‘We’re Still at Sea’: Migrant Fishers and International Encounters on a Maritime Border Zone

Dylan Michael Beatty


This paper draws on social science theories about the state and governance, geonarrative approaches, political economy of fishing, and the emerging field of Palawan studies to detail experiences of intra-provincial migrant fishers of the Philippines. It is informed by mixed-method approaches like semi-structured interviews, place-based observation, and discourse analysis. The fieldwork occurred in Manila and Palawan, 2018-2019. These methods produced three inter-related findings developed in the following text. First, fishers provide unparalleled understandings of place in remote, peripheral marine-spaces. Second, Palaweño fishers’ geonarratives map translucent borders within ethnic, class, and gender landscapes of Palawan and neighboring provinces in the broader Philippine archipelago. Third, ad hoc engagement with fishers from other countries is emergent diplomacy on the open sea. Their encounters underpin the everyday geopolitics of maritime border areas and destabilizes state-centric imaginings of an ordered, homogenous territorial ocean-space.

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