such success or lack of success (see Ooka and Wellman 1999

for an exception). This study provides insight into the structure and content of personal and

professional networks of commercial fishing skippers and crew on South Africa's Western Cape

coast. Particular emphasis is on the role that the construction of racial and ethnic identities plays

in developing and maintaining these social networks. Special interest is taken in understanding

the networks of those fishers classified as "Coloured" under apartheid and how new constructions

of that racial and ethnic identity operate in everyday work life.

As much of cognitive anthropology and social psychology has shown, people develop

implicit models of whom they know and respect in their heads (and how these people are

connected), and these models in turn influence with whom they choose to associate. The choice

of associates becomes particularly important in the context of employment, where the structure

and content of personal relationships often determine the success in the development and

maintenance of a livelihood (Granovetter 1973, 1974; Lin and Dumin 1986; Sanders and Nee

1996). In particular, small-scale entrepreneurial enterprises thrive and survive on the size and

quality of social networks (Light and Bonacich 1988). These networks help to establish ties

instrumental to the success of the enterprise, ties that minimize the uncertainty associated with

limited institutional infrastructure. Add to this uncertainty the high-risk environment of

commercial fishing, where captain and crew depend on each other not only for a living but for a

safe return home, and social networks become crucial for personal and professional survival.

Through quantitative and qualitative analysis of these social networks I explain: 1) what kinds of

individuals are more likely to be involved in social networks of greater racial heterogeneity, 2) to

what extent individuals use inter- as opposed to intra-racial ties for procuring and sustaining

employment, and 3) what characteristics of the networks themselves lead to the greater likelihood

of full-time employment (i.e., less dependence on other sources of income).

In understanding racial and ethnic relations in South Africa, little attention has been paid

to the structure and content of social networks. With few exceptions (see De Jongh 1995)

researchers have focused on social networks as metaphor, as a heuristic device, or predominantly

in the context of formal kinship studies. But advances in methodological techniques for the

systematic study of social networks have made it possible to move beyond an understanding of

social networks as metaphor to an analysis of the structural properties of personal and

professional relationships (Scott 1991, Wasserman and Faust 1994, Johnson 1994, Degene and

Forse 1999). Yet social network analysis techniques can be even more powerful when combined

with the analysis of cultural content (Emirbayer and Goodwin 1994). While social research in the

past half century has tended to split into social structural and cultural analytical branches (among

others), these branches are still part of the same tree. A narrow focus on social structure runs the

danger of disguising human agency and obfuscating human creativity. A myopic focus on

individual experience runs the danger of ignoring larger social processes that shape human

thought and behavior. In an attempt to understand the effect of race and ethnicity on making a

living in South Africa, this project navigates between the Scylla of structural determinism and the

Charybdis of interpretive solipsism via a synthesis of social network analysis and what Clifford

Geertz called "thick description" (1973). Theoretical synthesis will emerge out of

methodological synthesis.

Constructing Race and Ethnicity

For decades Anthropologists have challenged static and naturalistic views of race and

ethnicity (Sanjek 1971; Drake 1980, 1987; Brodkin 1989; Eller and Coughlan 1993; Gregory and

Sanjek 1994). Racial and ethnic identities are socially constructed in particular historical

contexts, malleable, and often overlap with other kinds of social identity (Roosen 1989). In the

right context, some people also have the ability to assume various racial or ethnic identities in

different situations (Okamura 1981). Fredrik Barth's (1969) focus on ethnic boundaries was a

necessary correction to primordial definitions of ethnicity but limited in its ability to describe

ethnicity as a product of individual consciousness and social interaction. Recent debates over the

salience of ethnicity as a social force have concentrated on how ethnic relations function at the

communal level, e.g. the relationship between ethnic conflict and the modern state (Anderson

1993, Erickson 1993, Vail 1993). Most of the latter studies define ethnicity in instrumentalist

terms (Cohen 1978). This approach is helpful to the degree that it emphasizes ethnicity as a

social, political and cultural resource to be called upon when the opportunity presents itself.

There are two main weaknesses in the instrumentalist literature: 1) the inability to describe how

ethnicity functions as a flexible form of individual identity and 2) the limited ability to describe

the structural constraints that racial and ethnic categories place on human interaction.

Instrumentalists tend to be overly dependent on studies of the elite and over-confident in the

power of rational choice (Hechter 1986).

It can be argued that much like ethnic categories, racial groupings are "imagined

communities" (Anderson 1993) in the sense that they are social inventions not fabrications. But

there are considerable differences in the styles in which different racial and ethnic groups are

imagined. Classifying the "races of man" was the raisonne d'etre of early social science.

Essentialized categories conflated biology and morality. The Boasians limited the definition of

race to the biophysical and morphological characteristics and divorced it from the learned

behavior of language and culture. But the Boasian anti-racism was based largely on

assimilationist assumptions (Baker 1998). Recent works have moved beyond these assumptions

and reinvigorated research on race in anthropology (Harrison 1995; Wade 1995; McClaurin 1996;

Mukhopadhyay 1997). One of the strengths these works share is their ability to describe racial

categorization as an historical process, deeply rooted in local culture and constructs of the


The current study is expressly concerned with the structural and cultural meaning of race

and ethnicity, concerned with how individuals conceptualize and utilize identity in relationship to

others. With one eye on the historical development of"coloured" as a socio-economic and

political category (Marais 1939; Venter 1974; Goldin 1987; Lewis 1987), the central focus of this

dissertation is on how this racial and ethnic identity is socially constructed and made useful in the

context of social networks. As we learn from the social psychological approach of Donald

Horowitz (1985) and DeVos and Romanucci-Ross (1995), ethnic identity is grounded in

individual experience and played out in social relationships. By careful observations of the

language, the dominant idioms and the stereotypes perpetuated in the context of the social

networks of commercial handline fishing captains, this study will help paint a picture of

contemporary inter- and intra-ethnic relations in South Africa.

In April of 1996 The Economist reported that people in South Africa who were classified

as coloured under apartheid feared being lost between the economic power of whites and political

power of blacks. At a time when the nature of coloured identity itself is being questioned and

redefined, those who have historically been known as coloured wonder about their place in the

new South Africa. Where do those categorized as coloureds fit into attempts to create equal

opportunity in employment for all South Africans? In the fishing industry, as with many other

industries, management has been historically white and the labor historically non-white. In the

small-scale handline industry, "non-white" specifically refers to those classified as coloured.

As a contribution to the sub-discipline of economic anthropology, this research explores

the roles race and ethnicity play in the structuring of professional networks (Gladwin 1989).

Economic activity is embedded in a complex web of social relations and institutions (Appadurai

1986). It has become a truism in anthropology that ethnic identity and racial stereotyping enable

or restrict economic success (Gregory and Sanjek 1994; Lipuma and Meltzoff 1997). Yet neither

the construction of racial or ethnic identity nor the development of economic activity can be

divorced from the relational context in which both occur simultaneously. "We should expect that

different social groups, situated in different objective conditions as to their capacity to earn a

livelihood, will have distinct experiences giving different meanings to a cultural concept that at

first might appear homogenous" (Narotsky 1997:222-223). Therefore, the use of systematic

social network analysis tools, combined with the cultural detail gathered from in-depth interviews

and participant observation, will serve to move the debate over employment discrimination

beyond the rhetoric of individual experience. At the same time, the ethnographic nature of the

other methods employed will add qualitative depth to research that, thus far, has concentrated

predominantly on aggregate labor statistics (Jiobu 1990; Uchendu 1995; Lipuma and Meltzoff


As a study of the relations of production in the commercial fishing industry this project is

forced to move beyond traditional understandings of employer-employee relations and typical

employee-wage structures (Smith 1977; Robben 1986; Bailey 1991; Smith and Hanna 1993).

The skippers and crew of small handline boats, i.e., the primary subjects in this study, do not fit

neatly into predefined economic categories. The skippers, in most instances, are self-employed

entrepreneurs. They are dependent on a wide variety of uncertainties such as the physical

environment (weather, ocean currents, tides), the condition and availability of the resource (i.e.,

fish stocks), ever-changing government regulations, large fluctuations in market demand for the

product and the health of up to twelve crewmembers. Captain-crew relations approximate

traditional employer-employee relations but rarely contain any formalized contracts.

Crewmembers are dependent on the same conditions as the captain but with the added variable

that they do not control when they go fishing. They are dependent on the captain for initiating

their workday.

Figure 2. Handline Fisher Bringing a Snoek into the Boat
source: Stibbe and Moss (1998)

As an analysis of social relations in the commercial fishing industry this study also

contributes to the expanding literature on the relations of productions among workers involved in

natural resource exploitation (Palsson 1991; Durrenberger 1992, 1993; Smith and Jepson 1993;

Garrity-Blake 1994). Particular themes from this literature that will be explored include: local

participation in fisheries management (Miller 1979; McCay 1987; Acheson 1990; Ostrom 1990;

Pollnac 1991; Smith and Jepson 1993), variations in the use of technology to exploit natural

resources (Bernard 1987, Zerner 1991), the risk and uncertainty involved in fishing for a living

(Pollnac, Poggie and Vandusen 1995; Pollnac, Poggie and Cabral 1998) and the question of

fishing as a marker of identity (i.e., a fishing culture, or "more than ajob" (Smith and Jepson

1993; Eacker 1994, Garrity-Blake 1994).

Interpreting Social Structure

If there is to be a synthesis of structural and interpretive approaches to understanding

significant social constructions (such as race and ethnicity) and their impact on lived experiences

(such as job procurement and retention), then one way to begin that synthesis is by a synthesis of

research methods. There should be an intimate connection between the answers sought in a

research project and the types of questions raised. "If substance ("data," "findings," "facts") are

products of the methods used, substance cannot be considered independently of method; what the

ethnographer finds out is inherently connected with how she finds it out" (Emerson 1995:11).

This project will proceed by combining research priorities from the interpretive literature and

tools from social network analysis.

"Network analysis is a recent set of methods for the systematic study of social structures"

(Degenne and Forse 1999). In describing the broad streams in the types of network approaches

used in anthropology, Jeff Johnson notes that there is a major distinction in the literature between

those who use the concept of social networks metaphorically (Walsh and Simonelli 1986;

O'Conner 1990) and those who use social networks as a formal/analytical research tool (Johnson

1994). This study intends to move beyond understanding social networks as a heuristic concept

to a more detailed and systematic approach to collecting and analyzing information about these

networks. By following this analytical approach to understanding social networks this project

stands with one foot in a tradition that can be traced back to the works of Durkheim (e.g. the

concept of organic solidarity) and the mid-century structural-functionalism of A.R. Radcliffe-

Brown. Network analysis owes a more immediate tribute to the works of John Barnes (1951;

1969; 1972), Clyde Mitchell (1969), Elizabeth Bott (1971) and Ron Burt (1982), to name a few.

Network analysis is used as an inductive attempt to identify patterns of relationships and the

behaviors or thoughts that correlate with those patterns. "Then it sorts out aposteriori and

identifies the concrete constraints of structure on behaviour at the same time as it uncovers

constraints on structure from group interactions" (Degenne and Forse 1999:2-3). The primary

focus is not on the attributes of individuals but on the relationships between individuals.

Social network studies can be divided into two basic types: ego-centered (also called

personal or partial networks) and whole network (also called global networks) approaches.

Whole networks are an "abstraction of the overall, 'global' features of networks in relation to a

particular aspect of social activity" (Scott 1991:31). For a review of anthropologists studying

whole networks see Johnson (1994). The present study is concerned to a limited degree with

whole networks. More centrally this study concentrates on the networks that are "anchored

around a particular individual so as to generate 'ego-centered' networks of social relations of all

kinds" (Scott 1991:31). Studying the entire network of handline skippers will allow for the

analysis of group formation. While ego-network data cannot provide accurate descriptions of the

overall social structure of a population, this approach "gives representative samples of the social

environments surrounding particular elements and is compatible with conventional statistical

methods of generalization to large populations" (Marsden 1990:438). It is my intention that the

summary measures on the ego-network data and the interpretive ethnographic analysis will

complement one another for a fuller explanation of the effect of race on social relations in the

fishing industry.

One of the weaknesses in this study is its inability to measure how networks change over

time. By nature of its cross-sectional design this study is forced to deal with the charge of static

bias. Social structures such as personal networks change over time, but the description and

prediction of such change is beyond the scope of this project. This project can serve as a baseline

for future diachronic analysis. However, for analysis of how current conditions relate to

conditions in the past I will rely on generalized comparisons with the historical literature on race

relations in South Africa (James 1991; Bekker 1993, Vail 1993; Fredrickson 1995; Pickel 1997).

A sample of first order zone cognitive network ties served as a proxy for understanding

the typical social relations in which commercial skippers were involved. "First order zone" refers

to a person's direct contacts, someone they interact with personally (Barnes 1969). The specific

focus will be on cognitive networks or the way people construct their social universe in their

heads. The measurement of actual exchanges is beyond the scope of this project. Although key

research has shown that informants are relatively inaccurate in detailed recall of their exact social

interactions (for a summary see Bernard et al. 1984), the bias in informant inaccuracy is towards

typical interaction (Freeman and Romney 1987, Freeman et al. 1987). In-depth interviews will

make it possible to add historical detail to such typical interactions (e.g. how long an alter is

known by an ego and in what capacity/ies).

Research Questions and Hypotheses

The following research questions and hypotheses structure the content for this dissertation.

1) What kinds of individuals are more likely to be involved in social networks of greater racial

HI: Education will have no significant effect on the racial heterogeneity of social networks.

H2: Age will have no significant effect on the racial heterogeneity of social networks.

H3: People with a racially heterogeneous friendship network will be more likely to also have
a racially heterogeneous professional network.

H4a: People categorized as historically disadvantaged will be more likely to have racially
heterogeneous professional networks.

H4b: People categorized as white/European will be less likely to have racially heterogeneous
professional networks.

H5: There will be no significant difference in the racial heterogeneity of friendship networks
between different racial categories.

The racial heterogeneity of a friendship network will be measured as the proportion of same-

race ties as determined by the skippers' answers to the friendship name generators 1-3. If they

categorize 40% or more of their close friends as racially different from themselves, their

friendship network will be considered heterogeneous (which is slightly more liberal than Ooka

and Wellman's use of 50%) (Ooka and Wellman 1999). A person's professional network will be

considered racially diverse if 40% of the groups of professional contacts they have are diverse.

Each group of contacts will be considered racially diverse if ego judges 40% or more of those in

the group as racially different from themselves. Professional groups for skippers include: Factory

Ownership (FO), Factory Management (FM), Factory Labour (FL), Boat Owner (B01 & BO2*),

Boat Skipper (BS 1 &BS2*), Boat Crew (BC 1 & BC2*), Administration Local (AL, ministry,

staff), Administration National (AN, ministry, staff), Administration Research (AR), Other (0).

The differentiation denoted by is: 1 =own boat, 2=other boat.

One of the strengths of the ego-centered approach to network analysis is the ability to

combine the analysis of individual traits with analysis of the kinds of relations that exist between

individuals. It is often assumed that education has a liberalizing effect on perceptions of

difference and a consequent increase in inter-racial relationships. This assumption will be

challenged by analyzing how education relates to the racial diversity of friendship and

professional networks, proving that, for the range of education common among commercial

fishers, education will not impact the racial heterogeneity of social networks.

Works on the ethnic solidarity of migrants have shown older migrants are more likely to

build densely knit, tightly bounded social networks (Light and Bonacich 1988). But following

Portes (1995) it will be argued here that age itself will not be a significant determinant of the

racial heterogeneity of social networks. It will also be argued that those whose friendship

networks are racially heterogeneous will be more likely to have racially diverse professional

networks. The reverse is not assumed to be true. Historically disadvantaged racial and ethnic

groups in South Africa (e.g. black or coloured) still face systemic racism. Therefore, persons

from these groups will be more likely to use diverse networks for their success. Conversely,

persons from historically advantaged communities (i.e., white) will be more likely to use densely

knit, tightly bounded social networks to maintain benefits they already have. I believe that

friendship networks are more socially conservative than professional networks and will thus be

more homogenous regardless of how ego classifies himself and others.

2) To what extent do individuals use inter- as opposed to intra-racial ties for procuring and
sustaining employment?

H6a: Members of historically low status racial groups will be more likely to use inter-racial
ties than intra-racial ties for obtaining employment.

H6b: Members of historically high status racial groups will be more likely to use inter-racial
ties as opposed to intra-racial ties for obtaining employment.

H7: Tenure in the fishing industry will be positively associated with the use of inter-racial

Building on the work done by Ooka and Wellman (1999), it is assumed that people make use

of both inter- and intra-racial ties for finding (and keeping)jobs. "The advantages (or

disadvantages) of working in an ethnic economy or ethnic niches depend on the resources that

particular ethnic groups can mobilize through their co-ethnic networks" (Ooka and Wellman

1999:3). Inter-ethnic ties have been shown to be advantageous, particularly for developing

entrepreneurs (Cobas et al. 1993). Butjob seekers and entrepreneurs can also increase their

opportunities by making use of important ties outside "co-ethnic networks," particularly with

persons of higher status ethnic groups.

Informant Selection

Network analysis name generators and interpreters formed a major part of an in-depth

interview schedule administered to 102 commercial handline skippers that live and travel from

Struisbaai (south east of Cape Town) to Lambert's Bay (north west of Cape Town), a geographic

range determined by the residence of those in the network. Each captain was interviewed at the

place of their choosing, most often in their homes. Where possible, private time was reserved for

the lengthy interview with the skipper alone. The interviews with the skippers lasted a minimum

of one hour and more often than not ran longer than three hours. Consent was verbally requested

from each skipper prior to the formal interview (see Appendix D).

The method of subject selection for the study is drawn from the social network analysis

literature. The research design is cross-sectional where "data are collected at one point in time

from a sample selected to describe some larger population at that time" (Babbie 1990:56). This

design will be used to provide for in-depth description of current social relations. It will also

allow for the determination of the relationship between individual demographic characteristics

and the racial composition of social networks and for the determination of the degree to which

certain types of individuals use inter- as opposed to intra-racial ties for procuring and sustaining

employment. Analysis of how these conditions relate to conditions in the past will rely on more

generalized comparisons with the historical literature on race relations in South Africa (James

1991; Bekker 1993, Vail 1993; Fredrickson 1995; Pickel 1997).

The sampling frame used for the study is a subset of a list of all fishing boats registered

on South Africa's Western Cape Coast. Significant data collection and analysis on the

commercial fishing industry are published annually by the editors of the Fishing Industry

Handbook: South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique (Warman 1999) in cooperation with the

national fisheries regulation body, Marine and Coastal Management (formerly Sea Fisheries).

Information in this data set includes the boat names, owner names and contact details, length of

the boats (among other detail), number of crew on each boat and an independently researched

category for the type of fishing done on the boat. Information from this list proved helpful in

making initial contacts, but personal confirmation of the information from these sources

highlighted the inaccuracies in the national database. The lists could not distinguish between full-

time and part-time commercial fishers, nor did it carefully distinguish between those operating

mobile ski-boats and those operating the less mobile "chakkies". Using the government

information as a starting point, informants were selected by snowball sampling from confirmed

cases. Those finally selected were all full-time, commercial handline ski-boat skippers that

traveled the coast following the fish and were actively fishing between September 1999 and

August 2000. Skippers of the more traditional handline chakkies were omitted due to the

profound difference that geographical range makes on social networks. Chakkies remain moored

in their port of origin and are not transported from harbor to harbor in search offish. From

preliminary interviews, subsequently confirmed by the ski-boat skippers interviewed, the social

networks of skippers on the chakkies and those on the ski-boats do not display much overlap.

The networks and experiences of active commercial skippers of handline vessels served

as the fulcrum of analysis for this study. The type of boat and fishing is held constant so as to

control for variations associated with the type of fishing done. The range of the boat length and

number of crew will also be limited to increase the likelihood of comparable units. As expected,

crew size correlates with boat length (86% for the west coast boats). The study was limited to

skippers of handline boats with twelve crew or less. These skippers serve as the primary units of

analysis. As will become evident, part of the analysis relies on the skipper and crew as a unit.

Handline boats tend to be relatively small, independently owned operations dependent on

informal social and economic ties for their success. This lack of formal restrictions on a skipper's

choice of associates increases the likelihood that the associations are voluntary.

The initial cut in the data for selection of a sampling frame involves limiting the

geographical range. Subjects were selected by snowball sampling (Babbie 1990), beginning with

preliminary interviews of the skippers on commercial fishing boats registered in the ports ranging

from Lambert's Bay in the north to False Bay in the south (Warman 1999:243-284). The reasons

for this first cut are both theoretical and practical. The commercial fishing industry of the western

Cape coast serves as the regional and industrial context for this study in part because this industry

has historically been dominated by coloured workers (Marais 1939; Venter 1974; van Sittert

1992; Stibbe and Moss 1998). As was evident from statistics gathered during the 1994 elections,

over 50% of voters living in the Western Cape Province identified themselves as coloured (Pickel

1997). The effects of the changes in South African race relations are of pressing concern to these

voters (James 1996). Relationships in the commercial fishing industry are highly likely to involve

employees who identify themselves as coloured.

From preliminary personal interviews with key informants it seemed, and was later

confirmed, that many of the commercial handline skippers who were registered in the ports of

interest concentrated their range of fishing between Lambert's Bay and False Bay. This is a

reasonable range for skippers at the geographical extremes to travel in search of prime fishing

(approximately two hours of drive time from Cape Town in either direction along the coast).

This range also makes sense in light of the need for proximity to the lucrative Cape Town

markets and the putative heavier concentrations of snoek7, the primary species for commercial

handliners on the western coast (Van der Elst 1981, Griffiths 2000).

Harbor masters, factory owners and managers, national local Marine and Coastal

Management officials and other key informants were used to confirm the identities of the

appropriate skippers in each region. Over the course of the first five months of initial research,

from September 1999 through January 2000, 1 identified approximately 155 skippers of what

were identified as "full-time commercials" or active handline ski-boats in the study area. I

continued to add to this list when one of the skippers mentioned full time handline ski-boats not

already on the list. It became my intention to interview the skippers from each of these 155 ski-

boats. After sorting through some errors in informant recall, boats that had been sold or were no

longer in service, and skippers who had moved, 118 active full-time commercial handline skipper

remained. Of these, 102 were interviewed, four declined when asked to participate, and twelve

could not be reached for logistical reasons. I confirmed the status of each of the 102 interviewees

as full-time commercial handline ski-boat skippers with at least three independent persons, at

least two of which were other skippers. As there were significant tensions between full-time and

part-time/recreational fishers, skippers quickly categorized others in one of the two camps.

Where there was uncertainty, I gained confirmation from the skipper himself.

Data Collection

The typical procedure for collecting ego-centric network data is to elicit alters (persons

tied to ego) via one or more name generators. Name generators are specific questions designed to

elicit a list of individuals with whom the respondent has direct ties of a specific kind. Additional

information about the alters is then generated through name interpreters. Marsden categorizes

three types of name interpreters: "(a) reports on attributes of persons or alters enumerated (e.g.

age, education, race/ethnicity); (b) reports on properties of the tie between respondent and alter

(e.g. frequency of contact, duration of acquaintance, intensity); and (c) reports on the intensity of

ties between pairs of alters" (1990:441). Research has shown that the demographic

characteristics of alters can be reported with substantially greater accuracy than the attitudes of

alters (Bernard et al. 1985). Projection plays a part in responses to questions asking for proxy

reports on attitudes, particularly for more distant ties (e.g. friends as opposed to spouses) (Wilcox

and Udry 1986). Therefore, respondents were not asked to divulge what they thought any of their

alters thought or believed.

The name generators used in this study were designed to elicit the perceived

characteristics of alters. They also focused on the perceived strength of ties between ego and

alters. In terms of the properties of ties between ego and alter (e.g. frequency of contact, duration

of acquaintance, intensity), respondent reports are generally in concordance with alter reports,

particularly for close ties and reasonably general types of interaction (esp. frequency of contact,

duration, kinship and intensity of relationship) (Hammer 1984). A combination of the intensity,

frequency and duration of ties between pairs of alters has been shown to be the strongest indicator

of tie strength (Marsden and Campbell 1984).

Name Generators

1) From time to time, most people discuss important matters with other people, people
they trust. The range of important matters varies from person to person across work,
leisure, family, politics, whatever. The range of relations varies across work, family,
friends and advisors. If you look back over the last six months, who are the four or
five people with whom you discussed matters important to you?

2) Consider the people with whom you like to spend your free time. Over the last six
months, who are the three or four people you have been with most often for
informal social activities such as having a potjie or braai together, having drinks
together, going to films, visiting one another's homes, and so on?

3) Who would you say are your closest three or four friends? This may or may not be
the people you spend the most time with.

4) Of all the people working in the commercial fishing industry on the western Cape
coast, who are the five or six people who have contributed most to your success in
fishing-i.e., your most valuable work contacts?

5) Suppose you had a friend who wanted to do what you are for a living. Who are
the most important people (that you know personally) you would introduce them to
who would give them the best information and advice? Who do they really need to
get to know?

6) Are there any individuals you regard as a mentor, someone who has taken a
strong interest in how well you do as a fisherman and has provided you with the
opportunity or means to do better?

7) Of all the people you know in the industry, who has made things most difficult for
you to do well in what you do? Remember that all names are coded and kept
confidential and will not be released from my research except as combined statistics.

8) If you decided to find a job in the commercial fishing industry, who are the two or
three people with whom you would most likely discuss and evaluate your job
options? These could be people who work with you now, or people from other than
where you work now such as friends, family, people who work on other boats or other
people in the fishing industry.

9) When it comes to information you need that will enable you to catch more fish or get
higher prices for your fish, who are the skippers that you contact for important
information (e.g. where the fish are biting, what prices hawkers are paying on the open
market, recommendations for new crew members, etc.)?

10) If you wanted to have a friendly but business related sit down chat with the head
of Marine and Coastal Management, who would be the people you contacted to set it
up for you?

11) Look over this list of names. Can you name anyone else whom you would
consider as important to you as the people you see on this list?

The preceding name generators have been adapted for this study from the works of Fisher

(1982), Burt (1984, 1985, 1997), Rook (1984), Leffler, Krannich and Gillespie (1986), Kochen

(1989), Wegener (1991), Podolny and Baron (1997). One of the influences in developing these

name generators is the finding that multiple name generators from multiple categories of relations

elicit a broader social network (Burt 1997). By asking about personal and professional ties I was

able to look for evidence of the overlap between the two types of networks. If social capital, for

example, is a product of network ties, then "the strongest evidence of social capital occurs when

personal and corporate relations together define the network used to measure social capital" (Burt


Name generators one through three are focused on the individual's personal network,

irrespective of the social context. Name generators four through ten focus attention more

specifically on contacts related to employment. The first of these name generators is taken

directly from Podolny and Baron's adaptation of the network name generator on the 1985 General

Social Survey (GSS) (Burt 1984, 1985; Podolny and Baron 1997) and is designed to sample ego's

discussion network. The generators that follow are designed to elicit ego's #2) socializing

network (Burt 1997:359), #3) intimate friendship network (Fisher 1982), #4) most valued work

contacts (Burt 1997:359), #5) general employment info and advice (Podolny and Baron

1997:691), and #6) mentorship networks (Podolny and Baron 1997:692). The seventh generator

is included to elicit conflictive ties, since some studies of social support suggest that the absence

of non-supportive ties is more crucial than the presence of supportive ties (see Rook 1984;

Leffler, Krannich and Gillespie 1986). Name generator eight is designed to elicit contacts for

ego's alternative options in the industry. Name generator nine is to elicit ties that provide specific

strategic information for ego's success as a skipper from other skippers in their category. It is

designed specifically to tap co-worker networks, people in similar positions. Name generator ten

is designed following the first step in a small world experiment. It is designed specifically to

measure ego's proximity to the most important decision makers in the regulation of their industry

(see the contributions in Kochen 1989). Name generator eleven was created because of Burt's

findings that his respondents, having reviewed their name lists, added names to the end of their

list but did not place these names in any of the generator categories (1997:359). Name generator

twelve was generated to delve into the skipper's knowledge and perspective of his crew.

Name Interpreters (see Appendix B):

sex = male (0); female (1)
age = actual age in years
race = ego's perception of what they would have been categorized under apartheid
reside = the town/neighborhood they live in (smallest geographical unit known)
langl = primary language spoken at home:
lang2 = secondary language spoken at home

()= How often do you communicate with this person: 1) Daily; 2) Weekly; 3) Monthly;
4) Less than Monthly
duration = How long have you had a relationship with this person?
role = What does this person do in the fishing industry, if any?
Factory Ownership (FO); Factory Management (FM); Factory Labour (FL); Boat
Owner (BOl & BO2*); Boat Skipper (BSI &BS2*); Boat Crew (BCI & BC2*);
Administration Local (AL; ministry; staff); Administration National (AN; ministry;
staff); Administration Research (AR) Other (0) <* l=own boat; 2=other boat>
family = How is this person related to you, if at all?
(spouse, mchild, child, hmparent, hfparent, wmparent, wfparent, sibling,
wsibling,, hmparentsib, hfparentsib, wmparentsib, wfparentsib, grandparent,
wgrandparent, other adult, other child)? (m=male; f=female; h=husband; w=wife;
intimacy = How close do you consider this person to you?
1) Distant (avoid contact unless it is necessary) ; 2) Less close (Ok to work with, no
desire to develop friendship); 3) Close (close, but not one of the closest contacts); 4)
Especially close (one of your closest contacts)
religion = Do any of the members on your list attend the same religious congregation you do?
job = Rank which of these people were most responsible for you getting the job as
skipper? (top three)

In addition to important demographic characteristics such as sex, age, putative race, area

of residence, marriage status and language preference, each skipper was asked to name

characteristics of their relationship to the alters they name. Frequency, duration and intimacy are

all indicators of tie strength (Marsden 1990). Role and family are included as traditional

structural categories to be correlated with tie strength indicators. These are often found to be

strong predictors of tie strength (Marsden and Campbell 1984; Marsden 1990). Religion is

included as a measure of socialization.

The Structured Interview

The central tool for primary data collection in the project was a detailed interview

schedule consistently applied across all interviewees (see Appendix A). The structured interview

included both closed and open-ended questions, tables, Likert scales and important follow-up

probes. At no time was the interviewee asked to fill out information for himself. The questions

were organized into the following categories: Demographic and Personal History, Household, On

the Job, Networks, Women in Fishing, Gear, Annual Round, Crew, Regulations/Licensing, Future

of Fishing, Job Attachment and Job Satisfaction.

Demographic and Personal History questions were designed to elicit general sociological

information for comparison within group and to other populations. Question four was

particularly central to the research project as it asked the interviewee to identify under which race

or ethnic classification he was identified during apartheid. Due to the contested nature of racial

and ethnic identity in South Africa, particularly for those once classified as coloured, I asked

directly about this categorization on two different occasions. Later in the interview, question

thirteen, I asked the interviewee to explain what the classification they were once assigned meant

to them in the present.

Questions about the household were primarily targeted at the contribution that fishing

makes to the household income. After a few preliminary interviews and advice from others who

had interviewed in the fishing industry I decided not to ask for gross or net income figures. With

the informal nature of these businesses, skippers were constantly wary of direct financial

questions. The government was in the process of formalizing their sector of the fishing industry.

Despite the consent protocol that clearly identified who I was, what my intentions were and how

they were protected, I was constantly queried as to whether I was representing either Marine and

Coastal Management or the tax auditor.

I followed questions about the household with questions designed to elicit details about

their experiences on the job. One of the more important questions in this section was the first; it

asked skippers to describe the typical fisherman. This question was designed to elicit the

attributes that fishers have of themselves and others like them. It was also designed to give the

interviewees an opportunity to project their own cognitive models of who is who in the industry.

This section included questions about their history in the fishing industry.

The network questions formed the middle third of the interview schedule, and

approximately a third of the interview time was spent on these questions. The questions are

discussed in detail above. Names were first generated on the Name Table (see Appendix),

numbered by the name generator used. If names were repeated, they were written again,

preceded by the corresponding name generator. No strict limit was given on the number of alters

each skipper could mention in relation to any of the name generators. After names were

generated from all twelve generators, the interviewer and interviewee went back over the list

together to answer the name interpreter questions for each of the alters mentioned. Interpreter

information was filled out for the first time the alter's name appeared on the list.

In preliminary interviews handline fishing was constantly described by men and women

alike as "a man's world," "not a place for a woman." Women were clearly involved in the

handline fishing industry in bookkeeping, marketing, sales, household management, running

errands, preparing food, and often providing a consistent income and benefits with formal

employment, but the network analysis design of this study precluded an in-depth analysis of

women's perspective on or input into handline fishing as a business. The questions about women

in fishing were designed to explore these skippers' stereotypes of women with an eye toward

understanding how and why men construct fishing as gendered work. If women's voices are

muted in this study, it is because these voices are muted in the conversations of the all-male

skipper network.

The size and technological sophistication of the gear used for fishing is a good indicator

of the capital each owner has available to invest in their handline ski-boat business. I assumed

there would be much more variation in technology than what I actually found. Questions in the

Annual Round section were designed specifically to inquire about the type of fishing engaged, the

formal or informal seasonal patterns of fishing, and the geographical movement of this highly

mobile class of fishermen.

Open-ended questions about a skipper's perspective of his crew were designed to allow

interviewees to project their own categories of class and race onto those who work for them. As

most were quick to make a categorical distinction between skippers and crew, these questions

became important in determining how skippers viewed relations of power, specifically with

relation to class and race.

Local and national political struggles over the access to fishing licenses and quotas were

on the top of everyone's agenda for discussion. I intentionally left questions about the

government management system until near the end of the interview so as not to allow such topics

to dominate the entire interview. Responses to these questions tended to be long and passionate.

With the passage of the new Marine Living Resources Act just two years prior and the

implications of that act for handline fishers still not legislated, quotas and the boat licensing

system were pressing concerns.

I ended the interview by having skippers assess where they had come from and what

future they saw in fishing. Optimism for the future, job attachment and job satisfaction all

contribute to mental health. Questions here were designed to explore what skippers thought of

the future of the fishing industry and their place in it. I also wanted to know how attached they

felt to the kind of work they were doing and whether they had searched out other options.

Finally, I was concerned with how satisfied these skippers were with important aspects of what

they did for a living.

With the time-intensive nature of the detailed interview schedule and the geographical

scope of the social network, it became necessary to hire research assistants to increase coverage

of the network. Three research assistants were hired from June through August 2000. Each

assistant was trained in interview techniques and the specific issues important to the project.

Each of the three assistants was an experienced interviewer in fishing communities. They were

referred to my project by the coordinators of the Subsistence Fisheries Task Group (2000), a

research project completed in February 2000. After listening to samples of completed interviews,

I held three follow-up sessions with the assistants to discuss their progress and to clarify

interpretation of the questions. See the Research Assistant contract (Appendix C) for details of

our agreement.



SI use the term "re-directed" to acknowledge postmodernism's debt to earlier methodologies
such as what Harris calls the Historical Particularists or the Boasians (Harris 1968).

2 "The reader will recognize too, especially in my questions, a psychoanalytic orientation that I
have found impossible to eliminate, so embedded is this orientation in contemporary Western
thought" (Crapanzano 1980:10).

3 See, for example, Crapanzano's interpretation of Tuhami's psychological servitude to the
female spirit "A'isha Qandisha" (1980:71-72).

4 An example of an ethnography where this reflexivity is taken to an extreme is Ruth Behar's
Translated Woman (1993).

5 As a metaphor, the picture drawn here should appeal to the postmodernist. As an analogy from
modern physics, the picture drawn here should appeal to the scientist.

71 am indebted to Marc Griffiths of the Sea Fisheries Research Institute in South Africa for all of
the information on this important southern African species. He generously provided a pre-
publication copy of his latest work entitled: Life history of South African snoek Thyrsites atun
(Pisces: Gempylidae): a pelagic predator of the Benguela Ecosystem (Griffiths 2000). Specific
information on snoek throughout this dissertation has been taken from this paper.


Identity in the Context of Oppression

In order to do justice to the complexity of issues surrounding coloured identity, it is

important to clarify the language used. Language is an integral part of culture, of cultural change,

of ethnic identity and of identity politics. The words we choose both reflect and affect our

perceptions and attitudes. Language colors our understanding. Our words often reflect the power

relations in society. The same term can be used for directly opposing purposes. This is

particularly true of terms used to distinguish one people group from another. The term

"coloured," as used at present when referring to a particular people group in South Africa, is, on

the one hand, saddled with the static baggage of South Africa's apartheid past and, on the other

hand, is a category fluid enough to include a host of new identities in a rapidly changing social

landscape. The ambiguity of the issues surrounding coloured identity has lead many academics,

journalists and popular writers to euphemistically refer to this group of people as the "so-called

coloured," invariably with "coloured" in quotation marks.

Race and ethnicity are both historically conditioned, socially constructed attempts to

distinguish one group of people from another by reference to each group's unique interaction

between ideological commitments and material conditions. Self-identification with an ethnic or

racial group involves an ever-changing process of identity formation in which certain individual

psychological and material needs are met (e.g. sense of belonging, inheritance of land) and

whereby collective (social) mobilization can take place to further a common interest. Persons of

the same ethnic or racial group may identify themselves (or have been identified by someone

else) with particular physical characteristics. Inclusion in a particular ethnic or racial group

usually involves a shared sense of history or identification with a common past. The survival of

the group depends on a commitment to preserving a certain level of distinctiveness of the group.

Primarily due to its use as a tool of oppression and domination, many South Africans

have rejected the label "coloured." Those who have been classified as coloured by successive

South African governments have a history of diverse origins, lack of social, economic or

phenotypic homogeneity and an increasing heterogeneity of residence, religion and political

affiliation. Legislative definitions, as exemplified in the Nationalist's Population Registration

Act, relied on arbitrary and subjective definitions of physical appearance. The two major

government commissions of inquiry into the "Coloured Question," the Wilcox Commission in

1938 and the Theron Commission in 1976, failed to agree on a substantial definition (Goldin

1987; Lewis 1987). Some will argue that there is a separate coloured culture. Some will argue

that "coloured" is solely a term used by the white-supremacist state to preserve racial purity in

support of its social evolutionary ideals. I will make the argument that the history of coloured

identity in South Africa involves a very complex set of variables, a complex interplay between

exclusion and cooptation, between collaboration and resistance, between centripetal and

centrifugal forces from within and without. In the rural fishing communities on the Western Cape

coast, and in most of the suburbs of Cape Town, questioning "coloured" as a viable category of

identity is purely an academic exercise.

Ian Goldin expressly focused on the political mobilization of coloured identity, i.e., the

"articulation and representation of coloured identity in organizations and institutions" (1987:xv).

Although he acknowledged that a full understanding of coloured identity would require a larger

study that would include studies of "religion, culture, language and other complex psychological

manifestations of identity" ( IU .. I h ii work reflected the dominant stream of literature,

placing ethnic identity primarily in its political and macro-economic context. Goldin noted that

he was not interested in exploring "the "lower levels" of coloured identity, which relate to often

inarticulate and hidden expressions of identity" (1987:xv). Although political and macro-

economic factors cannot be ignored, few attempts have been made to connect the political and

economic implications of ethnicity to these "lower levels." This dissertation is one such attempt.


Richard van der Ross, a self-identified coloured, founder of the Labour Party and scholar

of South African history, defended the use of the term "Coloured" as a word distinguishing a

particular South African social group. However, it is with strong reservations that such self-

identification was made. He believed that "Coloured People" was the least objectionable term

and the one least likely to lead to confusion as it dominated the historic literature. To him the

terms were not as important as the meaning behind the terms. Van der Ross attempted to flush

out some of the destructive and erroneous meanings associated with coloured:

1. All Coloured people have the same origin.
2. Coloured people are easily recognizable.
3. Coloured people have their own culture.
4. All Coloured people are "the same," so that they "belong together."
5. Coloured people prefer to be together.
6. Even if they do not prefer to be together, it is better that they are together
so that the "better class" can uplift the others.
7. Their own identity must be protected at all costs. Intermarriage and
improper contact with other population groups should be avoided and
8. Coloured people are a separate nation, or a nation in process of becoming
9. The natural consequence of their being (or becoming) a nation is that
they should have their own "homeland."
10. Coloured people must be "protected" against any tendency to pass for
White, or to marry or cohabit with Blacks.
11. It is right and good that Coloured people should have their own identity.
12. Unless this identity is accepted, protected and developed, Coloured
people will not be fully developed or gain their rightful place in South
13. The alternative to the theory of Coloured identity is integration with
either Whites or Blacks, and both these alternatives are unacceptable.
14. For economic purposes it is absolutely essential that Coloured people
accept the concept of their own identity, or they will suffer economic
ruin due to labour competition from Blacks, and the entrepreneurial
superiority of Whites and Asians. (Van der Ross 1979)

Van der Ross' primary purpose in writing Myths and Attitudes was to expose the misconceptions

surrounding the "myth of Coloured identity" (1979).

Marais reported that the Khoi were readily conscripted into the labor force of the settlers,

readily traded their cattle for copper, beads and tobacco and were particularly vulnerable to the

"tot system." The tot system was an attempt by land owners to "encourage" their laborers by

supplying them with wine, or preferably brandy. Marais then traced this practice to perceptions

of the coloured people of the late 1930's: "The habit of drinking to excess, implanted from

generation to generation, is still one of the besetting sins of the coloured People" (1939:3).

Vernon February was concerned with highlighting and challenging the stereotypes of coloured

identity found in South African literature. He noted in particular how the definition of"coloured"

was most often expressed in the negative, i.e., by what it did not mean. "The stereotype of the

present-day 'coloured' draws, I venture to say, on a fairly continuous tradition starting with the

depictions of Khoi in literature" (February 1981:23). February examined one of the first dramatic

works to be written in Dutch-Afrikaans: De Temeperantisten written in 1832 by E. Boniface.

February argued that in Afrikaner culture the stereotypes placed on the "Hottentot" were often

automatically transferred to the coloured. "In general, then, writers portray the 'Hottentot'

characters as care-free, comical, witty, loud-mouthed, fond of liquor, and prone to fighting easily"

(February 1981:26). It is difficult to tell, however, which has been more damaging to coloured

people and their identity: the liquor or the stereotype.

Stereotypes were also appropriated by coloured people themselves. The struggle over

coloured identity created complex internal social relations. For some who came to accept the

coloured identity as their own, the boundaries of coloured identity often became less fluid. They

saw those who were trying to "pass themselves off as whites" and called them "play-whites."

February refers to the practice of"venstertjies kyk" (literally: looking in the windows), which

refers to what happened when coloured friends or relatives see the "play-whites" approaching.

They pretend to be window-shopping in order not to embarrass the person or relative in question

(February 1981:198). Fredrickson argued that, at the end of the nineteenth century, this tendency

to "pass" hindered the efforts of those who wished to politically mobilize coloureds. "It was so

easy for successful and relatively light-skinned people with nonwhite ancestry to pass over into

the European population that it was difficult for group-conscious leaders to emerge" (Fredrickson

1995:46). Yet early in the twentieth century such a consciousness did emerge, institutionalized

by the founding of the African Political Organization (APO) in 1902.

Race Mixing

The controversial issue of miscegenation (race mixing) cannot be ignored as a factor in

the development of coloured identity. The terms 'mixed race' and 'mulatto,' employed often by

American media and academics, are often considered offensive by South Africans because these

terms imply miscegenation (Morris 1992). The myth of a pure "race" has always marginalized

people of mixed heritage. Although primarily a biological category, miscegenation has

historically been associated with illegitimacy. The struggle for coloured identity is a struggle for

legitimacy; it is the struggle for a self-affirmation of legitimacy, a struggle for legitimacy in the

eyes of all South Africans and in the eyes of the world. Yet the history of coloured identity

reflects, to some extent, the development of all cultures. The development of coloured identity

and its complex history challenge static notion of culture and point toward the radical

interconnectedness of all people, despite phenotypic distinctions.

Comparative historians have argued that a general strategy for managing race mixture

usually develops early in a multi-racial society. As George Fredrickson put it, "The anarchic

nature of the human libido has always created serious problems for guardians of ethnic

boundaries and privileges" (1981:94). The earliest legislation passed in both the United States and

South Africa that discriminated based on ancestry included laws restricting inter-racial sex or

marriage. Legislators then had to deal with complex decisions over what should be done with the

offspring of inter-racial unions. The United States tended to develop a binary, polarized system

whereby descendents of mixed unions were classified with their black progenitors, often

monitored by an arbitrary assumption of biological impurity referred to as the "one-drop rule." In

other parts of the world, other post-colonial, post-slavery nations developed more complex

categories. It is difficult to prove that Brazil's well-known struggle over how to classify mulattos

has resulted in a polarized system of racial classification (Harris 1964, 1993). Although the

difference in socioeconomic status between mulattos and blacks in Brazil is insignificant in

comparison with the relative privilege of whites, gradations of racial discrimination remain

evident (Marx 1998).

The South African case does not fit neatly into a typology of nations that include bi-polar,

tri-polar or graded-scale racial orders. As in the United States, race mixing in South Africa was a

problem that required a solution. The solution ultimately came in the form of government

proclamations that varied over time and eventually never explicitly defined who was coloured

and who was not. For a time, white South Africans bolstered their political numbers with

coloured allies partially out of fear of being outnumbered. But eventually the threat of being

outnumbered was overcome with draconian laws protecting white privilege. Apartheid

eventually destroyed even the marginal advantages that coloureds had gained under the promise

of citizenship.


One of the difficulties in determining the history of ethnic identity of the coloured is that

very few history books were written by those who would consider themselves coloured. If our

perceptions and understanding are influenced by the language we use, then history itself is

colored by the limited perspectives of the historians. Even if historians attempted to be as

"objective" as possible, they necessarily rely on documents that themselves have been written

mostly by non-coloureds. Although the standard histories of the past may not intentionally

contain false information, without significant input from coloured voices the histories remain

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