"What Does a Whale Mean to You?"—Divergence of Perceptions of Whales in Germany, Japan, and Greenland

Frank Sowa


In the 1990s social and cultural studies explored different perceptions of nature expressed within the categories of "nation" and "culture". Similar results are seen in international studies on whaling. In academic and public discourses on the subject of whaling different attitudes are expressed within cultural or national groupings. This has led to essentialisms such as anti-whaling nations vs. whaling nations or meat-based culture vs. marine food culture. In this way the international conflict over the continuation of whaling after the moratorium from 1986 generates dichotomous food cultures. A dominant perception of whales can be reconstructed for Euro-American societies but it remains unclear what significance whales actually have on individuals. As part of a field research project, people in Germany, Japan, and Greenland were asked: "What does a whale mean to you?" According to the responses the dominant perception of whales is called into question. The diversity of narratives cannot be explained along cultural or national boundaries.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1301100


field work; ethnography; multi-sited ethnography; culture; whaling; perception of whales; perception of nature; environmental protection; cultural identity

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