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Fluid Bodies in the Sea: An Ethnography of Underwater Spear Gun Fishing in Palau, Micronesia

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image of Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

Underwater spear gun fishing is the most popular fishing method used in indigenous inshore fishing in Palau, West Micronesia. Two major characteristics of this method are: first, the opportunity offered to fishermen to enter and experience another sphere of the seascape, the underwater world; and, second, the extreme physical challenge involved in the fishermen's constant bodily movement in and under the water. Fishermen skin-dive deep into coral reefs in order to shoot fish with hand-made spear-guns, swimming through the water swiftly to approach their targets. In this form of fishing, they experience the fluid nature of the underwater domain at the level of their skin, and move their bodies in accord with the visibility, auditory experience and the physicality of the particular environment. This paper argues that the fishermen's focus on bodily movement contributes to their constructions of masculinity, and culturally embodies the fluidity of underwater seascapes.


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