Fishing with empathy: knowing and catching fish on the Kemi River in Finnish Lapland
(University of Cologne)
Paper short abstract:
Based on ethnographic work with people fishing on the Kemi River, this presentation suggests that small-scale fishing can be understood in terms of the fishers’ empathetic relating with fish, which makes their fishing a participation in the fish’s coming into being, and coming to be caught.
Paper long abstract:
This presentation develops an argument concerning the empathetic relationship between hunter and prey, applying it to the relations between small-scale fishers and fish. Drawing on ethnographic material from the Kemi River, as well as recent work on fishing, it suggests that although fishers most often do not see the fish directly, they know their whereabouts and movements through an empathetic engagement with the fish. They come to know and to catch the fish by attuning their feeling and thinking to the presumed experiences of the fish. People on the Kemi do not see fish as merely the animal itself, but include in their empathetic relationship the behaviour and environment of the fish. A brief analysis of fishing techniques used on the Kemi River will subsequently illustrate that they represent what can be called an inversion of the fish's life story. Small-scale fishing therefore emerges as an ongoing attempt to participate in the fish's becoming, and to slightly manipulate this process towards the fish's capture. Overall, the presentation contributes towards understanding how we live in a world not made up of insurmountable disparities between different 'cultures' and 'species', but emerging from interactions and resonances.
Young scholars forum