Dawn Lyon and Les Back have written an excellent little paper Fishmongers in a Global Economy: Craft and Social Relations on a London Market. The full abstract is below, but basically they contrast two Deptford High Street fishmongers Charlie, a white Londoner whose family has been in the fish business for over 100 years, with Khalid, an immigrant from Kashmir, who, even without the tacit knowledge of generations at his fingertips, has successfully found a place for himself in the local and global economy of fish.
"Fingers are like knives and knives are the extension of fingers." There is a realisation that preparing fish, like many manual tasks, depends not just on a set of actions related to size, weight etc., but that feel is important. I am reminded of visiting Chris Cary's Collections where second hand clothes are sorted by staff who know largely by feel what material a garment is made.
The language tends towards sociology-speak, the 'hover mouse over image for sound' does not work in Chrome or Firefox, but it is well worth a read. Many thanks to SociologyGoldsmiths @SociologyGold without whose tweet the article who have simply disappeared into the usual sociology black hole.
Fishmongers in a Global Economy: Craft and Social Relations on a London Market
by Dawn Lyon and Les Back
University of Kent; Goldsmiths, University of London
Sociological Research Online, 17 (2) 23
Received: 1 Feb 2012 Accepted: 5 Apr 2012 Published: 31 May 2012
This article is based on multi-sensory ethnographic research into fishmongers on a south London market, the setting for a specific topography of work. We contrast Charlie, a white Londoner whose family has been in the fish business for over 100 years, with Khalid, an immigrant from Kashmir, who, even without the tacit knowledge of generations at his fingertips, has successfully found a place for himself in the local and global economy of fish. The research pays attention to the everyday forms of work that take place when the fishmongers sell to the public. We use these two very different cases to explore what constitutes work and labour and the different sensibilities that these two men bring to their trade. Drawing on observations, photography and sound recordings, the paper also represents the fishmongers at work. We take the two cases in turn to discuss learning the trade and the craft of fishmongering, the social relations of the market, and the art of buying and selling fish. More generally, the article explores how global connections are threaded through the local economy within a landscape of increasing cultural and racial diversity. It also critically discusses the gain of the visual as well as the aural for generating insights into and representing the sensuous quality of labour as an embodied practice.