Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationCalifornia, Santa Cruz, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9572
Approve DateOctober 13, 2017
Project TitleKlein, Joseph R., U. of California, Santa Cruz, CA - To aid research on 'Fragments and Patches: Culturing and Capturing Value in the Indonesian Live Coral Trade,' supervised by Dr. Anna Tsing
The coral reefs of Indonesia–more extensive and diverse than any other country on earth–supply the vast majority of specimens for the global aquarium industry by means of world crossing supply chains along which millions of living corals are bought and sold as commodities and companions. The success of coral trading firms relies not only on healthy and functioning reef ecosystems, but also on the labor, skill, and knowledge of disenfranchised coastal communities. Teams of marine foragers tethered to surface-supplied diving rigs spend their days plumbing reef patches at risky depths for beautiful corals in order to make a living within rapacious cycles of credit and debt. Nearer to shore, other workers carefully tend home-grown coral gardens perched at the seaward edge of the intertidal zone, transforming fragments from parent corals into thriving colonies, weeding away strands of algae just beyond the official limits of private land ownership. While the live coral trade incorporates the productive powers of diverse coastal communities and ecosystems, it also generates new relations: new ways of knowing corals, new practices of care and management, and new forms of intimacy which may yet alter the fate of coral reefs in Indonesia and elsewhere. By diving along with wild coral collectors on the reef, learning to cultivate and care for maricultured corals in the sea and in aquariums, and by following coral as it is sorted, inventoried, priced, marketed, and exported, I will explore how supply chains incorporate coastal wealth, remaking human relationships with corals and coral reefs in the process.