Precarity, Indigeneity and the Market in Māori Fisheries

In: Public Anthropologist

This paper contributes to debates on growing inequalities in the maritime domain by using the concept of precarity to interrogate the market in Māori fisheries. To understand the particularities of this ocean precarity, I draw attention to the interrelated dynamics of dispossession, as it occurred historically in Māori fisheries through various economic orders, and indigeneity, as it articulates with both alienation and the reclamation of fishing rights. I argue that the incorporation of Māori fisheries into an Individual Transferable Quota system has generated a “political ecology of the precarious,” positioning socio-natures as working against ecological demise at the same time as contributing to it. This transforms the ancestral guardianship relationship between people and their sea, exacerbates colonially-created dispossessions and hardens divisions between economic and cultural spheres, or commercial and customary fisheries. However, precarious conditions may also be conceived of as mobilising phenomena, giving rise to attempts to breach these divides.