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Following Those Who Follow the Water


Anthropology Close to Home

Nature and Science

An Anthropologist's Journey

Spotlight on Research

This Issue's Videos:
Following the Watermen
Workboat Races

Bringing Anthropology to the Bay

A crab boat on the Bay - by Skip Brown

Chemistry. Biology. Physics and fluid dynamics. We need all these scientific disciplines and more to understand the complexities of the Chesapeake Bay and its estuarine ecosystem. For those who want to understand the Bay not only as a system but as a place, we will need other disciplines as well - including the branch of human studies we call anthropology.

In this issue of Chesapeake Quarterly we take a look at what anthropologists can tell us about the watermen communities that for generations have depended on the Bay for a livelihood.

Tense disputes among watermen and those charged with managing the region's fish and shellfish resources have pointed to often stark contrasts in the world views each party brings to the negotiating table. While some may dismiss watermen as "greedy" or scientists as "out of touch," the truth is that each group brings with it a set of values and precepts - tools for measuring what is right and what is good.

In "A Life Among Watermen," we follow the work of Michael Paolisso and his team at the University of Maryland as they set out to experience the Bay - and the world - as watermen see it, part of their effort to compare watermen's world views with those of scientists, resource managers and other technical experts.

Paolisso's research among Bay watermen, his coming to know many of them and his deepening understanding of their culture, has led to a unique human experiment that could have important implications for the way fisheries management in the Chesapeake Bay is handled in the years to come. Beginning with a series of extensive interviews and surveys of Eastern Shore farmers and watermen, his research has uncovered very basic differences in outlook among these groups. After initial work supported by the National Science Foundation, Paolisso received funding from Maryland Sea Grant to conduct a series of structured "dialogues" - conversations that have brought watermen together with scientists, environmentalists and resource managers to explore their differences in outlook and, he says, their similarities.

Will these dialogues and other exploratory efforts help to clarify disagreements among those who use the Bay and those who study and manage it? We explore the possibilities uncovered by anthropologists as they follow those who follow the water.     Read more . . .

- The Editors

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