Traditional knowledge of the sea in a time of change: the Caiçara of Ilhabela, Brazil

Mary Modeen (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
48 Downloads (Pure)


The Caiçara fishing communities of coastal Brazil, specifically on the island of Ilhabela, demonstrate traditional knowledge of the sea. This research project features collaborative engagements undertaken with them, with the aim of sharing their observations, wisdom and concerns. Caiçara live primarily by artisanal small-scale fishing, cultivation of modest crops, and recently, catering to tourists. Their ways of life have remained substantially unchanged hundreds of years, until recently. The pattern of their lives highlights changing ecological conditions, manifesting vulnerability of the ecosystem and traditional fishing practices. Linked intimately to the environment, their ways serve to magnify many of the world’s most pressing concerns about climate change, the need for conservation, the effects of governmental regulation and the devaluing of traditional knowledge. The representation – or misrepresentation – of a people to the wider world crucially shapes their fortunes and promotes or inhibits their ability to effect positive conditions in their environment. In recognition of a long debate in cultural geography about the methods, merits and pitfalls of representation, the necessity remains for some type of portrayal of a people, if for no other reason than to permit them to be politically recognised. This participatory fieldwork transcends disciplinary boundaries through active witnessing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-80
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Cultural Geography
Issue number1
Early online date14 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Caiçara
  • artisanal fishing
  • material culture
  • observational ecology
  • phenology
  • traditional knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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