Doctoral Dissertation Defense by Brittany Kiessling

Event information
Venue:MMC, SIPA 502


Florida International University University Graduate School

Doctoral Dissertation Defense


Ethnographic Investigations of Commercial Aquaculture as a Rural Development Technique in Tamil Nadu, India

by Brittany Kiessling

Aquaculture currently constitutes nearly half of global seafood production today. Despite the attention such globally important practices receive through funding and extension, there is a lack of scholarship on the historical legacies that have contributed to how aquaculture is promoted and practiced, particularly those of the Green Revolution in agriculture. Furthermore, there is little research on how aquaculture changes the communities and households that participate in it, or on how different stakeholders conceptualize these processes.

My research – based on 9 months of ethnographic fieldwork and archival analysis– sought to investigate these unanswered questions in India. I synthesized post-development theory with that of environmental risk and vulnerability. My analysis uncovers large disparities between the goals of aquaculture development programs and actual aquaculture outcomes. I attribute this to the technocratic and top-down governance structure of the aquaculture industry, which leads to a lack of engagement and participation between aquaculture managers, researchers, and practitioners. This lack of engagement ultimately makes the communities in which aquaculture is being practiced more vulnerable to economic fluctuations as well as natural disturbances such as tsunamis and sea level rise.
Additionally, I found that aquaculture practices in the study site are causing significant changes to local agrarian structures, particularly labor networks and employment. These, in turn, have contributed to growing social stratification and disempowerment of women. Overall, these findings contribute to the anthropological study of aquaculture as well as to theories of post-development.

Date: June 2, 2016
Department: Global and Sociocultural Studies
Time: 2:00 pm
Major Professor: Dr. Juliet Erazo
Place: MMC, SIPA 335