Hillary Smith


I am broadly interested in gender, politics and the commons. My work draws on diverse theoretical insights and epistemological approaches to human-environment relations and the commons, which includes the seminal work of Elinor Ostrom and institutional scholarship, as well as critical insights from feminist political economy, political ecology and feminist science studies. My research explores the roles of scientific knowledge production, discourse and narrative in small-scale fisheries governance. Through analysis of historical patterns of defining small-scale fisheries, I explore how the persistent reliance on defining the sector through capture technologies has elevated a selective narrative of whose labor counts. This work focuses on the gendered-bias embedded in the common definition and how this contributes to the relative invisibility of women’s labor along the small-scale fisheries value chain. In addition to historical patterns of scientific knowledge production, I also explore the potential for radical shifts in the discourse of small-scale fisheries governance offered by emergent global policy tools. The UN Committee on Fisheries recently passed the first global policy specifically for the small-scale sector, which poses an alternative definition of small-scale fisheries and a differently attuned narrative of governance, one grounded in specific ethical commitments to tenure security, fair labor, gender equity, value chain governance, and climate justice. My work seeks to understand how this global policy translates and is performed at the national level through a case study of Tanzania, the first country to attempt to render this global tool into a national plan of action.