Derek Johnson

Country: Canada

Derek is an Associate Professor of socio-cultural anthropology at the University of Manitoba and a Research Associate of the Center for Maritime Research at the University of Amsterdam. He has interdisciplinary social science training in anthropology, sociology and international development studies. His primary area of research interest is small-scale fisheries. He is a cluster coordinator for the TBTI Diverse Values cluster, which is developing novel ways to argue for the values of small-scale fisheries.

Derek has a diverse array of interests related to small-scale fisheries. Many of them center, however, on the distinctive features of capitalism in small-scale fisheries and the ways in which capitalism is rendered historically and spatially specific through particular small-scale fisheries. His work has a strong emphasis on transition: Exploring how small-scale fishing groups engage with change, how ecological crises develop or are addressed, and how various histories and forms of social difference affect capacities to proactively engage in fisheries governance. He has directly undertaken research on these and related themes in Gujarat State, India and New Brunswick in Canada. Derek has also supervised student research on small-scale fisheries in Canada, South Asia, and Latin America.

What are you currently working on within the context of SSF?

In the past 10 years I have integrated social wellbeing theory into my analysis of small-scale fisheries as a way to more fully bring out dynamics of social relationality and subjectivity. Most recently I have linked social wellbeing to value theory as way to open up a new critical avenue for exploring embeddedness, transitions, and governance in small-scale fisheries. In collaboration with my co-editors Tim Acott, Natasha Stacey, and Julie Urquhart, the first published results of work in this area are forthcoming as an edited volume in the MARE Publication Series entitled Social Wellbeing and the Values of Small-scale Fisheries. The volume is an output of the larger TBTI project and will be published by Springer. Complementary to my other interests, I am also developing research ideas on the topic of fish as food in small-scale fisheries.

If you could single out one or two most significant factors for securing the sustainability of SSF, what would these factors be?

In my experience, the most important and common threat to the sustainability of SSF is their social and cultural stigmatization and political economic marginalization. As a consequence, small-scale fishing groups are typically vulnerable to dispossession of their aquatic and terrestrial resources by more powerful economic or political interests. Strategies for strengthening small-scale fishing groups in face of these pressures are not straightforward and need to address the complex histories that have led to, and continue to reinforce, small-scale fisher vulnerability.

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