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Unveiling the Whale

Unveiling the Whale: Discourses on Whales and Whaling

Arne Kalland
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 254
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  • Book Info
    Unveiling the Whale
    Book Description:

    Whaling has become one of the most controversial environmental issues. It is not that all whale species are at the brink of extinction, but that whales have become important symbols to both pro- and anti-whaling factions and can easily be appropriated as the common heritage of humankind. This book, the first of its kind, is therefore not about whales and whaling per se but about how people communicate about whales and whaling. It contributes to a better understanding and discussion of controversial environmental issues: Why and how are issues selected? How is knowledge on these issues produced and distributed by organizations and activists? And why do affluent countries like Japan and Norway still support whaling, which is of insignificant economic importance? Basing his analysis on fieldwork in Japan and Norway and at the International Whaling Commission, the author argues how an image of a "superwhale" has been constructed and how this image has replaced meat and oil as the important whale commodity. He concludes that the whaling issue provides an arena where NGOs and authorities on each side can unite, swapping political legitimacy and building personal relations that can be useful on issues where relations are less harmonious.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-955-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Arne Kalland
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-27)

    Environmentalism is rooted in perceived ecological problems caused by human activities. Many people are genuinely concerned that nature, which is basically seen as inherently good and in harmony with itself, is being threatened by two human-induced processes: contamination of habitats and depletion of natural resources. Modernity is seen as the cause of both processes. Industries and modern agriculture discharge dangerous chemicals into the soil, air and sea; factories and motored traffic emit gases that cause global warming, depletion of the ozone layer and acid rain; and mass consumption creates enormous waste problems. At the same time natural resources are depleted:...

  7. Chapter 1 The Creation of a ‘Superwhale’
    (pp. 28-46)

    In her bookLoving Nature: Towards an Ecology of Emotion, Kay Milton takes issue with social constructionists on several accounts. To her, meaning is neither the property of knowledge in the mind, nor the property of representations used in communications. Rather, meaning is ‘generated in the relationship between that knowledge and those representations’ (Milton 2002: 32). In other words, the meaning of a representation depends on the extent to which it resonates with existing knowledge. She also objects to the way constructionists tend to deal with knowledge as a process limited to social learning, which she thinks misses one important...

  8. Chapter 2 The Whale Protectionists
    (pp. 47-74)

    In the previous chapter we saw that cetaceans have great potential as symbols to people in widely dispersed cultures, both ancient and contemporary. Whale protectionists and media have skilfully played on our susceptibility towards cetaceans and created an image of a superwhale by lumping together traits found in a number of species, thereby masking the great variety that exists in size, behaviour and abundance between the almost eighty species of cetaceans.

    The superwhale, with all its cetacean and human qualities, has proved to have enormous economic and political potential. In the anti-whaling discourse whales have come to play the role...

  9. Chapter 3 Diverting the Commodity Path
    (pp. 75-106)

    In 1976, at an international conference on marine mammals held in Norway, some people got together and tried to estimate the low-consumptive—i.e. nonlethal consumption—value of cetaceans. They arrived at an estimate of about US$ 100 million, which was about the same value as for commercial whaling at that time (Scheffer 1991: 17–18). Since then commercial whaling has almost ceased, while the low-consumptive value has increased manifold. What we have witnessed during the last three decades is, to use a phrase taken from Appadurai (1986), a diversion of a preordained commodity path, i.e. the route a commodity—loosely defined...

  10. Chapter 4 The International Whaling Commission (IWC)
    (pp. 107-144)

    At the forty-sixth Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), held in Mexico in May 1994, Japan requested an interim quota of fifty minke whales to relieve the cultural, economic and social distress caused to four whaling communities by the moratorium on whaling for commercial purposes. Since the imposition of the moratorium in 1988, Japan had presented more than thirty reports, written by twenty-three social scientists from eight different countries, documenting this distress. Encouraged by the adoption by consensus at the 1993 IWC meeting of a resolution that ‘recognizes the socio-economic and cultural needs of the four small coastal...

  11. Chapter 5 Whaling and Identity
    (pp. 145-171)

    We saw in the previous chapter that the IWC has tried to make a distinction betweenculturalaboriginal whaling (ASW) andcommercialwhaling apparently without cultural values. For many years Norwegian authorities shared this understanding and justified its own minke whaling with reference to biological and economic arguments only. Whaling was seen as an industry, and the problems caused by the moratorium were unemployment and rural depopulation. In contrast to Japan, which has always used cultural arguments to defend its coastal minke whaling, Norway began to use the cultural argument only in 1992, when the reportNorwegian Small Type Whaling...

  12. Chapter 6 Local Responses to Global Issues
    (pp. 172-207)

    Whalers and whaling nations have tried to respond to global environmental discourses in many ways, and this chapter will focus on how they have met the challenges imposed by the anti-whaling campaigns. It will be argued that they have done so in two main ways. First, they have tried to accommodate the discourses by interpreting their adversaries in terms of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW). By actively participating in a number of international management bodies, they have presented scientific reports supporting their view that some whale stocks are large enough to be exploited. Moreover, they have...

  13. Chapter 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 208-220)

    International management of renewable natural resources has in recent decades been increasingly influenced by low- and no-use philosophies. The management of whales is an excellent example of this trend. In the 1970s, when the international environmental and animal welfare movements gained momentum, whaling was among the activists’ first targets, and the IWC figured prominently in their strategies to put environmental issues on the international agenda.

    Once said to be a ‘whaling club’, this shift in focus has turned the IWC into a ‘preservation club’ (Chapter 4). Today there is a strong lobby within the IWC that wants to exclude cetaceans...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-244)
  15. Index
    (pp. 245-254)