Bresnihan [Abstract]

From land to sea: unsettling subjectivities [Full text]

Patrick Bresnihan  [1]

AbstractIn this paper I trace an important conceptual shift which emerged during my fieldwork with fishermen in the South West of Ireland. I begin by describing how my role as a social researcher was interpreted as a valuable ‘bridge’ between different (epistemological) positions, namely the fishermen and scientists. This approach rests on the belief that individual actors occupy discrete subject-positions capable of being articulated and understood within consensus-making processes. Going to sea marked, for me, a literal and metaphorical departure from this understanding. Rather than thinking of fishermen as bounded, individual subjects acting on and in a ‘dumb’ external world, and thus having a ‘position’ from which to make themselves understood, I began to attend to experiences which extended across and between people, places and things. In part two I analyze how the concept of ‘continuous experience’ helps us to think about experience as relational and contingent, unsettling the (governing) call to identify one’s position. Attending to the ways in which experience unfolds through the immediate mattering of relations between people, places and things also allows us to move beyond explanatory modes which seek to identify how subjects are produced through particular structuring relations. In the final part of the paper I describe how the excess of sociability can suspend normal roles and relations, including those which exist between ‘researcher’ and ‘subject’.

Keywords: Experience, subjectivity, representation, materiality

[1] Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland,