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  • Coastal Lives: Nature, Capital, and the Struggle for Artisanal Fisheries in Peru by Maximilian Viatori and Héctor Bombiella
  • Apollonya Maria Porcelli
Maximilian Viatori and Héctor Bombiella
Coastal Lives: Nature, Capital, and the Struggle for Artisanal Fisheries in Peru.
Tuscon, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 2019. 232 pp. Maps, illustrations, notes, appendices, references, index. $50.00 paper (9780816539291); $50.00 electronic (9780816539857).

The neoliberal process of turning complex and dynamic ecosystems into organized and extractable commodities is rife with battles over labor and politics, as officials struggle to avert species collapse while keeping up production. In the case of environmental crisis, scholars often cite the tragedy of commons as the cause, claiming that mismanagement leads to inevitable over-exploitation. Increasingly, however, research has pushed back against this framework, such as Elinor Ostrom’s (1990) seminal work on governing the commons and recent Marxist sociological analysis by Stefano Longo, Rebecca Clausen, and Brett Clark (2015) on the tragedy of the commodity.

Coastal Lives: Nature, Capital, and the Struggle for Artisanal Fisheries in Peru by Maximilian Viatori and Héctor Bombiella [End Page 296] makes an important contribution to this growing body of scholarship by embedding the tragedy of the commons narrative within a larger process of dispossession that perpetuates the invisibility of informal laborers. In the case of artisanal fishers, the actors at the heart of the study, marginalization is a geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic process tied to the continued erosion of territory and rights. Coastal Lives focuses on the often overlooked micro-experience of neoliberalization, demonstrating how a history of enclosure has reorganized space, class, and nature to reinforce dichotomies between human and nonhuman and the formal and informal economy. In so doing, they extend the work of Patrick Bresnihan (2016) on commoning>the daily practice of defining socio-natural spaces>and buttress the literature on the lived experience of neoliberalization in marine fisheries, such as Karen Hérbert’s (2015) work in Bristol Bay, Alaska and Apollonya Porcelli’s (2017) study in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Viatori and Bombiella develop a unique coastal perspective methodology that draws upon archival and ethnographic data sources. Much of the social science research on fisheries reinforces an ideological disjuncture between land and sea. In contrast, Viatori and Bombiella “seek to maintain the complexity of cultural, economic, and ecological worlds in view, which is critical for examining the politics that enable and challenge the configuration of particular ecologies and geographies of accumulation and dispossession” (25). To unite land and sea methodologically, for example, is to investigate the ways in which social policies have impacts ecologically, and environmental policies have social consequences. While the majority of their ethnographic work takes place in Chorrillos, an artisanal fishery in the city of Lima, they also conduct research in two other fisheries within the Lima province.

The authors organize their analysis around the dialectical interplay among nature, capital, and politics, beginning with the post-colonial origins of artisanal fisheries in Peru and moving into today. Chapter 1 examines the history of the fishmeal industry throughout the 1950s and 1960s, which drove the expansion of the Peruvian maritime economy. With declines in the stock of anchoveta (Engraulis ringens) from 1973 until the mid-1990s, the fishmeal industry struggled, prompting a reorganization of industrial and artisanal fisheries. Countering the myth that fisheries collapse was the result of poor management, the authors argue that forms of enclosure employed by the Peruvian government led to the production of surplus value that exceeded the ecological capacity of the fishery. This process of reorganizing ocean natures to achieve surplus value continued after the collapse as policy-makers sought to protect the financial interests of the state by disenfranchising artisanal fishers and leaving them out of the nation’s most lucrative fish-eries, like anchoveta.

In their second chapter Viatori and Bombiella demonstrate that the historical process of marginalizing artisanal fishers is not just economic or political, but also discursive. By examining discursive [End Page 297] dispossession over the longue durée, the authors demonstrate the racial, ethnic, and class othering at the root of Peru’s coastal modernization projects that either excluded artisanal fishers or encroached upon their territory. Chapter 3...


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