Katherine Watson is a contemporary archaeologists and PhD candidate in the Department of History, Heritage and Classics at Swansea University. Her doctoral project entitled ‘Small-Scale Fisheries, Local Seafood and the Future of Fishing Heritage in South Wales’ is supervised by Dr. Hilary Orange and Prof. Louise Miskell and is co-funded by DePOT and CHART (Centre for Heritage Research and Training) at Swansea University. Katherine graduated from Durham University with a BA (Hons) in Anthropology and Archaeology (First Class) in 2021, and an MA in Archaeology (Distinction) in 2022. She has cultivated interests in the landscapes of, and life and labour under, post-industrial capitalism. Her master’s research investigated how heritage-led regeneration has mediated the reconfiguration of North Shields Fish Quay, a fishing port in Northern England. This project propelled her ongoing efforts to tackle and understand the experiences of fishing communities amid the decline of the fishing industry and subsequent social and economic upheavals. Her research deploys heritage as a springboard to draw attention to our contradictory value systems and strengthen calls for small-scale production and localised consumption.
Fishing heritage and seafood culture in South Wales are focal points for this doctoral project which integrates critical heritage research with a concern for cultivating alternative, ecologically oriented and non-anthropocentric visions for the future. Fishing heritage and seafood culture are sites of contradictions. For example, while coastal villages are promoted as sustainable heritage tourism destinations, residents are threatened by gentrification and privatisation. Moreover, despite alleged government support, the small-scale Welsh fishing fleet is severely neglected. Meanwhile, domestic consumption of seafood is almost entirely reliant on imports, and 80% of the Welsh catch exported to Europe. By tackling these contradictions, this project apprehends the value systems dictating how we generate, distribute, and consume food and culture in the Anthropocene, or Capitalocene. This investigation into value systems is grounded by two tangible questions. Firstly, how has fishing heritage has mediated the reconfiguration of fishing communities? Secondly, how has a great divide emerged between the consumption and supply of seafood in South Wales? Contemporary archaeology frames my engagement with the landscapes, operations and people of the fishing and seafood sectors. Archaeological ethnography will be conducted in four fishing ports in South Wales (Milford Haven, Saundersfoot, Swansea and Tenby). This is combined with archival research, and oral history interviews with fishing stakeholders. Fisheries representatives will serve as guides in this project, alongside a host of non-human entities such as the sea, fish, and marine pollution. By respecting my encounters with the human and non-human entities that populate these physical and theoretical terrains, this project will connect the instability faced by coastal communities with global conditions and add to debates on how to re-structure our value systems and break the capitalist cycle.