3rd World Congress of Environmental History

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"Capitalism, Materialities, and 'Piracy': Narratives about the Whaleship 'Paulmy Star No 3'"

Tue, July 23, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Centro de Filosofia e Ciencias Humanas (CFH), Auditorio do Bloco E


The paradoxical nature of the logic and practices of extractive capitalism is sustained by a contradiction between the tendency to grow and expand exponentially and the destruction of the resources that the capitalist production modes produce and transform (Harvey 2014). Capitalism has an ancient relationship with whales and commercial whaling was the first "oil rush" in the history of mankind (Highman & Neves 2015). The pursuit of cetaceans by the oceans of the world causes several species to see their populations reduced dramatically (Smith et al 2012). A radical change in the ways of understanding whales is generated and in a short time a pro-whaling narrative is passed to the emergence of "a powerful anti-whaling" discourse (Epstein 2008). The anti-whaling story moves from an ecological base to an ethics. The whales have been "reconstructed", not as resources that must be harvested, nor species that must be saved, but as individuals that must be appreciated and respected (Lawrence & Philips 2004).
In this paper we examine the whaling operations of the PAULMY STAR No. 3 on Chilean coasts and the complementary / contradictory narratives elaborated on its activities, especially those that seek to define it as a "pirate ship." We are interested in "re-building" the "universe-built" in these narratives. We use fragmentary documentation of the company, logbooks of ship expeditions, news and reports published in newspapers and magazines, reports of anti-whaling environmental groups, confidential cables of the US Embassy in Chile between 1976 and 1978 and interviews with people who related, in one way or another, to the ship and its operations.