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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Inclusive hunting: examining Faroese whaling using the theory of socio-cultural viability

Singleton, Benedict; Fielding, Russell


Whaling is a globally controversial topic, and Faroese drive-style whaling, grindadráp, is no exception. A complex common-pool resource (CPR) institution, viewable from multiple moral, social, economic and political viewpoints, grindadráp is a challenge to assess. Responding to calls to utilise more relationship-centred and multiperspectival approaches to studying CPRs, this article examines grindadráp utilising the theory of socio-cultural viability, which asserts diverse understandings of the world can be classified within a fourfold typology and that ‘successful’ institutions draw on all four social solidarities in dealing with challenges that arise. The analysis reveals how throughout grindadráp’s history its place in Faroese society has been maintained through the enforcement of a largely egalitarian conceptualisation. However, in meeting various challenges around the distribution of meat, sustainability and killing methods, the institution has accepted solutions utilising alternative conceptualisations. It is this adaptability which has allowed grindadráp to remain a popular part of Faroese society, even as dependence on pilot whale meat has declined. The issue of toxins in pilot whale meat is found to be arguably the greatest threat to grindadráp, undermining the egalitarian foundations of the practice, the response to which is something that Faroese society is currently in the process of negotiation.


Faroe Islands; cultural theory; plural rationality; subsistence; sustainability; whaling

Published in

Maritime Studies
2017, volume: 16, article number: 6

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Swedish Biodiversity Centre
Fielding, Russell
University of the South

UKÄ Subject classification

Social Anthropology
Sociology (excluding Social work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Publication Identifiers


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