The Social Life of Okinawan Corals
Keywords:Coral, commodities, commemoration, restoration
AbstractIn Japan, degradation of the nation’s southwestern coral reefs has been identified as a pressing environmental problem, and corals have been transformed into valuable commodities for conservation. This research analyzes the emergence of “restoration corals”—corals produced for ecological restoration—in Okinawa. Individuals briefly own these corals before they relinquish them to the coral reef, and the corals resume their lives as indistinguishable pieces of the sea. Following Kopytoff (1986), I examine the production, exchange, consumption, and de-commodification of this conservation commodity. I find that the social life of coralline commodities is not unilinear, nor is its outcome certain. As they plant their coral fragments, purchasers link them to existing religious and cultural practices and recreate corals as sites for altruism, memorialization, and divine communication. Restoration corals, in the hands of local amateur ecologists, become a way to simultaneously democratize knowledge of the sea and contest prevalent techno-scientific conservation approaches.
Brockington, Dan, Jim Igoe, and Rosaleen Duffy. 2008. Nature Unbound: The Past, Present and Future of Protected Areas (London: Earthscan Publications).
Brunner, Bernd. 2012. The Ocean at Home: An Illustrated History of the Aquarium (London: Reaktion Books). Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2011.11.002.
Butt, Bilal. 2012. ‘Commoditizing the Safari and Making Space for Con?ict: Place, Identity and Parks in East Africa’, Political Geography 31.2: 104-13.
Carrier, James G. 1994. Gifts and Commodities: Exchange and Western Capitalism since 1700 (New York: Routledge).
Castree, Noel. 2003. ‘Commodifying What Nature?’, Progress in Human Geography 27.3: 273-97. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1191/0309132503ph428oa.
Cruikshank, Julie. 2005. Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination (Vancouver: UBC Press).
Encyclopedia Britannica. 1911. ‘Coral-reefs’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Fackler, Martin. 2009. ‘Sekisei Lagoon Journal-Coral Transplant Surgery Prescribed for Japan’, New York Times, April 14: 15.
Gorai, Shigeru. 1984. Bukkyou to Minzoku (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shinsho).
Grif?th, David. 1999. The Estuary’s Gift (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press).
Harding, Sandra. 2008. Sciences from Below: Feminisms, Postcolonialities, and Modernities (Durham: Duke University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822381181.
Heynen, Nik, James McCarthy, Scott Prudham, and Paul Robbins. 2007. Neoliberal Environments: False Promises and Unnatural Consequences (New York: Routledge).
Hussain, Shafqat. 2015. Remoteness and Modernity: Transformation and Continuity in Northern Pakistan (New Haven: Yale University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.12987/yale/9780300205558.001.0001.
Hymes, Dell. 1972. ‘Models of the Interaction of Language and Social Life’, in J.J. Gumperz and Dell Hymes (eds.), Directions in Sociolinguistics: The Ethnography of Communication (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston): 35-71.
Igoe, Jim, Katja Neves, and Dan Brockington. 2010. ‘A Spectacular Eco-tour Around the Historic Bloc: Theorising the Convergence of Biodiversity Conservation and Capitalist Expansion’, Antipode 42.3: 17-43. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8330.2010.00761.x.
Katz, Cindi, and Andrew Kirby. 1991. ‘In the Nature of Things: The Environment and Everyday Life’. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, ns 16.3: 259-71.
Kelly, Alice B. 2011. ‘Conservation Practice as Primitive Accumulation’, Journal of Peasant Studies 38.4: 683-701. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2011.607695.
Kinjo Koji. 2010. Tiida Kankan: Umi to Sango to Chiisana Kiseki (Tokyo: Shougakkan).
Kopytoff, Igor. 1986. ‘The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process’, Arjun Appadurai (ed.), The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press): 64-91. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511819582.004.
Lee, Toshio (dir.). 2010. Tiida Kan Kan. Showgate, Inc. (DVD).
Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1935. Coral Gardens and Their Magic, Vols. I and II (London: Allen & Unwin).
Marx, Karl. 1976. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. I(London: Penguin Books).
Marx, Karl. 1989. ‘The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844’, in Robert C. Tucker (ed.), The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: Norton): 70-82.
Nevins, Joseph, and Nancy Lee Peluso. 2008. Taking Southeast Asia to Market: Commodities, Nature, and People in the Neoliberal Age (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).
Orlove, B.S. 2002. Lines in the Water: Nature and Culture at Lake Titicaca (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press).
Peluso, Nancy. 2012. ‘What’s Nature Got to Do with It? A Situated Historical Perspective on Socio-natural Commodities’, Development and Change 43.1: 79-104. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7660.2012.01755.x.
Ramírez, C., and A. Serpente. 2012. ‘Ecomemoria’s Diasporic Space of Commemoration: A Tree-Planting Ceremony and its Living Memorial’, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 21.2: 189-202. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/13569325.2012.694808.
Reader, Ian. 1991. ‘Letters to the Gods: The Form and Meaning of Ema’, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 18.1: 24-50. Doi: https://doi.org/10.18874/jjrs.18.1.1991.23-50.
Robertson, Jennifer. 2008. ‘Ema-gined Community: Votive Tablets (ema) and Strategic Ambivalence in Wartime Japan’, Asian Ethnology 67.1: 43-77.
Robertson, Morgan. 2011. ‘Measurement and Alienation: Making a World of Ecosystem Services’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 37.3: 386-401. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-5661.2011.00476.x.
Serres, Michel. 2007. The Parasite (trans. Lawrence Schehr; Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).
Slater, David. 2015. ‘Moralities of Volunteer Aid: The Permutations of Gifts and their Reciprocals’, in T. Gill, B. Steger, and D. Slater (eds.), Japan Copes with Calamity (Oxford: Peter Lang): 267-91.
Smith, Neil. 2008. Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space (Athens: University of Georgia Press).
Tiida Kan Kan. Dir. Toshio Lee. Showgate, 2010. Film.
Tsing, Anna. 2005. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
Tsing, Anna. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World (Princeton: Princeton University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400873548.
West, Paige. 2006. Conservation Is Our Government Now: The Politics of Ecology in Papua New Guinea (Durham: Duke University Press). Doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822388067.
Yaeyama Mainichi Shinbun. 2012. ‘Hope for Coral Restoration’. Editorial, 3 November. Online: http://www.y-mainichi.co.jp/news/21213/.
How to Cite
© Equinox Publishing Ltd.
For information regarding our Open Access policy, click here.