Catching Air: Risk and Embodied Ocean Health among Dominican Diver Fishermen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This article explores the connections between bodily health and environmental health among diver fishermen in the Dominican Republic, and how these relationships are excluded from broader conversations about marine conservation at the national and global levels. As changing ocean environments refigure marine ecosystems, making fish scarce in the shallows, diver fishermen must dive deeper and stay longer in risky conditions, using a compressor to pump an unlimited supply of air to the diver below. As a result, decompression sickness (the bends) has become a pervasive injury and a way that coastal communities experience changing ocean health. The article analyzes injury narratives from divers who “caught air,” the local term for the bends, arguing that decompression sickness is a symptom of failing ecologies and strained human relations with the sea, where environments at risk become embodied through parallel risky practices at sea.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-81
Number of pages18
JournalMedical Anthropology Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Dominican Republic
  • decompression sickness
  • fishing
  • ocean health
  • risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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