An Inquiry into the Epistemology and Ontology of Salmon Farming (completed)

Full title: "Drawing Salmon into the Domesticated Psyche? An Inquiry into the Epistemology and Ontology of Salmon Farming"

The story of salmon, who have of old been known as elusive mediators between the land and the sea, between the familiar and the strange, can be used as a lens to study how industrial humans have increasingly isolated themselves from participating in the greater living community, with detrimental effects both to themselves and to that community.

About the project

 ‘Aquaculture’, the word used to describe industrial salmon farming – Norway’s second-largest export industry after petroleum–, presents us with a dilemma that cannot be easily solved: Composed of ‘aqua’ and ‘culture’, it means, etymologically, ‘to protect, to honor, and worship those who are of water (in body, in origin, in inhabitation)’. Consider the inherent contradiction: On the one hand there is an industry that has, since its beginnings in the 1970s, contributed significantly to the disapperance of wild salmon (through contamination with parasites, escapees, infections), an industry that isolates living creatures from their natural aquatic habitat by the hundreds of millions, that is manufacturing food products not persistently free from chemical contamination, and that depends for its perpetuation on a systematic objectification of the lives of those it consumes. On the other hand there is a name that is nothing less than an imperative: to protect and to honor those who are of water. 

Duration: November 2010 – November 2014


How has this contradiction  come about? What are the origins of this dilemma? Being an inquiry into environmental philosophy, this dissertation questions the epistemological and ontological foundations of our changing relationship with Atlantic salmon. A main focus is on the role of science: What distinguishes the present knowledge systems and the institutional structures that have mediated our understanding of salmon? What notions of ‘truth’ are implicit in the various approaches? What are the different stages in the trend towards increasing domestication of Atlantic salmon? And what are the consequences of this changing relationship?


Through a four-year PhD-stipend from the Center for Development and the Environment.

Published Sep. 22, 2011 9:25 AM - Last modified Feb. 16, 2017 10:25 AM