The colour of seawater: colour perception and environmental change in Dominican seascapes

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The colour of seawater is a topic of daily discussion among diver fishermen in the Dominican Republic, who navigate shifting ocean environments alongside conservation politics. While conservation policies often target fishing as the main cause of declines in the health of marine ecologies, fishermen use colour to create alternative narratives about changing climates. Describing the sea as blue, black, brown, green, whitewash, purple, and chocolate, divers point to the broader causes of shifting seascapes while chronicling their affective and embodied consequences. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among Dominican diver fishermen, this article explores the colour of seawater as a lens for understanding the physical, affective, social, and political consequences of changing climates for communities who are deeply entangled in shifting sea ecologies. For diver fishermen, whose engagements with the sea depend on visibility, colours provide ways of interpreting fishing possibilities, navigating ocean spaces, and measuring the effects of changing environments. Given the centrality of colour perception in fishermen's lives, this article argues that colours provide an alternative narrative about changing climates, linking shifting marine conditions to global systemic problems, rather than blaming changes in environmental conditions on supposedly irresponsible practices of local people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-552
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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