Dissertation Talk: Sheyda Aboii

June 3, 2024
3:30 pm
Hybrid: Department Office/Zoom

Please join us on June 3, 2024 from 3:30-5:00 pm, for Sheyda Aboii's Dissertation talk in Medical Anthropology! This hybrid event will be held over zoom and in person at our department building. Please find more details below and we hope you'll join us! 

Date/Time: June 3 | 3:30 pm-5:00 pm

Title: Quiet Intimacies and Improvised Sustenance: Subsistence Fishing In and Out of One’s Element Along the (Proper)tied banks of the Anacostia River

Abstract : This talk discusses the material politics of use and reuse in ‘unfinished’ space by following the anxieties and pleasures attached to waste within and around the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. Exploring notions of property and propriety in relation to the river, I engage the ways Black subsistence fishers make use of discards and other wasteful materials in their fishing practices on or near the river. I suggest that these practices craft ways of relating to the river that remain distinct from the new uses inaugurated through waves of demolition and rebuilding. Noting the overt crowding out or subtle disappearance of fishing practices among these new builds through an accruing sense of impropriety, I trouble future development plans as projections requiring their own means of bolstering specific forms of (in)accessibility and particular built environments against breakdown. I thus frame redevelopment of the river’s banks as an outright exposure, a rearrangement of surrounds producing a feeling of falling out of one’s element.

I take one fisher’s improvisational suggestion that the hook landed “just where God wanted it,” as an invitation to alternatively imagine the sustenance of a contaminated riverscape in and through the abundances of subsistence fishing practices. I follow how improvisational fishing builds relations with these imperfect riverine spaces, relations frequently unimaginable within the visuals and renderings accompanying development plans. Such relations emerge as fishers’ take to fishing off of a crumbling seawall where few or no other fishing piers exist; negotiate the obstacles posed by floating trash rafts on the river’s surface after heavy rain; craft leader lines from others’ discarded hooks, lines, and bait; leave behind remnants; revise tackle boxes in conversation with other fishers; and ambivalently engage the olfactory and visual presence of raw sewage in or near their favored fishing spaces. In keeping close with the refuses of an as yet-not-fully-redeemed river, fishers become absorbed in quiet moments, pursue creative improvisations that sustain a sense of self.