Red Flags and Lace Coiffes

Red Flags and Lace Coiffes: Identity and Survival in a Breton Village

CHARLES R. MENZIES
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 160
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2tv4c5
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  • Book Info
    Red Flags and Lace Coiffes
    Book Description:

    This book explores the question of why fishing communities continue their struggle to survive, despite often calamitous changes in ecology and economy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0513-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-24)

    I have been fascinated with the sea and the people who make their living from it from my childhood in coastal British Columbia through to my professional work as an anthropologist in Brittany. There is much to commend the Breton seascape: crisp blue skies in summer, angry grey banks of clouds in winter, and the veritable clichés of brightly coloured fishboats and the bustle of harbour life. All this can captivate and entertain casual visitor and seasoned traveller alike. There is an undeniable fascination that draws many of us, like Melville’s narrator, to the edge of land where we gaze...

  6. PART ONE A LOCAL POLITICS OF SURVIVAL

    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 25-26)

      Stories about fishers are very often tales of individualism, of one man against the elements. They speak to our society’s interest and concern with the individual and the vicissitudes of fate and circumstance. Hemingway’s old man takes on what may be the struggle of his individual life. His luck has run dry. He goes far out into the deep ocean in a small open skiff in pursuit of a big fish. Yet even in the midst of his solitary pursuit, the old man reminds us that “no man was ever alone on the sea.”

      This is an important point. While...

    • 1 SOCIAL STRUGGLE AT “LA FIN DE SIÈCLE”
      (pp. 27-48)

      The men and women i met in the bigoudennie spoke of the burden imposed upon them by bureaucrats in Paris and Brussels. The bureaucrats stood as outsiders, unfamiliar and self-serving, to the local sense of community that connected artisanal fishers, irrespective of whether or not they owned boats, to their crews and the women and men who laboured ashore in the various support industries in the province. While the bureaucrats cut away fiscal supports, imposed ever more stringent regulations on their fishing efforts, and opened the doors of Europe ever wider to the flows of international trade, people in the...

    • 2 SYMBOLS OF STRUGGLE: RED FLAGS, LACE COIFFES, AND SOCIAL CLASS
      (pp. 49-68)

      Mapped onto the topography of the material conditions of daily life, a culture rooted in the local, yet angled against continuous incursions from “outside,” emerged in the Bigoudennie. In the early period (1860–1914), the outside was represented physically by French-speaking cannery managers and owners who brought their money and machinery into the Breton-speaking Bigoudennie. Even though they lived among the Bigouden people, their life-ways, dress, and language were ever-present indicators of both their social and economic differences. The early social movements, which emerged in opposition to this new class of owner, were articulated within the language of class and...

  7. PART TWO THE MATERIAL CONDITIONS OF THE EVERYDAY

    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 69-70)

      For much of the twentieth century, anthropologists cut their teeth doing fieldwork in small, remote, rural communities such as the fictional Nova Scotian island community of Rockbound. This began to change in the latter half of the twentieth century when a wave of national liberation struggles, beginning with China and India and then spreading across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, forced anthropologists to ask hard questions about such studies. By the end of the century, they were as likely to conduct their fieldwork in Western Europe or North America as they were in Asia or Africa.

      The changing venue for...

    • 3 EPISODE, NOT EPOCH: BUILDING CAPITALISM IN THE HINTERLAND
      (pp. 71-82)

      The inspiration for the title of this chapter comes from Eric Hobsbawm’s essay “Industrialization: The Second Phase 1840–95.” In reference to working-class acceptance of capitalism, he wrote, “Contrary to the apologists of the system, it [capitalism] offered them little even in theory, at any rate, so long as they remained workers—which most of them were destined to do. Until the railway era it did not even offer them its own permanence. It might collapse. It might be overthrown. It might be an episode and not an epoch” (1969, 123). While the empirical details and actual situation that Hobsbawm...

    • 4 WORKING AT SEA
      (pp. 83-98)

      The social and material world of fishers is defined by their boats and the type of gear they use. Fishers often mark off the topography of their work and life histories by the names of the boats they fished on, the types of fish they caught, or the names of the men with whom they fished. I had many occasions as a child and adult working on the deck of fishboats in British Columbia to listen to genealogical listings of boats and crews as my father and his friends discussed and analyzed their world. Even today, my conversations with my...

    • 5 WORKING ASHORE
      (pp. 99-110)

      The most obvious public expression of the boundary between men and women can be found in the gatherings of women, young children in hand, waiting dockside for their men to return from the sea. I cannot help but read into this scene my own memories. My childhood involved what felt like long hours of waiting for a late-night phone call from my father. My mother would telephone the other wives and girlfriends to tell them that the boat would soon be back. We never knew the precise time of arrival—there was always an error factor of a couple of...

    • 6 THE DIFFERENCE A FAMILY MAKES
      (pp. 111-122)

      Social relations between men onboard fishing boats and women’s work ashore are important aspects of the material conditions of Bigouden fisherfolk’s social world. And, while union organizers may invoke the image of the family to describe social relations between skippers and crews, it is in fact the family as a social institution that to a large extent makes the technical process of fishing possible.

      In this chapter, we shift to the consideration of a sequence of stories of family,¹ work, and the everyday. These stories document “lived” histories, which are intermingled with and simultaneously oppose and affirm the broader history...

  8. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 123-130)

    The world of commercial fishers seems to sustain just one thing: crisis. The response to crisis can vary from passive resistance to open revolt. In the Bigoudennie, a detailed history of active resistance can be traced back from contemporary social protests to the revolutionary trade unionism of the early twentieth century and the even more remote antifeudal peasant revolt of 1675. Each of these moments of struggle has left its imprint on the collective memory and, for better or worse, has laid the pathways of resistance to the contemporary period of neo-liberal globalization.

    One of capitalism’s defining features is its...

  9. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 131-138)
  10. REFERENCES
    (pp. 139-146)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 147-155)