A perennial challenge in efforts to deal with environmental issues is the question of how to simplify. As such, where and when one simplifies is often a source of conflict, but perversely also paramount to finding a solution. This thesis focuses on one long-standing environmental issue, the whaling debate. Specifically, it performs a strategically sited microethnography of Faroese whaling, grindadráp, exploring linkages between actions on local and international scales. This thesis aims to contribute to environmental sociological efforts to analyse and resolve complex socio-environmental problems.
The five papers that together constitute this thesis collectively provide a description of grindadráp from the local scale of the bays where pilot whales are killed to the international forums where whaling as a whole remains an issue at the heart of an on-going, deadlocked conflict. Primarily based on three months’ fieldwork in the Faroe Islands, this thesis combines observation, interviews, media and other literature. The theoretical lenses employed are that of the ‘ontological turn’ and the ‘theory of sociocultural viability’ (cultural theory). The former utilised as a tool for ethnographic practice with the latter used to analyse how different perspectives on reality manifest throughout the whaling conflict.
This thesis demonstrates that grindadráp has changed through time as a result of the interactions between actors with different views on the matter at hand. However, in contrast to the global whaling debate, this interaction has been mostly constructive, with appropriate changes in practice ensuring grindadráp’s continued popularity within the Faroe Islands. Furthermore, its continuation will likely depend on grindadráp’s continued ability to balance different perspectives. This thesis thus echoes environmental sociological calls for improved dialogue in the framing and resolution of environmental disputes, suggesting that cultural theory provides a tool that balances relativism and pragmatism in dealing with complex environmental problems.