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The South China Sea disputes over the Paracels and Spratlys – two archipelagos claimed in whole by China and Vietnam and in part by a number of ASEAN countries and Taiwan – and the post-Brexit dispute between the United Kingdom and France over the fishing rights near the Channel Islands show that fishers are at the forefront of their states’ claims to exclusive sovereignty. This chapter demonstrates that while sovereignty drives Chinese and Vietnamese fishers apart in the South China Sea, the market for luxury marine goods binds them together. However, in the post-Brexit Channel Islands, sovereignty not only drives French and Jersey fishers apart but also alienates the latter group from the EU market. Therefore, divorced from the harvesting of fish and from the market, the presence of fishers in the South China Sea and around the Channel Islands becomes a spectacle of fishing, voiced in the language of territorial sovereignty but alienated from its economic practice as livelihood. Drawing on Debord’s theory of spectacle, this chapter proposes the concept of spectacular fishing defined as an embodiment of sovereignty and an extension of the nation’s geo-body. Gaining new relevance in spectacle, this spectacular fishing emerges within a triangular relationship between the claim for sovereignty, the vision of a competitive and profitable fishing industry, and the realities of the broken connection with the market.

Edyta Roszko

Research Professor, Principal Investigator: TransOcean (ERC Starting Grant)

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