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What we Talk about when we Talk about Sailor Culture: Understanding Danish Fisheries Inspection through a Cult Movie

By Christopher Gad


As a concept, culture can easily appear quite diffuse and it is often contested. This ambiguity begs the question of what it means to invoke the concept in particular situations. This paper is an analytic experiment, which was kick-started when I asked informants about sailor culture during fieldwork onboard the Danish fisheries inspection vessel The West Coast. In response, fisheries inspectors, surprisingly, suggested watching the Danish cult movie Martha (1967). I describe this incident as a small ethnographic moment leading me to conduct the present experiment. This involves using Martha as an analytic device to investigate sailor culture. More specifically, I use a preliminary analysis of the movie as an entry point to understand five matters of concern, which I encountered during fieldwork. With point of departure in an analytic attitude I call empirical philosophy I propose the term inter-reflexivity to characterize this mode of lateral cultural analysis. Inter-reflexivity emphasizes a double movement emerging from an ethnographic moment in the field and the creative translation of that moment into an analytic device. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of using a popular cultural artefact encountered in the field as such a device for articulating some complex, current stakes in fisheries inspection and ‘inventing’ a particular version of sailor culture

Topics: Inter-reflexivity, sailor culture, ethnographic moment, fisheries inspection, freedom, nostalgia, technology, lateral analysis, post-actor-network theory, empirical philosophy, General Works, A
Publisher: Linköping University Electronic Press
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.124367
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