Contested commoning: urban fishing infrastructures and community wellbeing

Authors: Noëlle Boucquey*, Eckerd College
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Human-Environment Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Community, Commoning, Wellbeing, Infrastructure, Fishing, Space
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Empire Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper analyzes how the more-than-human infrastructures of urban fishing—piers, bridges, neighborhood ponds, and fish themselves—constitute spaces that offer the possibility of affecting community wellbeing. In particular, it applies theories of commoning, or conceiving of commons as a process rather than a resource, to questions of how urban fishing spaces might affect social and material dimensions of wellbeing. The paper argues that approaching ideas of community wellbeing from a commoning perspective enables deeper analysis of the ‘messiness’ and contradictions that can arise in accounting for the complex socio-natural interactions that affect wellbeing. The paper examines these questions via a case study of urban fishing in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. Employing archival, survey, and field research, the paper asks how public and quasi-public fishing infrastructures support processes of commoning that could lead to increases in wellbeing, while also highlighting where disruptions in the ecological, physical, or social spaces involved in commoning might decrease wellbeing. The paper finds evidence that commoning processes can increase community wellbeing in concrete ways (e.g., by contributing to collective food security, knowledge-sharing, exposure to economic and racial diversity, and shared experiences), but that these processes and infrastructures are simultaneously precarious and subject to social strife, changes in legality, and ecological contamination which can decrease wellbeing. The paper suggests that particularly for geographies of urban wellbeing, adopting a commoning lens is useful for better parsing how the elements of and challenges to wellbeing are intertwined, and where possibilities might exist for addressing these challenges.

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