Politics Gone Fishing: A study of the Faroese fishery experience and its political implications

Rógvi Absalonsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis examines the experience of fishery in the Faroe Islands (The Faroes), and its influence on Faroese politics. Political decisions regarding fishery management in The Faroes are regularly seen to be at odds with economic advice, and the political debate is characterized by frequent historical and cultural references. This suggests that Faroese fishery politics are, to a significant extent, historically and culturally motivated. The analysis is inspired by the genealogical method presented by Michel Foucault, which involves a study of the historical lineage of the contemporary fishery experience. The purpose of genealogy is to produce a history which may impact the present. This thesis therefore involves an ambition to query prevalent ways of thinking about fishery in The Faroes, especially since the effects of history and culture on contemporary Faroese fishery politics is deemed to be a neglected issue. The analysis reveals that fishery as an experience is a patchwork of a variety of historical elements, and that the contemporary experience of fishery should therefore be viewed as having emerged, not through inevitable or natural progression, but through an erratic and coincidental process. Notably, Faroese fishery seems to have obtained an epic dimension not afforded to other commercial activities. Faroese industrialization in the 20th century has entailed an intensification of this epic dimension, largely fuelled by the experience of fishery as both lucrative and dangerous, and of fishermen as skilled, brave and self sacrificing individuals. The epic experience of fishery materializes as an epic fishery discourse, and imposes itself on the way fishery is perceived in contemporary Faroese society – that is, as an impressive and heroic activity, and as the bedrock of Faroese society. This idea influences the way Faroese fishery politics are carried out. The importance of fishery to the survival of the nation – a point regularly emphasized by politicians – leads to a considerable preference for fishery compared with other activity. Furthermore, the epic fishery discourse leads to politicians disregarding advice given by those not involved in fishery, including scientific or academic advice. An awareness of the historical emergence of the contemporary fishery experience and its consequences would encourage political authorities to be wary of an otherwise unseen partiality towards fishery, and enable more proficient decision making based on pertinent factors.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages87