Looking back on MARE Conference 2017

Published on
July 17, 2017

Last week around 300 people from all over the globe attended the MARE Conference 2017 People & the Sea IX: Dealing with Maritime Mobilities in Amsterdam. This year’s conference was organized by Jan van Tatenhove and Linde Van Bets from the Environmental Policy Group of Wageningen University.

Prof. Dr. Arthur Mol, Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University & Research opened the conference and immersed the audience into the mobilities theme - referring to the movements and flows that characterize maritime activities - with a timely opening speech.

Subsequently, there was a powerful keynote lecture by Prof. Edward Allison of the School of Marine & Environmental Affairs at the University of Washington. He addressed how increasing mobility, globalization, and neoliberalism have become serious drivers with which coastal communities must contend nowadays and how maritime scholars can make connections to other post-industrial communities to broaden the contributions of their work.

The diversity of maritime mobilities is extremely wide, ranging from fish stocks to shipping lanes, from plastic soup to elastic maps, and from pipelines to fish aggregating devices. Everything seems to be mobile and fluid. The character of these mobilities can be structured or very much unstructured. They bring along governance challenges that provide marine social scientists with urgent research questions. Where are the maritime economies heading? Are these pathways desirable? What should be done if we are on the wrong track? What is the role of social scientists?

The issues raised by Mol and Allison were addressed in various panel sessions with themes varying from: marine spatial planning, governance of mobile species and marine protected areas to fisheries management in relation to small-scale fisheries and knowledge production and the need for transparency and traceability. But also themes such as intersectionality, multiple identities, gender issues and migration, coastal threats and vulnerability were addressed during the three day conference.

The interdisciplinarity of MARE was also displayed by talks from psychologists, performing arts scholars, ecologists, all of whom presented in sessions alongside MARE’s more typical disciplines of anthropology, sociology, geography, and political science. After two days of rich presentations and flowing discussions that bubbled up over coffee breaks and lunch, the marine scholars celebrated their scholarly community at a conference dinner in the magnificent setting of the Dominicus church in the centre of Amsterdam. Over good food and wine, new books were pitched, the best student paper was awarded, the identity of the mole blogging during the conference was revealed and the organisation was thanked.

The next morning saw a keynote speech by Associate Professor Christina Stringer, from the Department of Management and International Business of the University of Auckland. This was a wake-up keynote on the thought-provoking subject of slave labour in fisheries management in New Zealand waters. Afterwards the conference continued with some interesting panel sessions and film screenings and poster and photo exhibitions during lunch.

Looking back at this bi-annual event Linde and Jan express it has come to feel like a family reunion of sorts, where marine scholars are linked by the sea and their interest in questioning the global, regional, and local trends that come to influence their research. Thanks to everyone for making it a success and we look forward to the next edition in 2019.